MIND by Daniel J. Siegel


A Journey to the Heart of Being Human
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A clinical professor of psychology serves up the soft, squishy side of neuroscience.

If you are a hard-drilling student of brain science, the mind is the ghost in the machine, some matter for Cartesian pondering, with a healthy dose of the uncertainty principle thrown in for good measure: for how can the thing doing the measuring be measured itself? Siegel (Psychiatry/UCLA School of Medicine; Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, 2014, etc.) is not that steely scholar. Instead, this treatise on the mind is a sometimes-elegant (“skull and skin are not limiting boundaries of energy and information flow”) but often seemingly nonrigorous look at what Woody Allen called his second favorite organ. Mind, by Siegel’s account, is indeed energy and information flow; it is embodied, inasmuch as it exists inside the brain, but it is also disembodied, inasmuch as it extends beyond the individual. Brain activity is energy flow, but somehow that energy flow yields a world of mental representations, of subjective mental experience. “Subjective” is a key word in the author’s account, for, as he writes, he has long sought a way “to connect empirical insights with emotional knowledge.” This interest in the emotional, in the “inner view of mental life,” is largely what separates Siegel from the likes of Antonio Damasio, but allowing for off-putting neologisms such as “MWe”—shorthand for “our integrated identity, the linkage of a differentiated me with a differentiated we”—it is a side that has not received enough scholarly attention. These emotional aspects, manifested in matters such as grief, would seem to be real enough, though much neuroscience questions the “reality” of subjective experience; Siegel nods to that by noting, “we can honor the universal reality that perception is a constructed skill.” In other words, it’s more Pema Chodron than Petri dish.

If you embrace the notion that humankind ought to embrace more kindness, “a natural outcome of integration,” then this is your book.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-393-71053-3
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2016


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