BEHIND THE MIRROR by Konrad Lorenz
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This is the first of a projected two-volume work in which the distinguished ethologist examines the roots of higher mental processes and human culture. Volume two will deal with the potential for high culture to break down or achieve even newer heights. Lorenz, long fascinated with the epistemological questions, begins with a discussion of perception and reality, eschewing naive realism and idealism in favor of the Gestalt school. He then proceeds to examine organized behavior patterns at lower phylogenetic levels, seeing parallels to human behavior. Thus he sees abstracting ability in part developing from constancy phenomena in vision--the ability of an animal to recognize an object as the same whether near or far, seen by day or moonlight, etc. Human voluntary acts may be distilled from the ""fixed action patterns"" innate in more primitive forms. At the same time Lorenz makes clear that there is a ""creative flash""--a discontinuity which separates humankind from all other species. This is not an easy book and Lorenz apologizes occasionally for speculating solely on the basis of introspection. Cognitive psychologists and neurophysiologists will quarrel with some of his assumptions about perception. Physical anthropologists do not unanimously accept neoteny theory (the idea that man retains juvenile characteristics as an adult, which to Lorenz is part of the basis for curiosity, play, and the need to break with cultural tradition). The constant reiteration that the taming of aggression is the cornerstone of social group formation will also rankle. But we have come to expect controversy from Lorenz. He is a man ready to stick his neck out and he usually has something to say--even if in this case the speech is not as sparkling as in King Solomon's Ring.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1977
ISBN: 0156117762
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich