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I can’t imagine a better author to take this subject matter on.
Damasio’s offerings about the genesis of the conscious self are both comprehensive and remarkably clever. He offers lots of justifications for why we construct our sense of self the way we do. Those justifications and explanations seem to arrive at the perfect time in the dialog. It seems Damasio knows and anticipates the readers reaction to each of the new cutting-edge assemblage he creates for us. Just as my mind would stall with one of those - “Yeah, OK, but what about … ?”, he anticipates and addresses my ego's reactive inquiry in the very next paragraph. I found that to be very thoughtful and considerate in a technical publication. It went a long way to keep my ego out of defensive mode and in a more focused learning mode.
I must admit that I did choke on a few of his choices of very large compound words, some of his own design, in a gratuitous fashion. “I get it Antonio, you’re brilliant… now stop it [Smack], I don’t need any extra sizzle from you, I’m totally here for the steak my friend.”
The book is dense with technical content which was useful, delightful and challenging at times. It’s the type of challenge that gives me that feeling of accomplishment when I discover something I could not conceive of before. So it was all good. There were some noticeable places where the narrator was not entirely grasping what he was reading. He would place emphasis on the wrong part of a phrase and I had to play it over in my head several ways with different emphasis before it made sense in context.
I would imagine this book will become a very important body of work as more and more people realize the value in knowing how their own, and each other’s stuff works “under the hood”. 5 Stars by a mile. Thank You Mr. Damasio!
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
If you are not already familiar with Damasio's work, this is a great introduction, and one that does a solid, concise job of covering both basic concepts and neurophysiological details. He does a terrific job of closing some of the gaps in previous accounts of how intentional decision making and reasoning work, but his goal of explaining how self comes to mind is unreached. What David Chalmers calls the Really Hard Problem of consciousness remains a "smooth-walled mystery," as Patricia Churchland would put it -- there are no handholds here. If you want a good functional account of how self works, however, this is a great read.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful