Nicholas Humphrey discusses consciousness and performance in the San Francisco Chronicle

Nicholas Humphrey, author of Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness, spoke to journalist Kenneth Baker about his original view on consciousness: Humphrey claims that vivid consciousness makes us happy to be alive. This perspective is a result of Humphrey’s specific approach to the “consciousness problem”:

I’ve tried to understand the function of consciousness. Let’s not think about it as a cognitive skill but as a kind of theater, something we lay on in our own heads about who we are and the world in which we’re living. Let’s ask how does consciousness as we experience it affect people’s attitudes toward life… I say that consciousness is a performance we put on, and philosophers who have disparaged the so-called Cartesian theater of the mind have misunderstood the nature of theater. I think the world we make is in no way a simulacrum of the world.

Humphrey also explains the role of natural selection in human consciousness, arguing that vivid consciousness must have effects that lead to reproductive success, but that these effects cannot necessarily be “seen” or quantified:

Conscious awareness gives animals a pleasure in affirming their existence in ways that are life-enhancing. In getting more out of it, you prolong your life. You engage with the world, fall in love with it. The great success of our species has been that creative relation with the world that we have produced from out of our own consciousness. We find the world engaging partly because it’s singing our song, because its qualities are those we’ve imbued it with. In humans, what really changed is that we began to engage in reflection.

Read the rest of the article, including Humphrey’s views on suffering, here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/09/16/RVA71KMU2Q.DTL#ixzz1Zk5UgnIn

Who tops the list of famous intellectual feuds?

According to this web site, Jung and Freud are tops when it comes to academic fist-fights:

Probably one of the most famous rivalries in all of “Western” philosophy and science, Sigmund Freud started out as one of Carl Jung’s most beloved mentors before their close relationship soured. Now considered psychoanalysis’ two daddies, the intellectual juggernauts split mainly because of one massive disagreement — specifically, regarding the human unconscious. Jung didn’t believe his veritable Mr. Miyagi of all things psychological took it seriously enough. Their theories about suppressed and repressed thoughts and emotions lurking in the unconscious existed in harmony, but once Jung proposed the collective unconscious, everything began unraveling. His mentor proposed a structure involving some degree of collectivism, of course, though Jung considered it far bigger and more significant. Freud, on the other hand, saw the unconscious as a supplement to the overall psyche rather than its own unique, influential entity.

Which is good news for PUP as we will publish a new paperback titled Jung Contra Freud: The 1912 New York Lectures on the Theory of Psychoanalysis in December. These lectures, give in the autumn of 1912 are the pivotal moment that ignited this famous feud. This is where C. G. Jung set out his critique and reformulation of the theory of psychoanalysis. He challenged Freud’s understandings of sexuality, the origins of neuroses, dream interpretation, and the unconscious, and also became the first to argue that every analyst should themselves be analyzed.

While some parts of this material have previously appeared in Jung collections, the lectures in their entirety have never before been published as a separate volume. And as if that wasn’t enough, the book also features an introduction by Sonu Shamdasani, Philemon Professor of Jung History at University College London, and editor of Jung’s Red Book.

Now, back to feuding academics — what other feuds make the grade? coming in at number two are Nikolas Tesla and Thomas Edison, while C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien nab the number three spot. Click over to read the complete list of these juicy academic spats.

Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey on the airwaves talking SOUL DUST

Our author Nicholas Humphrey was on the airwaves recently discussing consciousness and his eye-opening new book SOUL DUST: The Magic of Consciousness.  On July 7 he chatted with Virginia Prescott on New Hampshire Public Radio’s Word of Mouth about the book.  And, on July 11, he discussed the book on SETI Radio. For some engrossing conversation about how science can explain what we think of as “the soul,” then check out these interviews!

SOUL DUST, Nicholas Humphrey’s new book about consciousness, is seductive–early 1960s, ‘Mad Men’ seductive. His writing is as elegant, and hypnotic, as that cool jazz stacked on the record player. His argument feels as crystalline and bracing as that double martini going down, though you might find yourself a little woozy afterward. And his tone is as warm and inviting as that big, crackling fire, even if the dim flicker does leave things a bit obscure in the corners. . . . [SOUL DUST] is not only thoroughly enjoyable but genuinely instructive, too.”
–  Alison Gopnik, New York Times Book Review

New Biology Catalog

We invite you to browse our new 2011-2012 biology catalog at:
http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/bio11.pdf

The catalog’s cover image is Pale-madibled Toucan (Pteroglossus erythropygius). The beautiful photo is by John Kricher, author of Tropical Ecology, one of the many great books featured in this year’s catalog.

Check out these favorites in new paperback editions:

The Origin Then and Now:
An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species

By David N. Reznick
With an introduction by Michael Ruse

How and Why Species Multiply:
The Radiation of Darwin’s Finches

By Peter R. Grant & B. Rosemary Grant

A Mathematical Nature Walk
By John A. Adam

Be on the lookout for these new and forthcoming titles (just to name a few):

Honeybee Democracy
By Thomas D. Seeley

Pollination and Floral Ecology
By Pat Willmer

Chemical Biomarkers in Aquatic Ecosystems
By Thomas S. Bianchi & Elizabeth A. Canuel

The Cryosphere
By Shawn J. Marshall

The Crossley ID Guide:
Eastern Birds

By Richard Crossley

The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs
By Gregory S. Paul

There are too many new and forthcoming titles to list here. You’re just going to have to check it out online: http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/bio11.pdf

Robert Kurzban’s TEDx Princeton talk

Do we have Cranium Commandos running the show in our head? Robert Kurzban, author of Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind tackles this and other questions in this fascinating TEDx talk sponsored and hosted by the Princeton Public Library.

BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: Among the slaughtered remains found in the Drakensberg Mountains is a now-extinct giant buffalo Pelovoris antiquus, which weighed almost 2000 kilograms and whose modern-day (smaller) descendant is one of the most dangerous game animals in Africa (Milo1998).

A Cooperative Species:
Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution

by Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis

In A Cooperative Species, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis—pioneers in the new experimental and evolutionary science of human behavior—show that the central issue is not why selfish people act generously, but instead how genetic and cultural evolution has produced a species in which substantial numbers make sacrifices to uphold ethical norms and to help even total strangers.

Using experimental, archaeological, genetic, and ethnographic data to calibrate models of the coevolution of genes and culture as well as prehistoric warfare and other forms of group competition, A Cooperative Species provides a compelling and novel account of how humans came to be moral and cooperative.

“Bowles and Gintis stress that cooperation among individuals who are only distantly related is a critical distinguishing feature of the human species. They argue forcefully that the best explanation for such cooperation is altruism. Many will dispute this claim, but it deserves serious consideration.”—Eric Maskin, Nobel Laureate in Economics

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9474.pdf

This Week’s Book Giveaway

After the short week last week, we’re back with another giveaway! This week’s book, named one of the 2010 Books of the Year in Nonfiction Round-Up in the Science & Environment list by the Financial Times (FT.com), is Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley.

Honeybees make decisions collectively—and democratically. Every year, faced with the life-or-death problem of choosing and traveling to a new home, honeybees stake everything on a process that includes collective fact-finding, vigorous debate, and consensus building. In fact, as world-renowned animal behaviorist Thomas Seeley reveals, these incredible insects have much to teach us when it comes to collective wisdom and effective decision making. A remarkable and richly illustrated account of scientific discovery, Honeybee Democracy brings together, for the first time, decades of Seeley’s pioneering research to tell the amazing story of house hunting and democratic debate among the honeybees.

An impressive exploration of animal behavior, Honeybee Democracy shows that decision-making groups, whether honeybee or human, can be smarter than even the smartest individuals in them.

“Dr. Seeley is an engaging guide. His enthusiasm and admiration for honeybees is infectious. His accumulated research seems truly masterly, doing for bees what E.O. Wilson did for ants.”—Katherine Bouton, New York Times

“[E]ngaging and fascinating. . . . Seeley writes with infectious enthusiasm. . . . Honeybee Democracy offers wonderful testament to his career of careful investigation of a remarkable natural phenomenon. The breadth and depth of the studies reported in it should inspire all students of animal behavior.”—Science

The random draw for this book with be Friday 7/15 at 11 am EST. Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!

This Week’s Book Giveaway

When confronted with an ethical dilemma, most of us like to think we would
stand up for our principles. But we are not as ethical as we think we are. This week’s book giveaway, Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It by Max H. Bazerman & Ann E. Tenbrunsel, examines the ways we overestimate our ability to do what is right and how we act unethically without meaning to. From the collapse of Enron and corruption in the tobacco industry, to sales of the defective Ford Pinto and the downfall of Bernard Madoff, the authors investigate the nature of ethical failures in the business world and beyond, and illustrate how we can become more ethical, bridging the gap between who we are and who we want to be.

“When we think of unethical behavior, the images that often come to mind are those of robbers, thieves, the executives at Enron, or Bernie Madoff. Blind Spots is not just about these criminals, but about a much larger problem—the dishonest actions that we all take while still thinking of ourselves as wonderfully moral people. In this important book, Bazerman and Tenbrunsel show us how we fail to see our own immoral actions in an objective light, and the trouble that this biased view gets us into.”—Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational

The random draw for this book with be Friday 6/24 at 11 am EST. Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!

When Biology and Philosophy Collide

According to Christopher Shea of The Chronicle, Patricia Churchland “has long made the case that philosophers must take account of neuroscience in their investigations”.

This case is addressed in her book Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality, which Shea describes as:

“…a bottom-up, biological story, but, in her telling, it also has implications for ethical theory. Morality turns out to be not a quest for overarching principles but rather a process and practice not very different from negotiating our way through day-to-day social life.”

Shea ends by suggesting that Churchland might have a long battle ahead of her to defend her ideas, but that Churchland’s “combative sensibility” will offer her an edge.

Read more here at The Chronicle: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Biology-of-Ethics/127789/

TV Ontario’s Steve Paikin Interviews Patricia Churchland on Neuromorality

You can watch this video on the TV Ontario web site for The Agenda with Steve Paikin here: http://www.tvo.org/TVO/WebObjects/TVO.woa?videoid?918414807001

Learn more about Dr. Churchland’s book Braintrust and read a sample chapter here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9399.pdf

This Week’s Book Giveaway

This week’s book giveaway is The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress by Peter Singer. What is ethics? Where do moral standards come from? The Expanding CircleIn his classic study The Expanding Circle, Peter Singer argues that altruism began as a genetically based drive to protect one’s kin and community members but has developed into a consciously chosen ethic with an expanding circle of moral concern. Drawing on philosophy and evolutionary psychology, he demonstrates that human ethics cannot be explained by biology alone. Rather, it is our capacity for reasoning that makes moral progress possible. In a new afterword, Singer takes stock of his argument in light of recent research on the evolution of morality.

“Singer’s theory of the expanding circle remains an enormously insightful concept, which reconciles the existence of human nature with political and moral progress. It was also way ahead of its time. . . . It’s wonderful to see this insightful book made available to a new generation of readers and scholars.”–Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate and The Stuff of Thought

If you’ve LIKED US on our Facebook Page you are automatically entered in this Friday’s random draw.

The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress by Peter Singer

U. Penn features Robert Kurzban’s recent Knowledge by the Slice lecture

“No one likes a hypocrite, or so the saying goes. But in a world driven more and more by technology like social networking, hypocrisy has never been so glaring. It has become part of pop culture to expose self-contradiction, with cable news networks and programs like The Daily Show placing contradictory political remarks side-by-side on a nightly basis, pointing out instances of hypocrisy to great effect. What if there was a scientific explanation? In a recent School of Arts and Sciences Knowledge by the Slice lecture series appearance, Robert Kurzban, Associate Professor of Psychology, discussed his most recent book, Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind. Using biology as a stepping stone, the book applies evolutionary insights to human behavior, arguing that the mind does not function as a single unit, but instead a collection of adaptations—modules—customized to take over when a given situation arises.”

Click over to U. Penn’s web site to read the complete article, or click here to watch a video of Kurzban’s talk.