Humphrey (Seeing Red), the psychologist who discovered blind sight, combines the latest research on neurology and psychology with age-old philosophical questions about the nature of perception and sensation. In answer to the quandary of how human consciousness evolved, since much of our mental activity occurs unconsciously (fight or flight; intuition; biases), he suggests that sensual pleasure and the perception of beauty add value to our lives and enhance our desire to survive. Because we externalize our perceptions ("projecting sensations onto objects") we believe that our lives have meaning. He argues that the "magical interiority of human minds" is not merely a pleasurable bonus to the business of survival but creates the foundation for human existence and our ability to "acknowledge and honor the personhood of others." Though he rejects the existence of the supernatural, Humphrey sees a "soul niche," made possible by the development of complex neurological feedback loops, as the evolutionary home of the human species. This is a fascinating affirmation of the existence of the human soul and a difficult read, but well worth the effort.
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"A bold, important, and exciting book. Too often, researchers on consciousness don't see the wood for the trees. Humphrey offers a welcome corrective . . and the account is both surprising and enormously persuasive. The book is full of original ideas and insights, and, as one reads, illuminating implications and applications continually spring to mind. . .I urge you to read this book. It may change your mind about consciousness; it has changed mine." Keith Frankish. Philosophical Quarterly 2014
"An extraordinary book . . attempts to explain all the most distinctive things about humans in a few hundred pages .. According to Humphrey the emergence of human consciousness has forced human beings to reflect philosophically and artistically on the meaning of their lives and of the soul.. excitingly thought provoking.. Prepare to be infuriated but read the book all the same." Maurice Bloch. Anthropology of this Century. 2012
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"Soul Dust, Nicholas Humphrey's new book about consciousness, is seductive--early 1960s, 'Mad Men' seductive. His writing is as elegant, and hypnotic, as that cool jazz stacked on the record player. His argument feels as crystalline and bracing as that double martini going down, though you might find yourself a little woozy afterward. And his tone is as warm and inviting as that big, crackling fire, even if the dim flicker does leave things a bit obscure in the corners. . . . [Soul Dust] is not only thoroughly enjoyable but genuinely instructive too."--Alison Gopnik, New York Times Book Review
"[E]loquent. . . . Scientists are often accused these days of overlooking the awe and wonder of the world, so it's exciting when a philosopher puts that magic at the very heart of a scientific hypothesis."--Matt Ridley, Wall Street Journal
"Humphrey, the psychologist who discovered blind sight, combines the latest research on neurology and psychology with age-old philosophical questions about the nature of perception and sensation."--PublishersWeekly.com
"Humphrey begins where Crick and others have left off. . . .[He] has laid out a new agenda for consciousness research."--Michael Proulx, Science
"How is consciousness possible? In Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness, psychologist Nicholas Humphrey, a leading figure in consciousness research, proposes a startling new theory. Consciousness, he argues, is merely a magic show we stage inside our heads. This show has allowed humans to become aware of themselves and their surroundings."--Victoria Stern, Scientific American Mind
"[Nicholas Humphrey's] new book is a beautifully written and highly original essay. . . . He is right to focus on the notion of the soul, and to emphasize the degree to which we humans are 'connoisseurs of consciousness'. . . . [F]ew consciousness enthusiasts have succeeded so well."--Adam Zeman, Standpoint
"It was a pleasure to engage with the book Soul Dust."--Ben Ehrlich, Beautiful Brain blog
"[I] highly recommend Soul Dust for anyone looking to get a better understanding of consciousness."--Gary Williams, Minds and Brains blog
"Nicholas Humphrey's Soul Dust tells its story from the beginning. Humphrey, an eminent English psychologist, aims to explain what a soul is, and to show, from an evolutionary perspective, why it's useful to have one. His conclusion, explained in readable prose, and illustrated with easily-comprehended evidence and examples from science, philosophy, and literature, is that the soul is 'not so much a physical object as a mathematical object,' and that its evolutionary usefulness lies in making 'life more worth living.' Its relaxed prose disguises the book's boldness: Soul Dust is ambitious, and just about as zany, as Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents."--Josh Rothman, BostonGlobe.com's Brainiac blog
"Humphrey takes us on a journey that stimulates and educates, leaving our ipsundrum all the richer, if more lonely."--Douglas K. Candland, PsycCritiques
"Humphrey offers an ingenious and crucial account of how it is that each of us experiences solely our own sensations, however much or little these echo what others report."--San Francisco Chronicle
"Once again, Humphrey gives readers a provoking look at the mystery of consciousness. A follow-up to his Seeing Red: A Study in Consciousness, this volume focuses on the 'hard problem' of consciousness. . . . Often poetic, Humphrey draws not only on the philosophers and neuroscientists who are central in the debates about consciousness but also cites the work of theologians, literary figures, and, yes, poets to illustrate how central the motive of transcendence is to the consciousness of the human being. Even those who disagree with Humphrey's premise or conclusions will want to read this book."--Choice
"Consciousness is an immensely complex and, yes, evolved characteristic of life that should be studied from the ground up rather than the top down. This is precisely why Nicholas Humphrey's book . . . is so important. . . . [T]he general outlook to consciousness on which he bases the book is definitely one that should not have taken this long to get noticed. Cognitive science as we know it today would be very different if the views presented in this book had been adopted sooner."--Frank Saunders, Dialogue
"Humphrey has read widely not just in philosophy and the sciences, but in the arts and humanities as well. In presenting the fullness of human life made possible by human consciousness, he quotes incisively from artists and poets ranging from Elizabeth Barrett Browning and A. A. Milne to Wassily Kandinsky and Woody Allen. By drawing on sources outside the usual purview of scientific or even philosophical discussions of consciousness, Humphrey presents a richer understanding of what it means to be human than do most writers in the field, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for that."--Paul Johnston, Commonweal
"The book is a pleasure to read; Humphrey writes with clarity, elegance, and enthusiasm. I urge you to read this book. It may change your mind about consciousness; it has changed mine."--Keith Frankish, Philosophical Quarterly
The book gave me an incredible sense of what my mind is like and how it works, especially in my thinking about mortality, but I wanted it to give me something to help me cope with... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Nancy barber
I had great promise for this book. Although I didn't always agree with the conclusions he reached I supported the notion that consciousness is a state created by the mind. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Samson49
This is a must read for anyone that has studied psychology. Humphrey has changed my view on consciousness and provided the foundation for all my research.Published 23 months ago by Jack Butler
"Soul Dust" (and NH's "A HIstory of the Mind") are brilliantly written. Tentative, almost collegial/collaborative (para-Socratic) way of introducing difficult and provocative ideas... Read morePublished on August 11, 2013 by Pavel Somov, Ph.D., psychologist, author of "Lotus Effect" and "Present Perfect"
Some good new ideas, but it was not necessary, in my opinion, to end on such a downer. Straight to the punch line - we are all going to die. OK, thanks.Published on May 15, 2013 by Gilbert Reeser
Erudite and well researched. There are many angles on consciousness, and this one leans on the abstract side. Read morePublished on April 8, 2013 by M. Roberts
The ideas of this beautifully written book begin
the much needed imaginative assault on the most
difficult and challenging problem yet precluding
a complete... Read more
Humphrey's argument for the evolutionary growth of consciousness is a good one, even if, as others have suggested, it did not originate with him. Read morePublished on February 25, 2013 by Joseph T. O. Connor
A Solid Book Upon the Soft Dust.
Nicholas Humphrey, a man from the foremost Anglo-Germanic country of the advanced--Shakespearean! Read more