Another compendium derived from the online salon Edge.com, this time essays from its section called “Mind.”
Literary agent and Edge founder Brockman (editor: This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works, 2013, etc.) assembles 16 pieces from academics and researchers in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, linguistics and statistics. Like Brockman’s other compendiums, this one presents an assortment of experts holding forth on what they know best, what research is revealing in their respective fields, and what the impact of that research may be. The book lacks an introduction, but more than half the pieces feature introductions by other experts, whose credentials are briefly cited, adding layers of authenticity to this assortment. The presentations vary in style and complexity, with some decidedly more challenging than others. Daniel Dennett’s “The Normal Well-Tempered Mind” is a well-delivered lecture, as are Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s “The Adolescent Brain” and Daniel Kahneman’s “The Marvels and the Flaws of Intuitive Thinking.” Simon Baron-Cohen’s “Testosterone on My Mind and in My Brain” is a talk before members of the London cultural scene that concludes with a lively question-and-answer session with the distinguished audience. “The New Science of Morality,” which is labeled a conference, features a series of speeches by seven researchers delving into questions in the field of moral psychology. Especially engaging is Vilayanur Ramachandran’s “Adventures in Behavioral Neurology—or—What Neurology Can Tell Us about Human Nature,” in which the author looks inside the brain for the source of some mysterious syndromes. Much more demanding for lay readers is “The Fourth Quadrant: A Map of the Limits of Statistics” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
For serious readers interested in keeping up with what serious thinkers are thinking about thinking, this book offers nourishing food for thought.