- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (February 28, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1631492497
- ISBN-13: 978-1631492495
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness 1st Edition
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“The problem of consciousness sits at the heart of neuroscience, and it is into this question that Yale computer-science professor David Gelernter steps with his fascinating The Tides of Mind…[A] rich portrait of different modes of thinking, something like Proust’s masterly descriptions of the workings of memory.” (David Eagleman - Wall Street Journal)
“Sometimes it takes an expert to recognize when expertise is not enough…Gelernter employs not algorithms but introspection, personal reflection, and an engagement with a broad range of literary sources.” (Kathryn Tabb - American Scholar)
“Dazzling.” (Moshe Koppel - Mosaic)
“Fascinating…Gelernter marshals evidence from psychological and scientific research as well as the works of Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Ernest Hemingway, J.M. Coetzee and many others to advance a new paradigm for the study of human consciousness. It’s an astonishingly ambitious book, beautifully written and ultimately persuasive.” (Nick Romeo - Chicago Tribune)
About the Author
David Gelernter is the author of eight books and a professor of computer science at Yale University. His 1991 work, Mirror Worlds, not only "foresaw" (Reuters) the World Wide Web but is considered "one of the most influential books in computer science" (Technology Review). Gelernter's research has proved important to several leading Web-search efforts, and has been central in the development of the Java programming language as well as the first modern social network. He lives in Woodbridge, Connecticut.
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Top Customer Reviews
For a computer scientist, Gelernter takes a curiously "soft" approach to his subject. He quotes extensively from Freud, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Proust, Austin and Coetzee. He is a master of anecdote and symbolism. He can, when the occasion demands, put a sentence together. However, he writes extensively about how infantile consciousness and memory differ from an adult's and he never even mentions synaptic pruning or Clq proteins. He accepts the ancient Cartesian model of the mind as a watcher in a room, never alluding to Daniel Dennett's debunking of the concept. He asserts that human consciousness is qualitatively unique, ignoring decades of comparative behaviorists who demonstrate that many social animals (dogs, chimps, elephants and dolphins among others) demonstrate a primitive "theory of mind" and thus perch on the boundary of metacognition. I would have found his ideas much more compelling if he had grounded them in the body of existing knowledge and not merely let them float off like a helium balloon into the air of his own imagination.
It is said that if your only tool is a hammer, you treat every problem as a nail. Gelernter proposes that human consciousness exists as a linear spectrum from rational, logical, mathematical thought all the way down to free-associating emotional dreams. That's it. He spends the next couple of hundred pages reducing all of human experience to this one analogy.
If Gelernter were a guest lecturer in your Intro to Psychology 101 course, or perhaps the author of an essay in The New Yorker magazine, you would probably feel that the 40 minutes you devoted to him was time well spent. A book-length treatment? Maybe not. If you are new to thinking about thinking, you find much more to mull over by visiting some other not-so-recent titles: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat, Consciousness Explained, How a Monkey Sees the World, The Executive Brain, etc.
"Post-Turing thinkers decided that brains were organic computers, that computation was a perfect model of what minds do, that minds can be built out of software, and that mind relates to brain as software relates to computer - the most important, most influential and (intellectually) most destructive analogy in the last hundred years (the last hundred at least)." [end of chapter 5, p. 147]
Consciousness is bigger than just the brain. "The body makes the mind" [John Donne, p. 64], it's what makes us human. Though I would suggest it's also the other way around - the relationship between mind and body being reciprocal in nature. No one can claim to understand it, why we have it, where it comes from, or how it works, but we can certainly understand that it's not 'just brain'.
The content never gets dry, David weaves stories and poems from Shakespeare, Shelley, Blake and more, along with some of his personal experiences, to keep a nice rhythm and flow. Great editing as well, I haven't noticed any errors. My only problem with the content is that David is a Freudian and not a Jungian, so there's no direct consideration given to Jungian ideas of the unconscious mind, self and ego.
I also questioned David's knowledge of dreaming as he seemed too simplistic in some descriptions. There was attention given to awareness in dreams but not to the phenomenon of lucid dreaming, which modern fMRI and subjective study shows would put one's mind in multiple positions on his spectrum - both at the highest and lowest degrees - simultaneously, something I didn't see acknowledged. Other than that this is a good read for anyone who studies aspects of consciousness or philosophy of mind. And it should serve as a good counterweight to any trans-humanist line of thinking that's forgotten what makes us human, as disembodied consciousness can never be human consciousness, or mind.
This book is a real head scratcher, as in I wonder why people take this man seriously outside of the limited scope of actual knowledge he may possess. This book reads like the ramblings of a man that half read a dozen books on philosophy and never updated his understanding of neuroscience beyond his own education in the 1960s.
Avoid this book if you are at all interested in a serious discussion of the mind, AI, or philosophy. I will be avoiding Mr.Gelernter in the future.