Brain Games (I)
There are two kinds of perceived minds, each with its own type of morality – thinking doers and vulnerable feelers.” (Wegner and Gray)
I’ve been reading, rather coincidentally about both the physical brain and the thoughts, dreams and actions that result from it. Many talk about the difficulty of coming to terms with the idea that the brain – a rather pliable organ with the capacity to create new synaptic pathways is also what makes us who we are – our “beings” for want of a better word, consisting of not much more than our grey matter.
The two books I read are rather different. The first is called “The Mind Club”. Written by Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray, this wonderful book takes you into the concept of what the mind really is, and how, often, “mind” is in the perception of the observer. For example, should we think of Aunt Mavis, recently deceased, and comment how “she would just love this rose garden”, we are applying the idea of enjoyment and appreciation through our own minds, rather than hers. She can’t, you see, being recently dead.
This book applies the newest research to all manner of thoughts and thought processes – from sex toy dolls, to the minds of pets, to the locked-in experiences of ALS patients. We read of crime, psychopathy, experiments on animals (and why we find these horrifying), torture victims, cryptominds, the mind of God and even the foetal mind. We learn about morality, punishment and the concept of having the ability to act (agency), rather than being acted upon.
Though of course a serious subject, there is enough subtle humour and wit, as well as tragedy (one of the authors died of ALS before the book was completed) to make this a compelling, if somewhat challenging read.
I read the book as an audiobook, and I would suggest this is not the best course of action. The authors do refer to graphs and documents that you can’t exactly look at while you are driving (unless you are my husband who can drive and read quite proficiently – well he thinks so, anyway). So buy this one in hard copy or on your eReader. But do buy it.
I’ll review my next read about the physical brain next week…
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