Evolution of Consciousness: Of Darwin, Freud, and Cranial Fire : The Origins of the Way We Think

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9780135875698: Evolution of Consciousness: Of Darwin, Freud, and Cranial Fire : The Origins of the Way We Think
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A summation of research on the structure and function of the brain presents new ideas on how the human mind evolved in adaptation to a world that no longer exists

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Writing with the same infectious enthusiasm that invests his much of his other work, Ornstein (coauthor, Healthy Pleasures, 1989; Multimind, 1986, etc.) replays familiar themes, adding some new twists. We are basically emotional animals, Ornstein says, acknowledging the importance of Darwin (through his studies of emotional expression and child development) and Freud (in emphasizing the primacy of emotional contexts). Indeed, the book is less about the nature of consciousness and the philosophical dilemmas of the mind/brain problem--very deftly delineated by Daniel C. Dennett in Consciousness Explained (reviewed above)--and more about human evolution and behavior in general. A new twist is the theory that the rapid expansion of the brain (prior to language development) had to do with the need to cool neurons in bipedal animals bereft of the circulatory mechanisms available to quadrupeds. It is a scenario about moving to the warm savannahs, tracking animals in the sun, and evolving more neurons, distributed differently, along with a cunning adaptation of venous flow to protect ultrasensitive nerve cells. Clearly the jury is out on that one. Otherwise, Ornstein reviews findings about right-brain/left- brain differences, visual processing, dreams, ``blindsight,'' subliminal perception, etc., more or less downplaying the role of conscious control and championing the old unconscious systems within us managed by ``simpletons.'' This is his concept of ``multimind'' (not unlike Dennett's ``demons''). Much of the concluding material amounts to a sermon on why we need to move away from bodies evolved to adapt to life 10,000 years ago and toward a new adaptation to the overpopulated, nuclear- threatened, polluted world around us. This will require ``conscious selection''--taking over from simpletons. But how? Yet another Cartesian stage manager, as Dennett might say? -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Ornstein's revision of Darwinian evolution posits that brain circuits designed to help early hominids get a quick fix on reality and guide action were later recruited to make complex mental judgments. The result, he claims, is the modern mind--a disunified jumble, far more emotional than rational, with the self playing a small, isolated role. Ornstein ( The Psychology of Consciousness ) asserts that we're much more primitive in our feelings than even Freud maintained. If he is correct, the tribal mind geared to adaptations when the world was relatively stable still persists. Further, this tribal mind is grossly inequipped to deal with our fast-changing century in which the key survival cirses are much more collective than individual in nature. Ornstein urges consciously re-directed evolution, starting with a new altruism. His elegantly written, challenging inquiry is enlivened by scores of amusing or intriguing drawings which lighten the presentation.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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