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The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding Paperback – March 31, 1992
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From Library Journal
This book was originally a series of lectures by the Chilean coauthors, sponsored by the Organization for American States. It applies science, especially what is known of neural systems, to philosophical questions about human perception and understanding. The arguments are built up methodically, beginning with the origin of life and continuing through the the development of language in humans. The main virtues of the book are its logical approach and its use of examples. However, the style is in many places unnecessarily abstruse. The book will yield profitable discussion for philosophers, social scientists, and some lay readers. Margery C. Coombs, Zoology Dept., Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A refreshing and new approach to cognition—one which has dramatic cultural, social, and ethical ramifications. . . . While stimulating the imagination of readers it has, however, not received the scholarly acclaim it richly deserves."— Journal of Religion and Psychical Research
"A book with great breadth and ambition . . . In the age of specialization, it is refreshing to come across a book with conceptual breadth and originality."— Contemporary Psychology
"An important milestone in our current efforts to recognize that science is not value-free, and that fact and value are inevitably tied together."—Morris Berman, author of Coming to Our Senses
"A beautiful and clearly written guide to thought and perception—something that, like life itself, we take for granted but do not understand. The authors were the pioneers and are now the authoritative figures in the science of cognition: their book is rewarding, thorough, and very readable to anyone curious about the mind and the way that it works."—James Lovelock, author of Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth
"The ideas presented in this book are radical and exciting, disturbing and challenging. For the first time we are shown the outlines of a unified scientific conception of mind, matter, and life. The fruits of Maturana and Varela's Tree of Knowledge include the central insight that cognition is not a representation of the world 'out there,' but rather a 'bringing forth of the world through the process of living itself,' and the stunningly beautiful conclusion: 'We have only the world that we can bring forth with others, and only love helps bring it forth."—Fritjof Capra, author The Tao of Physics
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This book was assigned reading and study in a business and entrepreneurship program I participated to many years ago. This is a book of transformation for anyone actively working to become a superior leader, innovator and successful businessperson.
This is a "foundational" book as far as I can tell, it's a book to study, not to read and critique -- be advised of who wrote it prior to giving in to critique temptations.
I am not an expert in biology or neuroscience, but I am looking at the "meanings" of this gem of contribution to human civilization: I speculate Maturana's and Varela's lifetime work -- distilled in this and other books -- will be the foundation for the new emerging biology that future generations will come to learn and rely on for a better human condition. This will be a new biology upon which new explanations of social phenomena will replace old and false ones we still currently follow blindly, unquestioned, and unexamined.
I highly recommended this book for businesspeople, executives, social leaders, and entrepreneurs for acquiring a fundamental understanding of humans and social structures.
I read this along with Andy Clark's "Being There" and it has really shaped my thinking about thinking.
The authors drill down to molecular biology and then carefully build upward their premise that we construct the worlds we live in out of language. Each of us exists inside a story we tell ourselves about the way the world is, and we are completely contained within that story. In that sense, we interact with other people through the way our stories talk to their stories. And the success of our relationships and the effectiveness with which we act in our world is dependent on how well we can recognize the stories of others and understand the nature of our own story.
This is good news, once we recognize it, because we are a narrative species. On my way to work in the morning, I am telling myself a story about the way I want my day to go: what I expect, what I want to accomplish, how I will confront the challenges along the way. The story I tell myself about my life has heroes and villains, goals and challenges, grand themes and petty foibles. The more we understand the soaring, rich, complex stories those around us are telling themselves, the more we can overcome misunderstandings, conflicts and cultural dissonance - the more, in a sense, we can construct a meta-story that serves us all as human beings.
This is not a quick and simple read, but it is so logically and carefully laid out that I never felt lost along the journey. It is a wonderful book to read in tandem with a friend, or as part of a book club. The discussion and the "aha!" experiences it prompts make for a lively exploration of its ideas. Part of the joy of "Tree of Knowledge" is its potential for promoting tolerance of those different from us, through recognition of what drives their story rather than through compromising our own values.
"ladylucero", in her review, noted that "Tree of Knowledge" is required reading in some American universities. I read that in the authors' native Chile it is even taught in high schools. This, I believe, is good news: the earlier in life we recognize how our individual stories drive our hopes and expectations, our fears and disappointments, the more capable we will be of living well with our fellow human beings.
For most people who are caught in the desires for certainty in life, and want to understand- how our biology influences our thinking, how we understand the world and what is knowing (and what it is not)- this book has the narrative to produce new thinking for the reader which they can implement in their life to view the world more effectively.
If you buy it, make a commitment to read to the end, hang on to every word and reflect...
It might enable one to understand human beings (their sameness of behavior based on biological grounding).
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The Biological Roots of Human Understanding
This is one of the seminal books that I have studied.Read more