The prevailing orthodoxy in brain science is that since physical laws govern our physical brains, physical laws therefore govern our behaviour and even our conscious selves. Free will is meaningless, goes the mantra; we live in a "determined" world. Not so, argues the renowned neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga as he explains how the mind, ...
The prevailing orthodoxy in brain science is that since physical laws govern our physical brains, physical laws therefore govern our behaviour and even our conscious selves. Free will is meaningless, goes the mantra; we live in a "determined" world. Not so, argues the renowned neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga as he explains how the mind, "constrains" the brain just as cars are constrained by the traffic they create. Writing with what Steven Pinker has called "his trademark wit and lack of pretension," Gazzaniga ranges across neuroscience, psychology and ethics to show how incorrect it is to blame our brains for our behaviour. Even given the latest insights into the physical mechanisms of the mind, he explains, we are responsible agents who should be held accountable for our actions, because responsibility is found in how people interact, not in brains. An extraordinary book, combining a light touch with profound implications, Who's in Charge? is a lasting contribution from one of the leading thinkers of our time.
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Publishers Weekly, 2011-09-12 Are our actions determined solely by physical processes, or is the mind its own master? This age-old philosophical conundrum gets a terrific, if ultimately indecisive, analysis in this engrossing study of the mechanics of thought. Gazzaniga (Human: The Science Behind What Makes Your Brain Unique), a leading cognitive neuroscientist, draws on cutting-edge research, including his fascinating experiments with "split-brain" patients, to diagram the Rube Goldberg apparatus inside our skulls. Beneath our illusion of an in-control self, he contends, thousands of chaotically interacting neural modules governing motion, senses, and language unconsciously make decisions long before we consciously register them; the closest thing to a self is a brain module called "the interpreter," which spins a retrospective story line to rationalize whatever the nonconscious brain did. (Brain injuries can make the interpreter tragicomically muddled, leading patients to claim that their hand doesn't belong to them or that their relatives are imposters.) The author's reconciliation of that deterministic model with the idea of free will is less successful, requiring "a unique language, which has yet to be developed"; until then, we can only invoke muzzy notions from complexity theory. Though he doesn't quite capture the ghost, Gazzaniga does give a lucid, stimulating primer on the machine that generates it. B&w illus. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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