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Who's in Charge? Audiobook

Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain

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Publisher's Summary

The father of cognitive neuroscience and author of Human offers a provocative argument against the common belief that our lives are wholly determined by physical processes and we are therefore not responsible for our actions.

A powerful orthodoxy in the study of the brain has taken hold in recent years: Since physical laws govern the physical world and our own brains are part of that world, physical laws therefore govern our behavior and even our conscious selves. Free will is meaningless, goes the mantra; we live in a “determined” world.

Not so, argues the renowned neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga in this thoughtful, provocative book based on his Gifford Lectures - one of the foremost lecture series in the world dealing with religion, science, and philosophy. Who's in Charge? proposes that the mind, which is somehow generated by the physical processes of the brain, “constrains” the brain just as cars are constrained by the traffic they create. Writing with what Steven Pinker has called “his trademark wit and lack of pretension”, Gazzaniga shows how determinism immeasurably weakens our views of human responsibility; it allows a murderer to argue, in effect, “It wasn’t me who did it - it was my brain.” Gazzaniga convincingly argues that even given the latest insights into the physical mechanisms of the mind, there is an undeniable human reality: We are responsible agents who should be held accountable for our actions, because responsibility is found in how people interact, not in brains.

An extraordinary book that ranges across neuroscience, psychology, ethics, and the law with a light touch but profound implications, Who’s in Charge? is a lasting contribution from one of the leading thinkers of our time.

©2011 Michael S. Gazzaniga (P)2011 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"A fascinating affirmation of our essential humanity." (Kirkus)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    ML Carlsbad, California, USA 05-01-12
    ML Carlsbad, California, USA 05-01-12
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    "Tough listen"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Maybe neuroscience isn't the best topic to listen to. I just didn't find myself eager to listen after a while. I was most attentive when he talked about specific examples with patients, moral dilemmas, split brain patients, how the interpreter comes up with absurd explanations for situations, and bizarre brain disorders. Too much detail, and not enough of a compelling storyline in my view. But I guess that's just how my brain perceived it, ;-)


    7 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel H. 09-11-17
    Daniel H. 09-11-17 Member Since 2017
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    "A scientific perspective on determinism"

    I enjoyed this book. I found Gazzaniga's perspective on this issue refreshing. He believes science (specifically, neuroscience and psychology) can inform our understanding of free will versus determinism, but he did not go so far as to say it will solve the issue. I am one of those people he references in the book who was skeptical that science can tell us anything useful about free will - I think that is more the domain of philosophy - but his book has led me to soften my stance.

    I would like to state that one should read this book with a critical eye. There is a lot of disagreement over the validity of some of the studies and effects that he cites. And that vigilance should extend to all psychology and neuroscience books. That being said, Gazzaniga acknowledges that some of the stuff should be taken with a grain of salt, although I am also wary of some of the stuff he doesn't question. This is good overview of one scientist's view of free will. I encourage anyone who enjoys this book to read more on the subject, especially from a philosophical perspective.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Ingrid New York, NY, United States 09-09-17
    Ingrid New York, NY, United States 09-09-17 Member Since 2016

    Eclectic physical philosopher, carbon free commuter, fitness consultant, personal trainer, non-medical nutritional counselor, yoga teacher.

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    "Interesting but not 'easy'."

    This is an engaging read even if some parts of a little boring or dry. I think it's an important book especially if you're interested in neuroscience. It was not a book that I can just listen to while I puttered, I had to concentrate and think. I'm sure I still missed things and would've been better if I read this in class and there was seminar is after a couple of chapters to further discuss some concepts. But I'm glad I read it. It was rather academic, a little dry but definitely interesting parts made up for that. For the end there were issues about the law and implications. Since it was written in 2010 I'd be very interested to see what the addendum would look like given any advancements seven years later. I'd recommend it but be warned this is not an easy read. (At least it wasn't for me…)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Randy 09-05-17
    Randy 09-05-17
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    "Fact filled but semi useful knowledge"

    I would not listen to this book a second time.
    Minimal information had value to me.
    The title had me miss lead.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    MR M. 09-01-17
    MR M. 09-01-17 Member Since 2013
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    "A fantastic eye opening book"

    I love the way the author approaches the subject! Problems are split to easy digestible pieces and make you really think.

    Thanks to the narrator it is also difficult to stop listening!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Jordan Swezey 08-28-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Perhaps interesting to neuroscience scholars..."

    I struggled to finish this more than any book I've ever read or listened to, and that's saying something considering I've read books like "The Cell's Design". I assumed there would be more philosophical theories presented but I was sorely mistaken. This work was written purely from a scientific perspective and offers little to no interest to nonacademics.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Howard Sterling 09-01-16 Member Since 2013
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    "Puts all neuro-science together"

    Maybe too many stories and very comprehensible. He is best explainer of tough concepts like free will and mind.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    MooMaster USA 08-15-16
    MooMaster USA 08-15-16 Member Since 2015

    Moo moo moo!

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    "distribution of cognition"

    a fairly well written and interesting review of the state of neuroscience literature, the most interesting pieces are the case study split brain findings and the interplay between decision making and the interpreter module. the dive into the legal system was more philosophical than evidence driven, I wish he would've used that space to explore more about corollaries in other sciences. overall, worth your time for the many pondering points in understanding what a human is.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    Bernie C. 04-02-16
    Bernie C. 04-02-16 Member Since 2017
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    "narrator has deep voice; not about improving"

    i thought it would have more actions about improving use of free will and control. it was very interesting material but at times struggled with it.

    the narrator was good but sometimes his voice is so deep that it pulls me out of the story

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    Pablo W. 03-11-16
    Pablo W. 03-11-16 Member Since 2014
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    "Humung-kulous! "

    i liked it. advanced stuff though it is. very interesting. will listen to it again

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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