The Self Illusion provides a fascinating examination of how the latest science shows that our individual concept of a self is in fact an illusion. Most of us believe that we possess a self - an internal individual who resides inside our bodies, making decisions, authoring actions and possessing free will. The feeling that a single, unified, enduring self inhabits the body is compelling and inescapable. But that sovereignty of the self is increasingly under threat from science as our understanding of the brain advances.
©2012 Bruce Hood (P)2012 W F Howes Ltd
"Startling and engrossing" (Robin Ince)
"Fascinating, timely and important ... Hood's presentation of the science behind our supersense is crystal clear and utterly engaging" (New Scientist)
"Wonderful. Illuminating. Full of insight, beauty, and humor. Get to know thyself" (David Eagleman, author of Sum)
"Very interesting overview on the mind"
I was a bit daunted to start this as the subject could make one a bit despondent but Bruce Hood delivers it in a thoughtful, positive and informative way. It think he goes off topic on occasion but its all ways interesting. This is a general science book for the general public. Recommended.
"Well written, well read! I enjoyed disagreeing."
This book really got my limbic system and ACC going. Brillantly engaging and deeply frustrating. Bruce Hood is a distinguished academic, (he's won prizes) and a fantastic communicator. "The Self Illusion" is well written, flows seamlessly, and the author's delivery is delightful. The chapter on the www, avatars and social networking is excellent. Yet I spent much of the book shouting at my iPhone. It's not that I mind being an illusion - Allan Watts & Daniel Dennett have claimed as much - it's that it's never very clear what BH means by "the self". He freely hops between the "experiencing self", self as "personality", "self image" or our varied "personas". He rarely refers to the "self" without appending "illusion" thus implanting a paired association. Caveat emptor!
So, yes, we may be a "bundle of perceptions", but a necessary condition is a perceiver. Yes, we may be more or less influenced by other people (depending on our temperament). Yes, we may develop personalities adapted to our environment (mirror self). Yes, we may be deluded by own self image. Yes, we may present different self images (personas) in different situations. Yes, we make sense of our experience using imperfect memories to make a story. Yes, we are not a single "homunculus", but more like a hierarchy of committees (all of whom are "me"). Yes, the preparation for any decision may begin deep in our minds, probably way down in our awareness.
However, none of these for me indicate the self is an illusion, only that it is complex, multilayered, dynamic, adaptable, constrained & mysterious. BHs own mind/brain analogy of a web is helpful, but he misses out the obvious central point - that as the strands converge, sentience (self) emerges, then self awareness. As he states in ch1, "You are your brain", so his subtitle "Why there is no 'you' inside your head" is annoyingly contradictory. Overall however I really enjoyed disagreeing with this book. Well written, well read and much food for thought.
This is a good book. The arguments are well presented. Overall some of these arguments take too long and from time to time there was a sense of frustration that the author was not getting to the point. The conclusion is a little shaky because if there is no me inside my head, after reading such a book, there should be an experiential understanding as well as an intellectual one.
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