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Cognitive Science > Who is the best author today writing on mind and consciousness?

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message 1: by E (new)

E (humblereader) | 2 comments I have my own thoughts on the aforementioned question, but am curious to hear from others.


message 2: by William (new)

William | 6 comments Few writers on the brain and consciousness have been able to get past the need for a self. They need someone to direct the show which they identify as “me”. One writer among the best who has put aside the “I am”, is Robert Sapolsky. his new book “Behave” is worth reading.


message 3: by Mark (new)

Mark | 1 comments Don't miss Lisa Feldman Barrett's recent book How Emotions Are Made. Beyond emotions, the theory she promotes has implications for consciousness and the self.


message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim Davies | 1 comments I think Steven Pinker is the best writing right now. Gladwell is a fabulous writer, but sometimes is criticized for the accuracy of his science. Pinker is a great example of being a great writer and a serious scientist in his own right. He writes about mind, but not much on consciousness. For consciousness, read Dennett.

I strive to be like Pinker in my own writing--but I'm not nearly as good. :)


message 5: by Adam (new)

Adam Morva (adammorva) | 3 comments Sapolsky's Behave is pretty good, with some minor flaws.


message 6: by Heidi (new)

Heidi Crockett | 1 comments I'd say Dr. Dan Siegel (like his "Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human) and Marshall Rosenberg (his book, "Nonviolent Communication NVC: A Language of Life"). This quote is from the intro to Rosenberg's book: his NVC theory and life is described as Ahmisa consciousness...

​​"...there's an alternative view of human nature, eloquently expressed in this book that must be considered, because it's our only real hope. In this view, we are not our stories. These stories are self-created fictions that remain intact through habit, group coercion, old conditioning, and lack of self-awareness. Even the best stories collaborate in violence....

In India there's an ancient model for nonviolent living known as Ahimsa, which is central to the nonviolent life. Ahimsa is usually defined as nonviolence, although its meaning extends from Mahatma Ghandi's peaceful protests to Albert Schweitzer's reverence for life. "Do no harm" would be the first axiom of Ahimsa. What so impressed me about Marshall Rosenberg, who passed away at eighty, just six weeks before I write this, is that he grasped both levels of Ahimsa, action and consciousness.

The actions are well described in the following pages as principles of Nonviolent Communication, so I won't repeat them here. To be in Ahimsa consciousness is much more powerful, and Marshall possessed that trait. In any conflict, he didn't choose sides or even care primarily what their stories were. Recognizing that all stories lead to conflict, either overtly or covertly, he focused on connections as a psychological bridge. This is in keeping with another axiom of Ahimsa: It's not what you do that counts, it's your quality of attention...

The only way to resolve violence is to give up your story."


message 7: by Heather (new)

Heather I think Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz. His The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force was great. Especially the chapter 'Quantum Brain'. Deep stuff.


message 8: by Victor (new)

Victor Negut | 1 comments My favorite authors who deal with the mind have been Thomas Metzinger and Sam Harris. Though they are not as poetic in their writings as Spolansky or Pinker, I think their theories are the most well developed when it comes to understanding the self, or lack of one.


message 9: by E (new)

E (humblereader) | 2 comments Without a doubt my favorite writer on the mind is Berkeley professor John Searle – in particular, The Rediscovery of the Mind and Mind: A Brief Introduction. I have a copy of Thomas Nagel’s recent Mind and Cosmos on my desk, which is interesting and readable for a chapter or two, but then becomes a bit dense. I’ve taken a look at conundrums in science and how they relate to human cognitive limitations in my recent book Beyond Comprehension: A Scientific Look at the Challenge of Knowing Everything, http://www.beyondcomprehension.info/b....


Mario the lone bookwolf (mariothelonebookwolf) Daniel Dennett and Steven Pinker


message 11: by Goran (new)

Goran Zivanovic | 1 comments William wrote: "Few writers on the brain and consciousness have been able to get past the need for a self. They need someone to direct the show which they identify as “me”. One writer among the best who has put as..."

As an experiencer of my own ego and also the separation of the self, through an NDE and other out of body/mind experiences where the 'self' was left behind, I can confidently say that I'm an Author that delivers the gonzo journalistic approach. I'll need to take a look at Behave. Thanks.


message 12: by Alan (last edited Feb 24, 2019 03:18PM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 38 comments So far in my reading, I would say W. R. Klemm, Jeffrey M. Schwartz, Terrence W. Deacon, Jeremy Sherman, and Norman Doidge. See my reviews of William R. (W. R.) Klemm's Making a Scientific Case for Conscious Agency and Free Will (London: Elsevier, Academic Imprint, 2016) here and Klemm's Atoms of Mind: The "Ghost in the Machine" Materializes (n.p.: Springer Science+Business Media, 2011) here.

I am currently reading Henry P. Stapp's Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer, 2nd ed. (Springer, 2011) and Quantum Theory and Free Will: How Mental Intentions Translate into Bodily Actions (Springer, 2017). Stapp is an eminent quantum physicist who worked with Wolfgang Pauli and Werner Heisenberg. Stapp and Jeffrey Schwartz are good friends and have co-authored some papers. Although I like much of Schwartz's book, I haven't read enough of Stapp to make any judgment about his quantum theory approach to consciousness and free will. Nor, given the esoteric nature of quantum mechanics and my lack of scientific background, am I sure that I will ever be able to arrive at firm conclusions about applying quantum physics to questions of consciousness and free will.


message 13: by Marianne (new)

Marianne | 4 comments Daniel Dennett


message 14: by Alan (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 38 comments Marianne wrote: "Daniel Dennett"

Dennett is a "compatibilist" on the issue of free will. This position is incomprehensible to me. See my review of his book Freedom Evolves here.


message 15: by Marianne (new)

Marianne | 4 comments Dennett does not believe in libertarian free will. When he says "free will" he only means to say that the person is rational, i.e. that they can be asked to explain themselves and that they can provide good reasons for doing the things they do.


message 16: by Marianne (new)

Marianne | 4 comments Alan wrote: "Marianne wrote: "Daniel Dennett"

Dennett is a "compatibilist" on the issue of free will. This position is incomprehensible to me. See my review of his book Freedom Evolves here."



Dennett does not believe in libertarian free will. When he says "free will" he only means to say that the person is rational, i.e. that they can be asked to explain themselves and that they can provide good reasons for doing the things they do


message 17: by Marianne (new)

Marianne | 4 comments Marianne wrote: "Alan wrote: "Marianne wrote: "Daniel Dennett"

Dennett is a "compatibilist" on the issue of free will. This position is incomprehensible to me. See my review of his book Freedom Evolves here."


De..."


I think another requirement is that is must have something to lose, must be able to be hurt, i.e. must be punishable for doing wrong what it knows better than to. This is why a computer conceivably could be conscious, but unless there was a way of inducing it to our human reasons, unless there was a way of hurting it when it does not conform to our reasons, it would not have free will.


message 18: by Alan (last edited Mar 18, 2019 10:41AM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 38 comments Marianne wrote (#18): "Dennett does not believe in libertarian free will. When he says "free will" he only means to say that the person is rational, i.e. that they can be asked to explain themselves and that they can pro..."

Right. As I said in my review of Freedom Evolves, he changes the definitions so that "free will" does not mean free will, "determinism" does not mean determinism, and "inevitability" does not mean inevitability. Then he calls it "compatibilism." In the last analysis, however, "free will" as classically (not religiously) conceived, and "determinism" as classically conceived (scientific, causal determinism) are still incompatible.

Interestingly, however, in his December 2013 review of Terrence W. Deacon's Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter, Dennett indicates that his position may be changing, at least to some extent. Deacon's book indicates, albeit somewhat in passing, his belief in free will. Jeremy Sherman, Deacon's longtime friend and associate, explained Deacon's ideas in a somewhat less technical book titled Neither Ghost nor Machine: The Emergence and Nature of Selves (2017). Chapter 28 discusses how physics itself is not deterministic and how free will could exist in the physical universe that we know.

I have not yet read Dennett's 2017 book From Bacteria to Bach and Back Again: The Evolution of Minds. This book might shed further light on Dennett's approach and whether or not it has changed.

As far as I have been able to ascertain, neither Dennett nor Deacon have addressed the findings and analysis of neuroscientist W. R. ("William") Klemm. As indicated in my reviews of Klemm's books here and here, I think that Klemm (who mentions Dennett but not Deacon) may be mostly on the right track in these matters. I would like to see a (written) debate between Deacon and Klemm, as I think that both of them have made very important contributions on these matters.


message 19: by Alan (last edited Mar 18, 2019 12:27PM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 38 comments Marianne wrote (#19): "I think another requirement is that is must have something to lose, must be able to be hurt, i.e. must be punishable for doing wrong what it knows better than to. This is why a computer conceivably could be conscious, but unless there was a way of inducing it to our human reasons, unless there was a way of hurting it when it does not conform to our reasons, it would not have free will."

I don't quite see limiting the concept of free will to punishable offenses. I think free will means more than that. Sometimes the exercise of free will can be as simple as deciding which of two attractive but mutually exclusive possibilities one will choose. In such cases, there's no punishment involved, unless one would define punishment in terms of opportunity cost.

Also, I don't think a computer could ever be conscious. For example, a computer could never experience what the scientists call "qualia": the subjective experience of seeing, hearing, etc., as distinguished from the computational analogues of such. Deacon and Klemm discuss this at length. Among other things, Klemm states that the human brain operates on analog, not digital, principles, and this, among other things, points to essential differences between human brains and computers.

I note that Deacon and Klemm are biologists. Dennett is a philosophy professor. Although Dennett has read a lot of scientific literature, he often takes off in flights of metaphysical or mathematical fancy, whereas Deacon and Klemm stick to the biological data—no "toy universes" for them. The original (the real universe) is still the greatest.


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