: An Approach to Untangle the Consciousness Problem
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An exacting meditation on human consciousness by engineer, innovator and writer Raspanti.

Raspanti’s first book, 1998’s The Virtual Universe: Philosophy, Physics and the Nature of Things, laid out a philosophy called Virtualism. He theorizes that we live in a “Virtual Universe” akin to the virtual reality developed by computer science. This universe, which includes our bodies, is the creation of a nebulously defined “Cosmic Mind” which extends into individual minds. The book expands on Raspanti’s earlier work, and takes into account new developments in the fields of computer science and web development. There are shades here of both the blockbuster movie The Matrix and Plato’s Forms, and the author pays homage to both. First, though, he gives readers a primer on the evolution of the theories of consciousness, surveying work from pioneers like Edmund Husserl, Immanuel Kant, Baruch Spinoza, Baron Gottfried von Leibnitz and John Locke. “What is offered,” writes Raspanti, “is only a trail, and not a highway.” Still, it’s enough to get the narrative rolling in the right direction. The author is skilled at distilling complex philosophies–Husserl’s is particularly knotty–into punchy prose. Paradoxically, he stumbles when it comes to his own theories. In six digressive chapters, Raspanti attempts to match Virtualism against established scientific theory, often to less than enlightening results. For instance, on the evolution of consciousness he writes, “I [can’t] see how consciousness could ever have emerged from any physical system, however highly complex.” The vast majority of evolutionary biologists would disagree–to them, consciousness is the byproduct of physical life on earth. Raspanti never fully engages that established theory, instead skirting around it and returning again to his “Cosmic Mind” and “Virtualism.” Yet the book remains engaging and surprisingly well paced, considering the sheer volume of jargon flying across the pages.

A thought-provoking, accessible philosophy book for armchair theorists.

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 2008
ISBN:  978-1-4196-5510-4
Program: Kirkus Indie
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