Being a Human: Adventures in Forty Thousand Years of Consciousness

Charles Foster. Metropolitan, $28.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-25078-371-4
Barrister and philosopher Foster (Being a Beast) travels back in time, over hills, and inside sea caves for this wondrous and moving examination of “what the self is.” On “a desperate search to know what I am, how I should live and what shape consciousness adopts when it is folded into a human body,” Foster traces three phases of evolution. He begins 40,000 years ago, when upper-Paleolithic hunter-gatherers became “behaviorally modern.” Next, he describes Neolithic settlements around 12,000 years ago, when humans domesticated crops and animals and “we started to get boring and miserable.” Then comes an examination of the Enlightenment—which he argues continues to this day. Despite so much knowledge and advancement, he writes, people are “ontologically queasy” and “laughably maladapted to our current lives,” which has led to widespread alienation, insomnia, and depression. To get back in touch with the “constant ecstatic contact with earth, heaven, trees and gods” he argues humans need, Foster witnesses shimmering visions, eats roadkill, contemplates birdsong and language, and hypothesizes that consciousness exists beyond humans, who for a while contain it. Foster is a wonderful prose stylist, and knows how to build a case and support it with plentiful detail. This powerful account is a remarkable achievement. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 07/26/2021
Release date: 08/31/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-1-250-78372-1
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