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Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain [Kindle Edition]

Antonio Damasio
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.95
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

From one of the most significant neuroscientists at work today, a pathbreaking investigation of a question that has confounded philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists for centuries: how is consciousness created?
 
Antonio Damasio has spent the past thirty years studying and writing about how the brain operates, and his work has garnered acclaim for its singular melding of the scientific and the humanistic. In Self Comes to Mind, he goes against the long-standing idea that consciousness is somehow separate from the body, presenting compelling new scientific evidence that consciousness—what we think of as a mind with a self—is to begin with a biological process created by a living organism. Besides the three traditional perspectives used to study the mind (the introspective, the behavioral, and the neurological), Damasio introduces an evolutionary perspective that entails a radical change in the way the history of conscious minds is viewed and told. He also advances a radical hypothesis regarding the origins and varieties of feelings, which is central to his framework for the biological construction of consciousness: feelings are grounded in a near fusion of body and brain networks, and first emerge from the historically old and humble brain stem rather than from the modern cerebral cortex.
 
Damasio suggests that the brain’s development of a human self becomes a challenge to nature’s indifference and opens the way for the appearance of culture, a radical break in the course of evolution and the source of a new level of life regulation—sociocultural homeostasis. He leaves no doubt that the blueprint for the work-in-progress he calls sociocultural homeostasis is the genetically well-established basic homeostasis, the curator of value that has been present in simple life-forms for billions of years. Self Comes to Mind is a groundbreaking journey into the neurobiological foundations of mind and self.




From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As he has done previously, USC neuroscientist Damasio (Descartes' Error) explores the process that leads to consciousness. And as he has also done previously, he alternates between some exquisite passages that represent the best popular science has to offer and some technical verbiage that few will be able to follow. He draws meaningful distinctions among points on the continuum from brain to mind, consciousness to self, constantly attempting to understand the evolutionary reasons why each arose and attempting to tie each to an underlying physical reality. Damasio goes to great lengths to explain that many species, such as social insects, have minds, but humans are distinguished by the "autobiographical self," which adds flexibility and creativity, and has led to the development of culture, a "radical novelty" in natural history. Damasio ends with a speculative chapter on the evolutionary process by which mind developed and then gave rise to self. In the Pleistocene, he suggests, humans developed emotive responses to shapes and sounds that helped lead to the development of the arts. Readers fascinated from both a philosophical and scientific perspective with the question of the relationships among brain, mind, and self will be rewarded for making the effort to follow Damasio's arguments. (Nov.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Exquisite…Readers fascinated from both a philosophical and scientific perspective with the question of the relationship among brain, mind, and self will be rewarded."
Publishers Weekly

"The marvel of reading Damasio's book is to be convinced one can follow the brain at work as it makes the private reality that is the deepest self."
—V.S. Naipaul, Nobel Laureate and author of A Bend in the River and the Enigma of Arrival

“Damasio makes a grand transition from higher-brain views of emotions to deeply evolutionary, lower-brain contributions to emotional, sensory and homeostatic experiences. He affirms that the roots of consciousness are affective and shared by our fellow animals. Damasio's creative vision leads relentlessly toward a natural understanding of the very font of being.”
—Jaak Panksepp, author of Affective Neuroscience and Baily Endowed Professor of Animal Well-Being Science, Washington State University 

 “I was totally captivated by Self Comes to Mind.  In this work Antonio Damasio presents his seminal discoveries in the field of neuroscience in the broader contexts of evolutionary biology and cultural development. This trailblazing book gives us a new way of thinking about ourselves, our history, and the importance of culture in shaping our common future.”
—Yo-Yo Ma, musician

“The epicenter of Self Comes to Mind concerns the neurological basis for cognition and the issue of the superposition of a “self’ onto the construct which we address as reality. In very characteristic style, Antonio is both eloquent and scholarly. His command of the themes he approaches is impressive, as is the vigor with which he tackles such recondite issues as the elusive “self,” inside the head. A wonderful read, and a recommended one!”
—Rodolfo R. Llinás, Chair and Pro...


Product Details

  • File Size: 1142 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (November 9, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003WUYOKM
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,097 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
196 of 211 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good news and bad news November 19, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The deep enigma of consciousness has been explored from many directions, including contributions by neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers and a few physicists (both quantum and complex systems scientists). An important study area consists of injuries or diseases that destroy specific brain structures; these clinical events are often closely correlated to nuanced effects on selective aspects of consciousness. Professor Damasio's book makes good use of these data to describe many known neural correlates of consciousness. For purposes of this book, he adopts the working hypothesis that mental states and brain states are essentially equivalent. While many (including this reviewer) find this idea questionable, such tentative hypothesis is quite appropriate for a book of this kind. In science we often adopt useful, if highly oversimplified, models in the early stages of our studies with no illusions that they are perfectly accurate. In this manner "Truth" is (hopefully) approached in a series of successive approximations. Thankfully, Damasio does not claim to "explain" consciousness.

The book's title is based on Damasio's suggestion that our evolutionary history reveals many simple creatures with active "minds" (defined broadly), but only much later did self (awareness) develop; in other words the human self is built in steps grounded in the so-called "protoself." An essential step is the development of homeostatis (life regulation needed to survive) in single cell creatures like bacteria, followed by progressively more complex "societies of cells" in more complex creatures like insects, reptiles, and mammals. Thus consciousness, rooted in our evolutionary past, helps to optimize our responses to the environment so that we may continue our existence.
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85 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Piecing It All Together. November 22, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Dr. Damasio says that, "This book is dedicated to addressing two questions. First: how does the brain construct a mind? Second: how does the brain make that mind conscious?" Do I think he does an exceptional job of tackling these two questions? Yes, I do.

I believe the greatest strength of this book lies in Dr. Damasio's capacity to take account of vast amounts of information and viewpoints related to mind and consciousness. He has included large swaths of issues that are usually books in and of themselves (Body Maps - The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better, Extended/Embodied Cognition - The Extended Mind (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology), Efficient Computational Theory of Mind - Your Brain Is (Almost) Perfect: How We Make Decisions, Selfhood - The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self, Free Will - Distributed Cognition and the Will: Individual Volition and Social Context (Bradford Books), Neuroeconomics - Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope with Uncertainty (Evolution and Cognition Series) and Neuroanatomy - Mapping the Mind: Revised and Updated Edition). Furthermore, Dr.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Guardian review of Self Comes to Mind February 16, 2011
By Rose
Format:Hardcover
Just came across an excellent review of Self Comes to Mind by Steven Rose for The Guardian.
[...]

Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain by Antonio Damasio - review
Steven Rose examines a neurologist's attempt to explain why we have conscious selves
Steven Rose

The Guardian, Sat 12 Feb 2011 00.05 GMT

Consciousness has become a hot topic for brain scientists. Once, we were content to leave the interminable mind/brain problem to philosophers and theologians. Speculation remained a CLM - a career-limiting move -- for ambitious young researchers. No longer. Armed with novel tools, from genetic manipulation to brain imaging, flush with funding, and convinced that neuroscience has the key to the human condition, the hunt is on. Experiments, conferences and books proliferate, and philosophers of mind can no longer be taken seriously until they have done an internship in a neurophysiology lab.

Neuroscientists, especially those of us trained in the Anglo-American tradition, tend to be as mechanically materialist as was "Darwin's bulldog", Thomas Huxley, in the 19th century, when he remarked that mind is to brain as the whistle is to the steam train - a mere epiphenomenon. Thoughts, feelings, intentions, reasons - all are causally generated by brain processes, and it is these latter that do the real business. Hence for Francis Crick, "you are nothing but a pack of neurons", free will is located in the cingulate gyrus, and consciousness in the claustrum - two small regions of the human brain's massive cerebral cortex.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Damasio Does It Again!
Damasio is a fantastic writer, combining both science and theory. He makes neuroscience readable to the layman and treats the subject matter with insight and knowledge. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Charhar2
1.0 out of 5 stars I trashed the book!
I am disappointed. In the author and how information was organized and presented. Not progressive enough. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Amber B Skylar
4.0 out of 5 stars Putting the AI homunculus to rest
The book is tremendously interesting and well written. The question of how to avoid a homunculus in the brain has long been an
important problem for philosophy and even a more... Read more
Published 26 days ago by J. Eilbert
5.0 out of 5 stars I knew what I was getting into
I bought this book because I had already read it, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. A fascinating read, it does get challenging in parts, but if you are interested in learning... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Diana Stutzman
4.0 out of 5 stars The book is interesting in its hypothesis. I wish that it had a little...
Damasio is a well known neurologist. I believe that this book reflects an attempt to describe a unitary theory of the mind and how it works. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Four eye Tex
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting read
In his book “Self Comes to Mind,” Antonio Damasio explores how consciousness is created, more precisely how the human brain needs to be structured and how it should operate for... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Lauren Zigman
5.0 out of 5 stars Great clarity not just on this complex topic, but on how he addresses...
Consciousness is a tricky and complex topic to write about for any author. Damasio's works are, like this one, consistently clear not just on the topic at hand, but on what he's... Read more
Published 4 months ago by J Santiago
4.0 out of 5 stars Finding Your Self
Antonio Damasio is an internationally acclaimed icon within the field of cognitive and behavioral neuroscience. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Monica Gentchev
5.0 out of 5 stars Consciousness, a Logical Phenomenon
Consciousness has always been slightly avoided in the history of brain research. Some say, rightfully so, this is because no one knows what human life was like before... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Chris
3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly Unenlightening
This book describes many aspects of human minds in ways that aren't wrong, but the parts that seem novel don't have important implications. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Peter McCluskey
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