The book takes the reader on a wonderful and important journey through the important philosophical and scientific debates of our time, and concludes that an understanding human consciousness can be grounded and enriched by a more nuanced consideration of bodies, brains and the social environments from which we come.
How is life related to the mind? The question has long confounded philosophers and scientists, and it is this so-called explanatory gap between biological life and consciousness that Evan Thompson explores in Mind in Life.
Thompson draws upon sources as diverse as molecular biology, evolutionary theory, artificial life, complex systems theory, neuroscience, psychology, Continental Phenomenology, and analytic philosophy to argue that mind and life are more continuous than has previously been accepted, and that current explanations do not adequately address the myriad facets of the biology and phenomenology of mind. Where there is life, Thompson argues, there is mind: life and mind share common principles of self-organization, and the self-organizing features of mind are an enriched version of the self-organizing features of life. Rather than trying to close the explanatory gap, Thompson marshals philosophical and scientific analyses to bring unprecedented insight to the nature of life and consciousness.
This synthesis of phenomenology and biology helps make Mind in Life a vital and long-awaited addition to his landmark volume The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (coauthored with Eleanor Rosch and Francisco Varela).
Evan Thompson has emerged as a major presence in the science of the mind. His new book is quite wonderful to read, and I found it impossible to put down. In particular, his discussion of Husserl's phenomenology is a revelation, as are his reasons for reversing his former criticisms of Husserl. His discussion of one of the central issues driving modern cognitive neuroscience, the binding problem, is particularly valuable and should compel a major reexamination of experiments being carried out in this field. Evan Thompson is doing important work in re-framing the very questions that define cognitive science. --Merlin Donald, Case Western Reserve University
Neurophenomenology is the majestic method we naturalists have been seeking to blend experience, behavior, and the brain. This long-awaited book will open up the discussion of what experience is and where it is, and how we explain the connection between the objective world of physical activity and that of pain, love, and imagining. Thompson enacts the method he espouses, neurophenomenology, in each chapter with in-depth examples that mind scientists will find compelling. A tour de force! --Owen Flanagan
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