Auburn, WA, United States | Member Since 2008
Allen Bloom's THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND is monumentally important, especially in regard to its central assertion that the surface American education's first principle has for some time now been: "To avoid discrimination [particularly in regard to class, culture, race, and religion or lack thereof], one must be indescriminate in all. The one exception, and the thing to be hated, is the man who asserts otherwise." I am always just utterly amazed at how absolutely relativistic (parodox intended) 99% of my college students have become in their judgements (or rather lack of them) regarding lit and art. I push them to extremes. They will proclaim (as though programmed to say so--and Bloom says they are) that Brittney Spears "music" is every bit as good as Mozart's "for the person who hears it that way." I actually ask them if a pile of dog dung on a paper plate is as much art as Michalangelo's David, and you would not believe how many will, without a twitch, say that it is "if someone thinks it is," as though putting forth an opinion in regard to any obvious difference in quality will lead directly to the acceptance of Hitler's race policies--or, at least, they don't want to be viewed as having any "dangerous" opinions, whether or not they really have them. And this is Bloom's brilliant argument--"absolute freedom" (everything is equally good) has supplanted real freedom (the ability to say the truth or even think it). In another class, in which we study different models of morality, many students will assert with an absolute straight face (get ready!) that baby-torturing, if accepted by a given cultural as moral, would be a moral activity to take part in. What can one even say to such things?!--but Bloom saw this type of non-thinking and warned of the extremes to which it could, and would be taken.
A comprehensive study of Emerson! How long have we been waiting for that! Back in the 90's, I read everything by Emerson, the essays, the poetry, the travel books, absolute every delicious metaphor and trope. I have read bios of the man before, but none so in-depth and comprehensive as this marvelous volume. If Emerson had written a formal autobiography, I suspect it would have been much like this book. An absolute must read for the Emerson fan!
I have encountered Graziano's "Attention Schema" theory of consciousness before in other books, but this volume explains it thoroughly and decisively. While it comes somewhat short of the Holy Grail of the FINAL EXPLANATION of what makes us conscious--one questions if such a thing is ever at last possible, any more than the fish explaining how its bowl was made, ultimately unable to escape its confines--Attention Theory is about the best psychological and neurological theory that we have at present. It is a definite step forward over all former theories. A book well worth reading.
refuting the notion of the Tabula Rasa (Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, Nicolas Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance, and Edward O. Wilson's On Human Nature, for example), Moalem's Inheritance continues this idea with an important twist: she shows not only how genes shape how we respond to the environment but also explores how the environment shapes the gene. Cutting edge and well written. An important read.
of the neo-Darwinean movement. If you know the work of Pinker, Dawkins, Dennett, Wright and other writers who have expounded on the evidence that an innate, biological human nature is a real and tangible thing (as opposed to the concept of the "blank slate" put forth most famously by Skinner, Watkins and the behaviorists during the early part of the century), you should know the work of Edward O. Wilson, a man who was so far ahead of the now accepted modern decriers of the "tabula rasa" that his early work was deemed scientific heresy. Wilson does not deny the influence of the environment on the genetic basis of human nature, but wipes away the absurd notion that a human being is shaped soley and absolutely by culture and surroundings. On Human Nature is a fine summation of his main ideas and comes highly recommended from these quarters.
First, I guess I, unlike the other reviewer, did not find the narrator "cocky," nor could I imagine how that could influence the listening to a book on neurology... That aside, the book itself contains a lot of important, if basic, ideas about neurology and the current knowledge concerning human consciousness. It tends, perhaps, to be a bit on the computational side of things, but the theories presented here are pretty sound. (There is debate as to what extend the mind really works like a computer, and I am one who is more in the Jonathan Haidt camp, believing that the mind is more complex, and much more emotionally driven, than the computational model allows for--listen to a couple of books by Haidt after finishing with this one.) I would recommend this as a beginning or even as an intermediate book on consciousness and neurology. Michael Gazziniga or Rhawn Joseph (the latter not yet in audiobook) might be better advanced studies in this subject.
than the other reviewer concerning what this book is--and isn't about. Just to start, it is NOT a book about religion, so interest in religion is not a prerequisite. It is a book about genetic inheritance. (I read this book on the heels of Wade's very compelling A Troublesome Inheritance, in which he discusses race/society and genetics.) Taking up the work up Pinker, Newberg and other neo-Darwinians with a neurological bent, Wade explores the biological tendencies toward religious and philosophical thought. Brain science has shown that those with greater right temporal lobe development tend to have greater religious tendencies than others and that those with right temporal lobe epilepsy tend to experience great flights of fancy, philosophical and artistic insights--and religious visions (think Van Gogh). Now, does this mean religion is the representation of an empirical reality? Of course not! It simply means humans are evolutionarily geared for ideas about philosophical and religious principles, and, for that, reason (sorry Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins!) religion, for good or for bad, is probably not going away any time soon. But there is no value judgment here, simply a description of the tendency in humans for religion. As I said of Newberg's The Spiritual Brain: there are two groups of people who will misunderstand this book--the religious...and the non-religious.
For decades, feminists railed against the very idea that there were any fundamental biological differences in males and females that would influence basic behavior and social roles (despite clear knowledge about the roles of testosterone and estrogen on behavior!), and along came brain science and showed that yes, there are differences in the male and female brains that lead to different behavioral and social tendencies. And now the same for race. Here is the simple fact, PC or not, like it or not: the closer you are to any group genetically, the more you are going to be like that group. Don't like it? Complain to God or the Big Bang or Darwin. Genetics are genetics. Now, does this excuse things like prejudice, social engineering, genecide? Of course not. Does this mean that there is NO role that envirornment plays in development? Of course not. Does this mean that every woman is the same as every other woman and that every black person is exactly the same as the next? Of course not. It does mean that biology plays a big role in behavior and that the closer you are to someone genetically, the more of their behavioral tendencies you will inherit. That's science. Live with it.
Definitely not the author's best work. And this story is only twenty minutes. Then you get five minutes of music and ads! What the crap???
I found Fallon at times the slightest bit self-indulgent (should we expect otherwise, given the theme?), but, for the most part, this is an interesting and entertaining book. If you want something more serious and scientific, read Without Conscience or The Science Of Evil, but this book serves nicely for an up-to-date primer for the neurology of psychopathy, and it also serves its purpose well: the story of one man's dealing with the realization that he has the brain structure and innate tendencies of the very people he has been studying for years: the psychopath.
account of Albert Fish, the deranged child rapist, murderer and cannibalist who inspired such films as the silent classic M and Silence of the Lambs.
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