A lively, balanced re-examination of the traditional mind-body issue in light of modern advances in neuroscience.

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INTELLIGENCE IN THE FLESH

WHY YOUR MIND NEEDS YOUR BODY MUCH MORE THAN IT THINKS

“We do not have bodies, we are bodies,” writes Claxton (Emeritus, Learning Sciences/Univ. of Winchester; The Wayward Mind: An Intimate History of the Unconscious, 2005, etc.) in this challenge to the contemporary view of what it means to be intelligent.

The author presents a strong case that “the proper substrate of the mind is not the brain alone but the entire body…a massive, seething, streaming collection of interconnected communications systems” that govern the interaction of elements within the body and how they relate to the environment as a whole. Claxton’s intent is not to demean the individual's sense of identity or intellectual activity but to enrich it to include practical activities that are often disparaged as menial in comparison to supposedly dispassionate, rational thought processes. This is what he calls “a Cinderella concept [of the body] denigrated and disdained by the fictional Ugly Sisters of Mind and Soul.” A functioning brain depends on not only chemicals—e.g. dopamine, serotonin, estrogen, and testosterone—but also a functioning immune system and sophisticated perceptual apparatus in order to maintain internal functions and responsiveness to environmental challenges. Our perception of the world allows us to plan actions and anticipate danger, intellectual activities critical to our survival and ability to reproduce. The author makes a convincing case that schematic approaches separating mental processes into different kinds of mental faculties are an improvement over the simplistic view of IQ, although they fail to give sufficient value to the practical intelligence necessary to navigate daily life. Consciousness does not reside solely in the brain as such but is “a particularly odd effluvium of perfectly explicable, material processes in the body-brain.” Claxton also discusses how the “neurochemical loops and networks” that “underpin expertise” are too intricate for verbalization, but the attempt to verbalize can foster flexibility and creativity.

A lively, balanced re-examination of the traditional mind-body issue in light of modern advances in neuroscience.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-300-20882-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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