Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness

Nicholas Humphrey, Princeton Univ., $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-691-13862-6
Humphrey (Seeing Red), the psychologist who discovered blind sight, combines the latest research on neurology and psychology with age-old philosophical questions about the nature of perception and sensation. In answer to the quandary of how human consciousness evolved, since much of our mental activity occurs unconsciously (fight or flight; intuition; biases), he suggests that sensual pleasure and the perception of beauty add value to our lives and enhance our desire to survive. Because we externalize our perceptions ("projecting sensations onto objects") we believe that our lives have meaning. He argues that the "magical interiority of human minds" is not merely a pleasurable bonus to the business of survival but creates the foundation for human existence and our ability to "acknowledge and honor the personhood of others." Though he rejects the existence of the supernatural, Humphrey sees a "soul niche," made possible by the development of complex neurological feedback loops, as the evolutionary home of the human species. This is a fascinating affirmation of the existence of the human soul and a difficult read, but well worth the effort. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/2011
Release date: 02/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 305 pages - 978-0-85738-829-2
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4008-3807-3
Hardcover - 243 pages - 978-1-84916-237-1
Paperback - 243 pages - 978-0-691-15637-8
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