Socraticgadfly's Reviews > The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size

The User Illusion by Tor Nørretranders
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it was amazing
bookshelves: philosophy, psychology-human-development, science

Still good, still thought-provoking after many years.

I bought this about the time it first came out, and recently finished a re-read of it.

Some parts of it are a bit dated, some parts are perhaps a bit uneven, and the book is arguably as much philosophy as it is science. That said, it's still a good book, good enough to definitely not deserve the 1- and 2-star ratings. So, even though for me alone, it's probably closer to 4 stars, I give it a 5-star rating.

That said, philosophy and science can both be provocative at times. Quantum theory still is today. As is general relativity. As is existentialism. As is the question of "what is consciousness."

It's not a "fault" of Norretranders if he doesn't precisely answer that; rather, today even, it's a question of "can consciousness be precisely defined"? And, books by Dan Dennett and Steve Pinker aside, I say the answer is still no. Or, at best, like Potter Stewart on pornography: We know consciousness when we experience it.

As for claims that the central idea is dated? Tosh.

Dan Wegner and others go beyond where Dennett stops and refuses to go further, and note that "no Cartesian consciousness" also means "no Cartesian free willer." This book is exactly in line with that, with the whole idea of "user illusion." The reader is invited to wrestle along with Norretranders as to what this all means. Godel's incompleteness theorem, the recursiveness behind Mandelbrot's fractals and other ideas in the book all connect to that "user illusion."

Yes, he could have cited Kierkegaard less, and other existentialists more. Yes, he comes a bit close to, though never going into, New Ageiness here and there on occasion.

It's still a very good book
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
June 2, 2011 – Finished Reading
November 20, 2012 – Shelved
November 20, 2012 – Shelved as: philosophy
November 20, 2012 – Shelved as: psychology-human-development
November 20, 2012 – Shelved as: science

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