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The author starts the book with Hobbes (1650) and ends it with the Romantics (1810) and a little past that with the study of phrenology. I love books about the Enlightenment. As far as I'm concerned a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for liberal democracy was to first have an Enlightenment.
It takes John Locke (not the character from "Lost", but the philosopher) to introduce the word "mind" and "consciousness" into our lexicon. At the start of the Enlightenment witchcraft and mental illnesses coming from the devil were both considered real, by the end both were considered explainable within purely natural terms.
I wouldn't call this a philosophy book though the author does use the philosophers as a device so he can can introduce doctors, scientist and other practitioners of the time period and show how they thought about dealing with problems of the mind.
Usually, most books I read seem to be rehashes of other books I have read but not this one. He doesn't seem to miss a person relevant to the story. That's sort of a problem with this book. That makes this book read more like an Encyclopedia presented in chronological order. I think the author missed a real opportunity by not tying his story neatly together in a comprehensive narrative. He hints at how he could have done that in the epilogue by identifying the dichotomies that exist through out his story: mind/body, nature/nurture, deterministic/free will, and secular/faith. I think he could have written a masterpiece if he took a stand on each dichotomy and wrote a book with his bias inserted and making it part of the narrative.
As it is, I liked the book, and would recommend it to others, but warn the listener that at times it seemed like reading an Encyclopedia (something I like to do, but I realize not every one enjoys that as much as I do).
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Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I am an academic brain scientist. I got into neuroscience because of teenage interest in exactly the philosophical questions addressed in this book, in short, the mind-body problem. Most books on consciousness, however, are failures. This book succeeds where others fail because it does not (poorly) attempt to solve the problem. Rather, it is an historical account of the idea of physical substance for mentality, and all its entailments. This is not light reading. It commands attention but, it also delivers.
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