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An earnest effort to describe the indescribable, of interest to students of philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology.

A philosophical inquiry into the nature of consciousness, that most elusive of constructs.

“Nothing is more certain than consciousness,” writes Goff (Philosophy Durham Univ.; Consciousness and Fundamental Reality, 2017), “and yet nothing is harder to incorporate into our scientific picture of the world.” Since the time of the Renaissance, science has worked on the premise that the thing doing the observing cannot observe itself reliably and that even the thought that “I exist as a conscious being” lies outside the realm of science. The author aims to restore the problem of consciousness as an object of scientific inquiry, not easy in a time when, as he notes, many philosophers consider consciousness to be a kind of elaborate illusion. Think of The Matrix, in which we’re all part of a machine that feeds on our psychic energy; however, we can come down on Galileo for having reduced the complexity of being to four attributes: size, shape, location, and movement. By removing the sensory—“Galileo did not believe that you could convey in mathematical language the yellow color or the sour taste of the lemon”—from consideration, science is indeed able to reduce being to physical and mathematical formulas. But that’s only part of the story. Goff introduces numerous theories to promote the scientific study of consciousness, such as integrated information theory, with “integrated information” being another way of saying consciousness. He considers other problems, such as that of free will, in light of consciousness, and he looks at ways in which subjective experience might be introduced into “the purely quantitative vocabulary” of modern neuroscience and physics, the latter of which, he adds, “tells us nothing about the intrinsic nature of matter." It is therefore paradoxical that we understand consciousness to be reality while not quite being able to explain why, a challenge for a future science that might free itself from dualistic constraints.

An earnest effort to describe the indescribable, of interest to students of philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4796-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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 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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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