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Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain Paperback – March 6, 2012

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Self Comes to Mind is a Big Idea book penned by a luminous thinker. . . . [A] beautifully sprawling and marvelous work.” —The Dallas Morning News

“Will give pleasure to anyone interested in original thinking about the brain. . . . Breathtakingly original.” —Financial Times 
“Damasio introduces some novel ideas. . . . Intriguing.” —New Scientist

“Adventurous, courageous, and intelligent. Antonio Damasio is one of the leading workers in the field of consciousness research. . . . I have great admiration for this book and its author.” —John Searle, The New York Review of Books

“Damasio’s most  ambitious work yet. . . . A lucid and important work.” —

“A very interesting book . . . cogent, painstaking, imaginative, knowledgeable, honest, and persuasive . . . Damasio’s quest is both thorough and comprehensive.” —New York Journal of Books

“Damasio’s continental European training sensitizes him to the reductionist traps that ensnare so many of his colleagues. His is the only one of the many consciousness books weighing down my shelves that feels it necessary to mention Freud’s . . . use of the term unconscious.” —The Guardian (Book of the Week)

“A delight. You will embark on an intellectual journey well worth the effort.” —The Wilson Quarterly
“Readers of [Damasio’s] earlier books will encounter again the clar­ity and the richness of a scientific theory nourished by the practice of the neurologist.” —L’Humanité (France)

“Some scientific heavyweights have dared approach consciousness. Among them, Antonio Damasio has the immense advantage of a dual knowledge of the human brain, as scientist and clinician. In Self Comes to Mind he gives us a fascinating window of this inter­face between the brain and the world, which is grounded in our own body.” —Le Figaro (France)

“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

“Damasio makes a grand transition from higher- brain views of emotions to deeply evolutionary, lower- brain contributions to emotional, sensory, and homeostatic experiences. He affi rms 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 Chair for Animal Well- Being Science, Washington State University

“I was totally captivated by Self Comes to Mind. Damasio presents his seminal discoveries in the fi eld 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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030747495X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307474957
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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217 of 232 people found the following review helpful By Paul L. Nunez on 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.
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93 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 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 -
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Rose on February 16, 2011
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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