Monday, March 03, 2014

The brain and the meaning of life - book overview

Thagard, P. (2010). The brain and the meaning of life. Princeton University Press.

A prosaic book compared to the other books read so far this year in neurobiology, neurophilosophy and neuropsychology. As such, a pragmatic read for those who want to get to the knub of the matter and form a framework for their own understanding of the subject. Research from various disciplines are brought together to explain why we should abandon our concepts of soul, free will and immortality.  Alternatives are offered through recent findings in brain science to provide foundations for morality, reality and the meaning of life. This cartoon provides an apt illustration of how we 'overthink' when compared to our animal friends.

This book revolves around the theme of ‘why we live the lives we live’. It provides a good overview of how recent advances in neuroscience have changed the way the world is viewed. Importantly, the concept that individuals are made up of their physical brain and mind. Once the physical body dies, so does the brain and mind. So why are we here then? and what is our purpose in life?? Thagard argues that it is us that builds our reality, therefore  through our work, love and play, we express what we stand for and who we are.
The book is a good ‘textbook’ introduction to some of the complex ideas presented by other authors exampled by the Churchlands, see blog earlier this year. Thagard’s writing swings towards to academic but is made accessible through the use of analogies and examples.

There are extensive notes provided from each chapter, a glossary of neuroscience and philosophical terms, 15 pages of references covering the salient readings in the field and an index. Therefore, the book provides a good source for people seeking an introduction to the subject.

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