Touching A Nerve

Touching A Nerve

The Self as Brain

Book - 2013
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WW Norton
What happens when we accept that everything we feel and think stems not from an immaterial spirit but from electrical and chemical activity in our brains? In this thought-provoking narrative—drawn from professional expertise as well as personal life experiences—trailblazing neurophilosopher Patricia S. Churchland grounds the philosophy of mind in the essential ingredients of biology. She reflects with humor on how she came to harmonize science and philosophy, the mind and the brain, abstract ideals and daily life.Offering lucid explanations of the neural workings that underlie identity, she reveals how the latest research into consciousness, memory, and free will can help us reexamine enduring philosophical, ethical, and spiritual questions: What shapes our personalities? How do we account for near-death experiences? How do we make decisions? And why do we feel empathy for others? Recent scientific discoveries also provide insights into a fascinating range of real-world dilemmas—for example, whether an adolescent can be held responsible for his actions and whether a patient in a coma can be considered a self.Churchland appreciates that the brain-based understanding of the mind can unnerve even our greatest thinkers. At a conference she attended, a prominent philosopher cried out, “I hate the brain; I hate the brain!” But as Churchland shows, he need not feel this way. Accepting that our brains are the basis of who we are liberates us from the shackles of superstition. It allows us to take ourselves seriously as a product of evolved mechanisms, past experiences, and social influences. And it gives us hope that we can fix some grievous conditions, and when we cannot, we can at least understand them with compassion.
A trailblazing philosopher’s exploration of the latest brain science—and its ethical and practical implications.

Baker & Taylor
Describes the latest research in human brain function, consciousness, sensory experience, and memory, and discusses the ethical and philosophical dilemmas that can result from these new insights.

Book News
In Touching a Nerve Churchland, armed with the latest research in neuroscience, and drawing on a childhood of stark reality down on the farm, as well as her background in philosophy, gives the reader her perspective on the human brain as she deliberately takes on sensitive subjects like the soul and afterlife, superstition, morality, and aggression and sex--"the issues that tend to give us pause"--as seen through the prism of the self. In nine chapters and an epilogue she separates the wheat from the chaff, the sensory from the extrasensory, as she explores the impact of neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology on how we think about ourselves. The book is written for anyone interested in exploring the intersection of philosophy and neuroscience, and how understanding the workings of the brain can make sense of the human condition. Notes are included. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

A philosophy professor describes the latest research in human brain function, consciousness, sensory experience and memory and discusses the ethical and philosophical dilemmas that can result from these new insights. 13,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2013]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780393058321
Branch Call Number: 612.8 C4758t 2013
Characteristics: 304 pages ; 22 cm


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Mar 18, 2014

Good, but Churchland repeats a lot of material from her previous book. If you've read her earlier academic writings, this is really just a more personal & readable summary of her views.


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