We Are Our Brains by Dick Swaab

Nothing is more natural than to believe we have conscious control over our own choices. Indeed most of social behaviour including the criminal justice system is predicated on that conviction. What, though, if that presumption is simply not true? Professor Dick Swabb (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Swaab) argues that everything we think, do, and refrain from doing is determined by our brain. It shapes our potential, our limitations, and our characters. In other words, we don’t just have brains; we are our brains. He shows that everything about us – from our sexual orientation to our religious proclivities – is present in our neuronal circuits before we are even born. In short, engaging chapters that combine fascinating and often bizarre case studies and historical examples, he explains what is going on in our brains at every stage of life, from the womb to the radical changes that take place during adolescence to what happens when we fall in love or get Alzheimers. We Are Our Brains illuminates this complex organ’s role in shaping every aspect of human existence. See what you think. If Swaab is right your reaction will be out of your control.

Read this alongside Daniel M. Wegner’s book The Illusion of Conscious Will (http://sbr.lanark.co.uk/?p=632). The main thrust of argument is identical.

For a good, entertaining, summary of the state of discussion on consciousness – read the Guardian article published January 2015 available at http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/21/-sp-why-cant-worlds-greatest-minds-solve-mystery-consciousness

Also listen to the R4 ‘In Our Time’ episode (45 minutes) on the subject of neuroscience at the link  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00fbd26  With Martin Conway, Professor of Psychology at the University of Leeds; Gemma Calvert, Professor of Applied Neuroimaging at WMG, University of Warwick and David Papineau, Professor of Philosophy of Science at King’s College London.

448 pages in Allen Lane

ISBN 978-0241003725

First published 16 Jan 2014

Professor Dick Swaab – he is his brain

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