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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On The Matter Of The Mind » User review

An Especially Appropriate Title

  • Jan 12, 2000
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Rating:
+5
In Bright Air, Brilliant Fire, Gerald M. Edelman accomplishes what seems to be an almost impossible task: He helps the non-scientist to understand the connections between what is known about the mind with what is beginning to be known about the brain. For Edelman, this subject "is the most important one imaginable" because it is charged "with the excitement of being on the threshold of knowing how we know." At the outset, he poses "some commonsense notions":

1. Things do not have minds.

2. Normal humans have minds; some animals act as if they do.

3. Beings with minds can refer to other beings or things; things without minds do not refer to beings or things.

The book is divided into four main parts (Problems, Origins, Proposals, and Harmonies), concluding with "Mind Without Biology: A Critical Postscript" in which Edelman dispels the notion that the mind can be understood in the absence of biology. Stated another way (in Chapter 2), "There must be ways to put the mind back into nature that are concordant with how it got there in the first place."

Obviously, this is not a book for browsers, for grasshoppers, or for dilettantes. It makes great demands on the mind (and patience) of its reader. But consider Edelman's original objective: to explore the connections between what is known about the mind with what is beginning to be known about the brain. For him, this subject is (to reiterate) "the most important one imaginable" because it is charged "with the excitement of being on the threshold of knowing how we know."

Is there any other knowledge of greater importance?

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About the reviewer
Robert Morris ()
Ranked #169
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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Wiki

In this challenging, exhilarating leap by a disciplined and original mind, Nobel Prize-winner Edelman (medicine, 1972) throws a neurobiological line between two ships--mind and matter--in the stormiest of scientific seas. In his defense of the biological component of mind, Edelman ( The Remembered Pres ent ) disposes of cognitive and behavioral theories of consciousness. To take up the slack, he extends current developments in brain neuroscience well into speculation. He is far too modest in stating that his goal is "to dispel the notion that the mind can be understood in the absence of biology," for the book is a near-kinetic series of critiques and proposals to connect physics and psychology. The "Harmonies" section draws on other disciplines--philosophy, linguistics and psychiatry, among others--to entwine these tendrils of thought into a "unified theory" of mind. Illustrations not seen by PW . Natural Science Book Club selection.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Details

ISBN-10: 0465007643
ISBN-13: 978-0465007646
Author: Gerald Edelman
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Basic Books
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