Mind So Rare Paperback – Jun 27 2002
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Many scientists have denied any evolutionary significance to human consciousness, dismissing it as illusory smoke dancing above the fire of real neurochemistry. But Donald sees in consciousness the very key to understanding how humankind developed. After assaulting (with great panache) the arguments commonly deployed to remove it from the research agenda, Donald presents a natural history for consciousness, focusing particularly on its astonishing and clearly unique complexity among human beings-- Why does the human brain so closely resemble those of other primates yet so dramatically outstrip them in capacity? How does the mind endow the ego center with autonomy and a narrative autobiography? In his sophisticated conception of a multilayered consciousness drawing much of its power from its cultural matrix, Donald bids fair to reset the terms for evolutionary psychology. Bryce Christensen
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Donald transcends the simplistic claims of Evolutionary Psychology,...offering a true Darwinian perspective on the evolution of consciousness. -- Philip Lieberman
The most significant contribution yet to the rapidly growing literature of minds, brains, and consciousness. -- Steven Rose
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Top Customer Reviews
Points: the shift of evolutionary importance from genetic to cultural in the hominid line; recognition of a fourth layer in human mental evolution, that of cultural memory (which he calls "external" memory in his fourth or Theoretic layer); and consideration of the whole of human consciousness.
Donald has expanded on his "Origins of the Human Mind" ('93) with exploring how culture has outstripped genetics in co-evolution with supporting the emergence of Homo Erectus, and then structuring the extended consciousness and symbol manipulation of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
He postulated a fourth Theoretic layer (after Episotic, Mimetic, and Mythic layers) as an "external symbolic universe", or recorded symbols, or "external memory". But before recorded symbols, the past was only recovered by recall, by both speaker and, often, the listener. Recall must be distinguished from memory (as recorded symbols), for recall of past events or thoughts or moods must be incomplete and personal, whereas using recorded symbols is about interpretation, which is as complete as the writer and reader choose to make it, and is social. If people insist in using 'memory' for 'recall', then recorded symbols should be called 'cultural memory', but it is critically different.
Donald attempts an evolutionary analysis of the integrated, whole of consciousness. Since I am more interested in the human emotional (value) systems than in consciousness, I have one critical comment.Read more ›
But things we do in daily life clearly require us to track things much more numerous and much longer than could possibly be accomplished by "seven plus or minus two" chunks, even with clever strategies for grouping things. Donald uses this to argue that conscious processes are very real and not to be ignored, and do play a central role in human intelligence.
Donald unflinchingly takes on the likes of "hardliners" such as Dan Dennett who argue that there is no central "meaner," no self, no little person in our heads observing the stream of consciousness in a Cartesian theater. He points out that the drafts we generate in our minds are not at all arbitrary competitors for dominance, but are distinctly related to goals and expectations. Most insightfully, he argues that discounting the role of conscious processes has dire implications for social and political philosophy and how we view human responsibility for our own actions.
In my view, Donald makes the excellent point for yet poorly understood intermediate term memory mechanisms very convincingly. I was completely persuaded that this is something we need to study to understand human abilities, and that "hardliners" views have some weaknesses I hadn't considered seriously before.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Donald's A MIND SO RARE was an enjoyable read. It is probably the only book that I enjoyed reading, while disagreeing with almost all the conclusions that the author has... Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2004 by Michael M. Halassa
Donald (Queen's University, Canada) takes issue with those who have dismissed consciousness as a superficial evolutionary byproduct. Read morePublished on July 26 2002
I wish that I could jump on the bandwagon of approval that this book seems to be getting, but I am afraid that I can't. Read morePublished on March 19 2002 by John Anderson
What is human conscience? How did it develop? What is language? In what part of evolution did language first exist? Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2002 by Gunnar Odhner
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