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You might not be fully convinced about all of the author’s points, but you may be less certain that there’s a “you” to...

This brief book challenges conventional ways of thinking about thinking and presents provocative alternatives.

How are humans conscious of consciousness, something that we have and that a rock does not? By the end of science writer Harris’ (I Wonder, 2013) book, readers may be less certain that consciousness distinguishes us from the rest of matter—or that there is any such thing as a conscious self, because “the idea of the self, as a concrete entity, is an illusion.” As the author notes early on, “this book is devoted to shaking up our everyday assumptions about the world we live in…[to] pass along the exhilaration that comes from discovering just how surprising consciousness is.” Some readers might even make the leap into “panpsychism,” which is “a perspective in which consciousness is a fundamental feature of the universe, as opposed to being confined to some level of information processing.” While Harris, whose husband is renowned neuroscientist Sam Harris, admits that “a panpsychic view…still carries the stink of the New Age,” she is on more solid scientific ground with her discussions on meditation and psychedelic drugs, both of which lead to a letting go of the idea of a self. The author delivers fascinating insight into binding, how the senses correlate their various impressions into a single experience, one in which we are always conscious of the experience just slightly after our senses have independently registered it. “Without binding processes,” writes Harris, “you might not even feel yourself to be a real self at all. Your consciousness would be like a flow of experiences in a particular location in space”—much like a meditation session or an acid trip, each of which tends to loosen those binds.

You might not be fully convinced about all of the author’s points, but you may be less certain that there’s a “you” to convince.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-290671-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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