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?!
This is not a throwback to the old mind/matter dualism of Descartes, though it does decidedly (and, I believe healthfully and rightly) break with some of the tenets of hardcore behaviorism and inflexible functionalism. In short, the authors do view the brain as the seat of thought and emotion and all lower and higher cognitive functions, but they view the mind as something other than "byproduct of a dynamic, like the noise that is emitted by a lawnmower," as some radicals have asserted. Rather, the mind is a Gestalt, a whole greater than the sum of its biological parts, a living dynamic with "a life of its own": and that Gestalt is something special and real--the minds, the personalities, the psychic beings that we are.
of lecture series in the Great Courses collection! In the past month and a half, I have listened to a dozen Great Courses lecture series on the brain, perception, sleep and memory (see my other reviews here), and I have to first say that the information in these series have dovetailed wonderfully well, and, taken together, provide a broad picture of our mental workings and the physicality behind it all. Francis Colavita's Sensation, Perception And The Aging Process provides a great follow-up to everything I have listened to in this vein thus far. Colavita develops the course thusly: 1) he discusses in depth what perception is and how our senses work to collect data from outside stimuli 2) he explores how the brain processes these perceived stimuli to make sense (pun intended) of the world and shape our internal reality 3) then he shows how the aging process affects these processes. My graduate and undergraduate degrees are in the Humanities, but I have a minor degree in physiological psychology and have spent more than a quarter of a century doing research in the developing arenas of neurological psychology, and I can assure any Audible customer that the information provided in these lecture series is remarkably up-to-date, correct and scientifically sound. I am exceedingly impressed with the level of university lecturers that deliver these lectures and the quality and educative value of each and every one.