I began this audiobook with high hopes. Here was a new book arguing for a radical and boldly counterintuitive thesis, namely that the very center of our conscious existence, our sense of self, is an illusion. If there ever was a claim worthy of a book-length defense, this would surely be it.
Sadly, however, the book fell far short of my expectations. In fact, the author spent very little time at all making the (probably very difficult) case for the "self illusion," and instead used this topic as a platform for talking about pretty much anything he seemed interested in, from how the internet is shaping our brains to the psychology of laughter. Basically, the book reads like a low-level tour of psychology, with topics only loosely (and sometimes not at all) connected to the topic of "the self," broadly construed. As a basic introduction to psychology for extremely lay audiences, it succeeds fairly well. As a cogent argument for the illusion of selfhood, it fails abysmally.
Worse still, even if you are looking for an introduction to psychology, I would not waste your credit on this, as most of the material covered has already been covered more thoroughly and more entertainingly in other works, like "Predictably Irrational," "How the Mind Works," "The Happiness Hypothesis," or "The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking."
And as if this weren't enough bad news for "The Self Illusion," Bruce Hood unfortunately succumbed to the "authors make better narrators" fallacy, and the book suffered greatly for it. Hood's voice is dull and plodding, adding very little life to the text, and his faint scottish accent was slightly distracting at times.
Moral conflict and ideological division may be one of the most serious problems facing the world today. Joshua Greene, renowned philosopher and neuroscientist, doesn't present any magic bullets to address this problem, but he does offer what may be the only solution, something he calls "deep pragmatism." Deep pragmatism is essentially utilitarianism dressed up in fashionable clothing, but Greene makes a compelling case that this way of thinking may be the only "common currency" that can be used between competing moral tribes in the modern world. Greene peers under the hood to reveal how our evolved mental machinery guides our moral judgments, and the picture he presents is not flattering. Our moral cognitive mechanisms are "gadgets" honed by natural selection. Their function is not to glimpse an eternal "moral truth," but rather to propagate the genetic material that constructed them. These gadgets come pre-installed with glitches and shortcomings, and one thing is certain: they were not built to handle complex modern dilemmas like global warming, effective governance, and criminal justice. Thus, Greene argues, if we want to transcend the boundaries of our moral tribes, we must learn to transcend this "automatic" moral machinery and shift to "manual mode," the parts of our brain that can set goals, evaluate evidence, and think rationally. It's not easy to look with suspicion at our deep seated moral intuitions, but Greene makes a convincing case that we should. We must construct our political and moral worldviews not on gut feelings but on reason and evidence. Packed with fascinating facts from psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology, you'll learn all the cutting-edge information from the emerging field of moral cognitive science. And your vision of morality might get turned upside down.
If you read this as fiction with a few facts peppered throughout for good measure, be my guest. But please, for your own sake, do not read this as science. I hate to use the term "just-so story," as it is an often an unjustified epithet hurled at evolutionary psychologists for advancing sound and testable hypotheses, but in this case, the phrase is right on. Long, fanciful, and ultimately, untestable explanations for why we are the way we are fill the pages of this book. I'm an evolutionary psychologist, and I'm embarrassed by this book. But, then again, it is also very stylishly written and well-performed by leonard shlain, so you might want to give it a shot if you're not into the science and are willing to take it with a hefty grain of salt.
This book was a decent listen. Nadia May is a charming narrator, her lilting british accent providing a playful touch to this (at times) stuffy work. However, unless you're really interested in morality, I would skip this one. The author spends too much time on tangential topics, like self-control and attachment, and doesn't succeed in making a coherent point or cogent argument throughout the entire book. It basically reads like a compendium of information, albeit somewhat dated, as neuroscience and evolutionary psychology have advanced a great deal since this book came out. Unfortunately, there aren't really any other books on moral psychology available on audible, so if you're starving for an audiobook on that topic, you might want to check this out. Otherwise, I recommend Robert Wright's "The Moral Animal," even though evolutionary psychology is more the centerpiece of that book than morality per se. Jon Haidt's book "The Happiness Hypothesis" also has some information on morality in it, even though the book purports to be about happiness. Haidt's newest book "The Righteous Mind," though not on audible, is entirely about morality and highly recommended if you're willing to use your eyes.
This was a fun listen. Interesting psych experiments peppered with funny stories and weaved together by a witty and charmingly nonchalant tour guide. Don Hagen's weighty yet playful narration set the perfect tone for this quirky romp through the science of magical thinking. If you like psychology books, you'll definitely enjoy this.
This book is so good you will be sad when it's over. If you're interested in, well, any of the most important topics in intellectual life -- i.e. human nature, evil, goodness, violence, war, progress -- then you will take away much knowledge and enlightenment from these pages. Arthur Morey is a fantastic narrator, bringing a calm-cool tone to Pinker's elegant prose. This is a real treasure trove of fascinating information, neatly packaged in classic Pinkerian wit and style. If you like Pinker, you will love this book. If you don't know Pinker, but are interested in any of the aforementioned topics, you will love this book.
Professor Sandel sure knows how to provoke thought. Ponder the great moral issues of our time with one of the most captivating and humane tour guides around. Interested in issues such as affirmative action, capitalism, utilitarianism, gay marriage, virtue ethics, price gouging, aristotle, citizenship, or rawls? Then read on, you will not be disappointed.
This is one of my favorite books, and the audio format does not disappoint. If you're interested about human nature, why we are the way we are, why we're so smart, why we're conscious, and even why fools fall in love, this book is for you. (But be warned, this book is for people who like to think; don't expect to breeze through it like a malcom gladwell book.) Also, one recommendation: unless you're really interested in visual perception, I would recommend skipping the chapter called "The Mind's Eye," as it is hard to follow in audio format without the pictures, and it is the most technical chapter.
I was a bit skeptical coming into this book, thinking it would be little more than a partisan rant, but it was actually more fair-minded than I expected. I may be biased because I'm liberal, but I found the evidence pretty convincing that misinformation is a bigger problem on the right than it is on the left, and that this asymmetry can be traced to specific personality traits and cognitive styles pinned down by psychology and neuroscience experiments. I found this evidence pretty disheartening, as it suggests little hope for future bipartisanship, but it is important information that needs to be disseminated (even though conservatives will find a way to dismiss it). If you've ever wondered why liberals and conservatives can't get along, this book is for you. If you suspect that the right is more full of it than the left and are looking for evidence, this book is for you. If you're conservative, you will probably hate it and find a way to dismiss every word of it. If you're on open-minded conservative, you'll probably still hate it, but you might learn a few things.
I really enjoyed this book, but I'm biased because I'm an evolutionary psychologist. It was very dense with information about experiments and didn't, as other readers have said, weave them together into a cohesive or particularly gripping narrative. But this is nonfiction! If you're looking for narrative, go read the hunger games. If you're looking for fascinating, evidence-based information about human nature, this book is for you.
He wasn't the best narrator in the world, but he wasn't bad.
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