Monday, January 8, 2007

A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness

Author: V. S. Ramachandran

First line: The history of mankind in the last three hundred years has been punctuated by major upheavals in human thought that we call scientific revolutions--upheavals that have profoundly affected the way in which we view ourselves and our place in the cosmos.

Why you should read it: Examining neurological phenomena such as phantom limb syndrome and synesthesia, the author probes the complexities of the human brain and offers explanations for such diverse questions as "Does free will exist?" and "What is art?" It's a tidy little volume, only 112 pages of actual text accompanied by 70+ pages of supplemental material. Written for a lay audience, the book often starts with surprisingly simple descriptions before spiralling into detailed maps of the brain and human consciousness. The author carefully delineates between what is known about the brain and what is suspected, and he outlines many experiments that have been performed, along with his hypotheses about many more that could be performed.

Why you shouldn't read it: You cannot accept theoretical speculation and require documented evidence before you give an idea credence.

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