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The Ghost in the Machine (Arkana) Paperback – June 5, 1990

4.6 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Paperback, June 5, 1990
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About the Author

Juif hongrois ne a Budapest en 1905, Arthur Koestler fait ses etudes a Vienne, puis devient journaliste en Palestine. Revenu en Europe, il adhere au Parti communiste allemand, trouvant la une reponse a la menace nazie, mais egalement seduit par l'utopie sovietique. Il part un an en URSS, puis participe a la guerre civile espagnole. A partir de 1938, ayant rompu avec le Parti communiste, il combattra sans relache le regime stalinien, notamment a travers son roman majeur, Le Zero et l'Infini. A partir de 1940, il vit en Angleterre, ou il se suicidera avec sa femme en mars 1983. Son oeuvre de romancier, philosophe, historien et essayiste lui vaut une renommee mondiale. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Arkana
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; First Thus edition (June 5, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140191925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140191929
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #713,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When I first read this book I was stunned... and as one of the other reviewers said, baffled by why he produced that ending! (it's the ending which has "taken" one star off my rating). Always the polymath, Koestler starts by covering psychology, including Skinner's experiments with rats and subsequent theories on human nature which he pulls apart thoroughly. Koestler then comes out with the unfashionable theory that the human brain may have evolutionary flaws in it, since it was merely built on the older more primitive brains of its ancestors and the new and old parts do not always communicate well with one another. Partially because of this we have a lot of the problems of human life such as the urge to self-destruction and violence, which emanate from the older parts of the brain. He ties this in with history and if I remember, results of some shocking experiments. It has lost some of its immediacy since the end of the Cold War (nuclear bombs are still with us more than ever in Israel, Pakistan, India, China etc).
While I have simplified some of the book's ideas above, it is not always light reading, but it can be read by a layman. I think some of the subjects Koestler tackles are taboo (such as the idea humans overall are instrinsically "evil") rather than innately good, and he dismisses wishful thinking. Some people do take issue with his ideas... unfortunately some of the attacks are ad hominem... but where they aren't I suggest you examine very carefully both sides of the story. The message in this book is still pertinent enough, even if the proposed solution isn't.
(if you would like to read more on Koestler, read my review and others, about Cesarani's biography of him on this site)
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Format: Paperback
This, Koestler's crowning scientific analysis of the predicament of man (at least as that predicament is seen through the flawed eyes of the behaviorist model), is an impressive achievement. Other than the works of Ernest Becker ("Denial of Death," "Escape From Evil," and "The Birth and Death of Meaning," in particular), or Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil," I know of nothing that even comes close to this panoramic, thorough and incisive, deconstruction, analysis and then synthesis of how man got into his present moral cul de sac. To say that this is a monumental critique of behaviorism and its underlying psychological models would be a gross understatement. There is simply nothing else in the intellectual universe that quite compares to it. Even to a trained Behaviorist like myself, it's clear exacting language alone puts it in an elite class of English writers comparable only to that of say, a Sir Winston Churchill. Or even for those who have heaped scorn upon Koestler's works, no one in search of a model of literary and intellectual clarity can do better than his writings. It is not accidental that Koestler's works on three occasions have been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Believe what he says or not, his exposition simply remains unsurpassed.

Unlike Becker, or Nietzsche, or even Kierkegaard, who all see man's confusing moral existence on earth as simply a monumental existential tragedy, urged along mostly by the confusion of his own narcissistic self-important, or his fear of death or his twisted drama of the web of cultural meanings and misunderstandings, Koestler sees it more as the pathological consequence of a series of specialized and cumulative evolutionary mistakes.
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Format: Hardcover
�A man coins not a new word without some peril; for if it happens to be received, the praise is but moderate; if refused, the scorn is assured.�
So wrote Ben Jonson, and so quoted Arthur Koestler on page 48 of his The Ghost in the Machine (1967). Koestler inserted the quotation to express the uneasiness he felt at suggesting a neologism. The very useful word he coined��holon��seems to have gone tragically underappreciated, while Koestler has, I suspect, not received much in the way of scorn for his impudence (at least in this respect). Jonson was wrong. A man coins not a new word without some peril, it�s true. But the nature of the peril is this: if it happens to be received, the praise is but moderate; if refused, the coiner gets not even scorn.
What is a holon? Coined from the Greek holos (whole) and the diminutive suffix -on (after the pattern of proton, electron, etc.), the term holon �may be applied to any stable biological or social sub-whole which displays rule-governed behavior.� Koestler writes:
Parts and wholes in an absolute sense do not exist in the domain of life.... The organism is to be regarded as a multi-leveled hierarchy of semi-autonomous sub-wholes, branching into sub-wholes of a lower order, and so on. Sub-wholes on any level of the hierarchy are referred to as holons. Biological holons are self-regulating open systems which display both the autonomous properties of wholes and the dependent properties of parts. This dichotomy is present on every level of every type of hierarchic organization, and is referred to as the Janus Effect.... The concept of holon is intended to reconcile the atomistic and holistic approaches. (Appendix I.1; scrambled somewhat for conciseness.
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