From Publishers Weekly
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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'The great strength of this challenging and original foray into the 'hard question' of human consciousness is its combination of scientific rigour with exquisite sensitivity to the thoughts of philosophers, poets, religious thinkers and humanists. Humphrey also never forgets the delicacy of the problem and the need to do justice to the rich phenomena. A delightful and thought-provoking tour de force.' Simon Blackburn, Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge. 'A dazzling insight into understanding how and why consciousness evolved.' Bruce Hood, Professor of Psychology, University of Bristol. 'Humphrey, a theoretical psychologist at the top of his game, combines the romantic spirit of a Shelley or Keats with the razor-sharp intellect of a Sherlock Holmes. Here he brings his incisive mind to bear on one of the great riddles of science - the evolutionary origin of consciousness - and presents the best-yet solution to the supposedly insuperable problem.' V.S. Ramachandran, Professor of Psychology, University of California, San Diego. 'Scientists sometimes stand accused of missing the magic as they reduce nature to explanations. In this surprising and poetic book, Nicholas Humphrey does the opposite: he delves into the brain and discovers that the magic is the whole point of consciousness.' Matt Ridley, author of Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters.