The Ancestry of Reason

It’s perhaps not too hard to conceive that bodies have been shaped by aeons of imperfect duplication of DNA, edited by natural selection. But could our capacity for sensation, emotion and even abstract reason really be the result of the same process? Can this mysterious thing we call consciousness be explained as the product of a huge assemblage of nerve-cells?

Over the past decades the neuroscientists have produced a considerable amount of evidence supporting the idea - evidence about how sensory consciousness happens, what it achieves, and how higher levels of consciousness have been added to it. There are also some good clues to the areas in which other species enjoy sensory consciousness, and to where it's absent.

It's clear, too, that consciousness has evolved in conjunction with an increasing number and variety of sensory receptors, and functions as a means of putting all the assorted inputs together to extract the significant patterns.

I became interested in the brain, and how its structure must shape our thinking, over forty years ago, and was lucky enough to have time to pursue the subject. My aim in this book has been to produce a digest of the most pertinent discoveries of neuroscience, one that will be accessible to anyone who is seriously interested in these questions, regardless of their scientific background, or lack of it. For those whose knowledge of science is scanty, forgotten, or out of date, there are brief introductions to relevant disciplines.


Not sure whether you want to buy? Try some sample chapters.

Chapter 2 Reason and Consciousness   7 Learning to See   8 Creating the Conscious Visual Moment   9 The Benefits of Conscious Sensory Experience   11 Subtler Forms of Reinforcement - Cognitive Emotions   25 Overview   27 A Tentative History of Consciousness
It would have been nice to include a really comprehensive bibliography in the book, but there was only room for the mare essential stuff.

However, for readers who want to explore any of the subjects covered further an extension to the bibliography is available here.

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