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Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain

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Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain Cover

ISBN13: 9780061906107
ISBN10: 0061906107
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Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The author of Human, Michael S. Gazzaniga has been called the "father of cognitive neuroscience." In his remarkable book, Who's in Charge?, he makes a powerful and provocative argument that counters the common wisdom that our lives are wholly determined by physical processes we cannot control. His well-reasoned case against the idea that we live in a "determined" world is fascinating and liberating, solidifying his place among the likes of Oliver Sacks, Antonio Damasio, V. S. Ramachandran, and other bestselling science authors exploring the mysteries of the human brain.

Review:

"Are our actions determined solely by physical processes, or is the mind its own master? This age-old philosophical conundrum gets a terrific, if ultimately indecisive, analysis in this engrossing study of the mechanics of thought. Gazzaniga (Human: The Science Behind What Makes Your Brain Unique), a leading cognitive neuroscientist, draws on cutting-edge research, including his fascinating experiments with 'split-brain' patients, to diagram the Rube Goldberg apparatus inside our skulls. Beneath our illusion of an in-control self, he contends, thousands of chaotically interacting neural modules governing motion, senses, and language unconsciously make decisions long before we consciously register them; the closest thing to a self is a brain module called 'the interpreter,' which spins a retrospective story line to rationalize whatever the nonconscious brain did. (Brain injuries can make the interpreter tragicomically muddled, leading patients to claim that their hand doesn't belong to them or that their relatives are imposters.) The author's reconciliation of that deterministic model with the idea of free will is less successful, requiring 'a unique language, which has yet to be developed'; until then, we can only invoke muzzy notions from complexity theory. Though he doesn't quite capture the ghost, Gazzaniga does give a lucid, stimulating primer on the machine that generates it. B&w illus." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

"Big questions are Gazzaniga's stock in trade." New York Times

Review:

"Gazzaniga is one of the most brilliant experimental neuroscientists in the world." Tom Wolfe

Review:

"Gazzaniga stands as a giant among neuroscientists, for both the quality of his research and his ability to communicate it to a general public with infectious enthusiasm." Robert Bazell, Chief Science Correspondent, NBC News

Synopsis:

The father of cognitive neuroscience and author of Human offers a provocative argument against the common belief that our lives are wholly determined by physical processes and we are therefore not responsible for our actions

A powerful orthodoxy in the study of the brain has taken hold in recent years: Since physical laws govern the physical world and our own brains are part of that world, physical laws therefore govern our behavior and even our conscious selves. Free will is meaningless, goes the mantra; we live in a “determined” world.

Not so, argues the renowned neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga in this thoughtful, provocative book based on his Gifford Lectures——one of the foremost lecture series in the world dealing with religion, science, and philosophy. Who’s in Charge? proposes that the mind, which is somehow generated by the physical processes of the brain, “constrains” the brain just as cars are constrained by the traffic they create. Writing with what Steven Pinker has called “his trademark wit and lack of pretension,” Gazzaniga shows how determinism immeasurably weakens our views of human responsibility; it allows a murderer to argue, in effect, “It wasn’t me who did it——it was my brain.” Gazzaniga convincingly argues that even given the latest insights into the physical mechanisms of the mind, there is an undeniable human reality: We are responsible agents who should be held accountable for our actions, because responsibility is found in how people interact, not in brains.

An extraordinary book that ranges across neuroscience, psychology, ethics, and the law with a light touch but profound implications, Who’s in Charge? is a lasting contribution from one of the leading thinkers of our time.

About the Author

Michael S. Gazzaniga is the director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the president of the Cognitive Neuroscience Institute, the founding director of the MacArthur Foundation’s Law and Neuroscience Project, and a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Sciences. He lives in California.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Cog Sci 1951, January 31, 2013 (view all comments by Cog Sci 1951)
Cognitive neuroscience addresses established philosophical questions with scientific rigor, demonstrating that the very words of those questions contain the seeds of their ambiguity and self-contradiction. Just as cognitive linguists have rewritten the rules of studying language as it relates to thought, cognitive neuroscientists are chipping away at concepts (like "free will") underlying centuries of learned argument and are showing how many of those arguments, applying directly to the human mind/brain, are ultimately specious. Michael S. Gazzaniga is one of several accomplished cognitive neuroscientists who use the scientific study of the brain to bring readers closer to an understanding of questions, once the domain of philosophers, that in the 21st century are moving into the domains of theoretical and empirical sciences.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061906107
Author:
Gazzaniga, Michael S.
Publisher:
Ecco Press
Author:
Gazzaniga, Michael S.
Subject:
General science
Subject:
Science Reference-General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20111131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 0.89 in 17.78 oz

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Related Subjects


Featured Titles » Science
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » Mind and Consciousness
Humanities » Philosophy » General
Science and Mathematics » Biology » General
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Neurobiology

Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$11.95 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Ecco - English 9780061906107 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Are our actions determined solely by physical processes, or is the mind its own master? This age-old philosophical conundrum gets a terrific, if ultimately indecisive, analysis in this engrossing study of the mechanics of thought. Gazzaniga (Human: The Science Behind What Makes Your Brain Unique), a leading cognitive neuroscientist, draws on cutting-edge research, including his fascinating experiments with 'split-brain' patients, to diagram the Rube Goldberg apparatus inside our skulls. Beneath our illusion of an in-control self, he contends, thousands of chaotically interacting neural modules governing motion, senses, and language unconsciously make decisions long before we consciously register them; the closest thing to a self is a brain module called 'the interpreter,' which spins a retrospective story line to rationalize whatever the nonconscious brain did. (Brain injuries can make the interpreter tragicomically muddled, leading patients to claim that their hand doesn't belong to them or that their relatives are imposters.) The author's reconciliation of that deterministic model with the idea of free will is less successful, requiring 'a unique language, which has yet to be developed'; until then, we can only invoke muzzy notions from complexity theory. Though he doesn't quite capture the ghost, Gazzaniga does give a lucid, stimulating primer on the machine that generates it. B&w illus." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "Big questions are Gazzaniga's stock in trade." New York Times
"Review" by , "Gazzaniga is one of the most brilliant experimental neuroscientists in the world."
"Review" by , "Gazzaniga stands as a giant among neuroscientists, for both the quality of his research and his ability to communicate it to a general public with infectious enthusiasm."
"Synopsis" by , The father of cognitive neuroscience and author of Human offers a provocative argument against the common belief that our lives are wholly determined by physical processes and we are therefore not responsible for our actions

A powerful orthodoxy in the study of the brain has taken hold in recent years: Since physical laws govern the physical world and our own brains are part of that world, physical laws therefore govern our behavior and even our conscious selves. Free will is meaningless, goes the mantra; we live in a “determined” world.

Not so, argues the renowned neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga in this thoughtful, provocative book based on his Gifford Lectures——one of the foremost lecture series in the world dealing with religion, science, and philosophy. Who’s in Charge? proposes that the mind, which is somehow generated by the physical processes of the brain, “constrains” the brain just as cars are constrained by the traffic they create. Writing with what Steven Pinker has called “his trademark wit and lack of pretension,” Gazzaniga shows how determinism immeasurably weakens our views of human responsibility; it allows a murderer to argue, in effect, “It wasn’t me who did it——it was my brain.” Gazzaniga convincingly argues that even given the latest insights into the physical mechanisms of the mind, there is an undeniable human reality: We are responsible agents who should be held accountable for our actions, because responsibility is found in how people interact, not in brains.

An extraordinary book that ranges across neuroscience, psychology, ethics, and the law with a light touch but profound implications, Who’s in Charge? is a lasting contribution from one of the leading thinkers of our time.

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