College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
My work in greyhound and horse rescue has shown me over the years something very clearly: animals understand a moral act done toward them (rescuing them from rugged and abusive situations), appreciate it, and return the favor in acts of protection, devotion and love. This book covers such aspects of four-legged morality as well as how animals care for, protect and sacrifice for each other. Several now famous studies have shown how voles are monogamous, vampire bats (yes!) practice reciprocal altruism (one bat has a bad night, a bat that had a good night will spit up some of his collected blood into the hungry bat's mouth--and later, the favor is returned when the tables are turned--yummy!), and I can tell you that horses instantly recognize a good person or a cruel one and remember a friend forever...and remember as well those who have done them a wrong turn at some point. From an evolutionary standpoint, it only makes sense. Neo-Darwinian sociologists stand in line these days to write books about how humans developed a sense of morality in order for the greater number of the group to survive due to group protection and caring and justice--why in the world would we think that other mammals had not developed the same tendencies in order to keep their species going as well?!
Patrick Grim lays out the groundwork for the major theories of mind and what it means to "be a being" with consciousness, thought and self-awareness. The course is in depth and very intelligent, but presented in such a way as the layman will readily understand if proper attention is paid to the lectures. Another Great Courses lecture series on this same topic by John Searle will also be quite helpful. Once these courses are completed, I recommend moving on to books like Brian Christian's The Most Human Human (artificial intelligence) V. Ramachandran's The Tell-Tale Brain (neurology and pathology) and Sebastian Seung's Connectome (neurology, consciousness and self-awareness). Grim and Searle's lectures are a wonderful place to start on the pathway to learning about the philosophy, physiology and psychology of who you are and why there is a "who you are."
of other neo-Darwinean evolutionary theorists, such as Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Robert Wright, Churchland argues here, with good cause and good evidence, that the self indeed arises, solely and without aid, from the brain. How exactly that happens, of course, remains a mystery, though there is good scientific evidence for believing that it is so. If this book has a flaw, it is not in its science, but rather in its approach--and one can read it in the title "Touching A Nerve." Churchland, like Dawkins and Dennett, often waves the flag a bit too high and too wildly, being a bit too aggressive against unseen (and probably nonexistent) enemies of her theories. All right, Jerry Fallwell might not take to the idea, but he probably isn't going to be reading this book anyway. If I could say anything to Dennett, Dawkins, and in this case, Churchland, it would be "how about you just calm down about the religious right and do science, believing it will speak for itself to the logical--whereas all the blustering in the world won't do a thing in regard to the illogical." Notwithstanding, the book is still well-done and is a fine addition to the growing neo-Darwinean canon.