Dr. Goldacre leads us through a masterful educational experience that should vastly improve the scientific media literacy of any layperson listening to this book. More importantly, he blends this grave and potentially depressing content with a sense of humour that makes it not just bearable, but delightful!
I'm glad I wasn't dissuaded from listening to this by the reviews describing the narration as terrible, because I found the delivery delightful, and a perfect match for Goldacre's charming sarcastic tone.
I seldom have so much fun listening to accounts of terrible betrayals of the public trust.
Dennett set's himself a monumental task in Consciousness Explained, not only in offering a scientifically informed positive account of one of the most elusive aspects of human psychology, but attacking head-on the deeply rooted (but deeply mistaken) intuitions that have paralyzed discussions of consciousness for over a century. Dennett's tremendous wealth of illustrative metaphors, thought experiments and counter-intuitive empirical findings are more than persuasive, they are illusion-shattering, gifting the dedicated reader (and listener) with a newer and vastly superior conceptual understanding of those phenomena most intimate to all of us: Our own stream of consciousness.
For technical detail and breadth of topics, Consciousness Explained is akin to books like Steven Pinker's "How the Mind Works", but where Pinker shies away from matter difficult to address with straightforward empirical research, Dennett dives in with both feet, continually challenging and reframing the very perspective we bring to our own inner life.
I have not heard any of this other narrations, but his voice (and modulation of voice when depicting contrasting characters in dialogues) was very appropriate for this piece.
The Oracle at Delphi commands "Know Thyself". Some 3000 years later, Dennett has sketched out how we may finally do just that.
I encourage perseverance in anyone who is interested in the topic of consciousness, but is turned off by the early sections of the book. The intuitions of the Cartesian Theater are so native to how we view the minds of ourselves and others, many will simply give up unconvinced when Dennett first firmly challenges this framing. Even if you don't feel convinced at first, give it the benefit of the doubt. Imagine what Dennett is describing as if it were true of some thinking creature, even if it doesn't feel natural applying it to yourself. By the time to reach the final third of the book, you will be so well furnished with examples and empirical findings that the sincere questioning of your own Cartesian Theater will finally become a visceral option, and once you're there, the sky's the limit!
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