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Wider Than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness Hardcover – Feb 9 2004
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About the Author
Gerald M. Edelman, M.D., is director of the Neurosciences Institute and president of Neurosciences Research Foundation. He is also professor and chair of the Department of the Neurobiology at the Scripps Research Institute. For his studies on the structure and diversity of antibodies he received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
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Top Customer Reviews
Chapter One (The Mind of Man: Completing Darwin's Program) is an assertion by Dr. Edelman that any theory of consciousness should account for the phenomenon to have arisen in evolution by Natural Selection.
Chapter Two (Consciousness: The Remembered Present). This is a chapter in which Dr. Edelman talks about some properties of consciousness in light of William James' earlier descriptions. He ascribes privacy, differntiation and intergration to consciousness and stresses the fact that consciousness is a process not a "thing". For instance, on page 6 he says:
"... there are accounts that attribute conscoiuness specifically to nerve cells (or consciouness neurons) or to particular layers of the cortical mantle of the brain. The evidence, as we shall see, reaveals that the process of consciousness is a dynamic accomplishment of the distributed activities of population of neurons in many different areas of the brain."
Chapter Three (Elements of the Brain) is where Dr. Edelman briefly goes over the structural elements of the brain, describing neurons and their chemical and electrical based signaling systems along with diagrams. He also describes the next hierarchial system of networks and highlights three major neuroanatomical systems that are important for his Global theory of consciousness.Read more ›
In his short, 148-page book (exclusive of the glossary and index), Dr. Edelman first considers global brain theory encompassing evolution, development, and function of the most complex of human organs. He basically proposes that in the transition between reptiles and birds and reptiles and mammal, a new reciprocal connectivity evolved in the thalamocortical system of the brain (p. 54), and that consciousness then emerged from increasingly complex and integrated neuronal groups. In the end, WIDER THAN THE SKY provides readers with a concise, scientific explanation of consciousness unique to humans.
The author uses the concept of neural Darwinism to suggest how consciousness evolved in mammals by massively increasing the connectivity between the cortical areas of the brain that carry out perceptual categorization and the frontal areas responsible for value-category memory systems. The definition of zombies turns out not to be purely whimsical. Consciousness requires specific neural activity - and where that activity occurs there must be consciousness.
Dr Edelman promises a "deeper insight into issues that are the center of human concern" to any reader willing to make a concerted effort to understand this challenging subject. He delivers wonderfully well on his promise. The conscious brain as described in "Wider than the Sky" is complex, dynamic, variable and unique to humankind.
My copy of 'Wider Than the Sky' has so many highlighted and underlined sections, and dog-eared pages, that I may as well have underlined the entire book, as there is an epiphany on every page....
I found myself saying, "yeah, that's how it works." He just makes so much sense. This book is an easy read, and impossible to put down.
Most recent customer reviews
A self referential jargon filled text which fails to appeal to the lay reader and makes several shockingly poor assumptions. Read morePublished on Sept. 6 2007 by Amazon Customer
This book is billed as an explanation of consciousness for the general reader, but nothing could be further from the truth. Read morePublished on Aug. 21 2005
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