Touching a Nerve by Patricia Churchland

What happens when we accept that everything we feel, think, and experience stems not from an immaterial soul but from electrical and chemical activity in our brains? That is the question at the heart of this 2013 book by Patricia Churchland (, one of the pioneers of neurophilosophy.

In a narrative detailing her own personal and professional transformation, Churchland explains what the latest brain research into consciousness, sensory experience, memory, and free will can tell us about enduring philosophical and ethical questions: What is the self? How are our personalities created? What determines our decisions and behaviours?

These questions have real-world repercussions, for example, whether an adolescent or someone mentally ill can be held responsible for his or her actions. As Churchland reveals, once we accept that our brains determine everything about who we are and how we experience the world, neuroscience offers new, critical insights into a fascinating range of ethical and philosophical dilemmas.

Churchland, along with husband Paul have argued over the years for the position of eliminative materialism ( This is invigorating stuff.

256 pages in W.W. Norton

ISBN 978-0393058321

Patricia Churchland

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