Facts are facts, we often say with certainty; but values--well, they're relative. But every day we are confronted with situations where these simple distinctions begin to blur--whether our concerns are the roots of crime and violence, the measure of intelligence, the causes of disease, the threat and promise of genetic engineering. Where do our "facts" end and our "values" begin?
Recent developments in neuroscience have begun to shed light on this confusion, by radically revising our notions of where human nature ends and human nurture begins. As Edward Hundert--a philosopher, psychiatrist, and award-winning educator--makes clear in this eloquent interdisciplinary work, the newly emerging model for the interactions of brain and environment has enormous implications for our understanding of who we are, how we know, and what we value.
Lessons from an Optical Illusion is a bold modern recasting of the age-old nature-nurture debate, informed by revolutionary insights from brain science, artificial intelligence, psychiatry, linguistics, evolutionary biology, child development, ethics, and even cosmology. As this radical new synthesis unfolds, we are introduced to characters ranging from Immanuel Kant to Gerald Edelman, from Charles Darwin to Sigmund Freud, from Jean Piaget to Stephen Hawking, from Socrates to Jonas Salk. Traversing the nature-nurture terrain, we encounter simulated robots, optical illusions, game theory, the anthropic principle, the prisoner's dilemma, and the language instinct. In the course of Hundert's wide-ranging exploration, the comfortable dichotomies that once made sense (objectivity-subjectivity, heredity-environment, fact-value) break down under sharp analysis, as he reveals the startling degree to which facts are our creations and values are woven into the fabric of the world. Armed with an updated understanding of how we became who we are and how we know what we know, readers are challenged to confront anew the eternal question of what it means to live a moral life.
[Peter] Kramer [author of Listening to Prozac] particularly enjoys books that stand on the boundary of psychiatry and philosophy. He says Lessons from an Optical Illusion...is a stunning and overlooked example. 'Hundert begins with the question of how we construct reality. He walks readers through the contributions of Kant, Descartes, and Hegel before admixing the findings of neurobiology. Hundert shows how clarifying cognitive science can be for central problems of Western philosophy.'
Hundert takes us on an exhilarating journey into the maze of interconnections of mind and nature, sweeping over contemporary research in a variety of fields...The ideas are clearly and forcefully presented [and] he provides laypersons and experts with a fascinating glimpse into the convergence of different perspectives on mind and nature.
A fascinating tour beyond the old nature-nurture debate to reveal the 'startling degree to which facts are our creation and values are woven into the fabric of the world.'
The author, a psychiatrist with credentials in clinical psychiatry and philosophy, draws on both fields and on neurophysiology to examine, in this scholarly and sophisticated text, the historical development of the nature-nurture question...For those in psychiatry, as in other fields of the behavioral sciences, the book offers a thought-provoking invitation to reassess some of these assumptions. This is a significant and unique contribution to the field of mental health that should be read by all those who work in it.
Edward Hundert takes us on a fascinating journey through time, revealing the evolution of thought about the functioning of the human mind. This important book captures the sometimes startling ways nature and nurture can combine as we strive toward the fulfillment of our human potential. Hundert offers great food for thought, along with much humor and wisdom, as we reflect upon our responsibility for the human future.
An extraordinary synthesis that gathers in not only evolutionary theory but epistemology, brain development, ethics, and aesthetics in a seemingly effortless, natural, and convincing way. Hundert is both a forceful thinker and a gentle, steady, teacher. This small book could become a general guide for how moderns should think.
Breathtaking...One of the most informative, amusing, knowledgeable, and inspiring readings in the decade of the brain on its results so far.
Lessons from an Optical Illusion serves at once as a clear introduction and an original contribution to two important fields, philosophy and neuroscience. In Dr. Hundert's hands, cognitive science provides a new key to central problems of epistemology, beginning with the question of how the self discovers or constructs the world. This book is one of those overlooked gems that deserves much wider recognition and readership than it has so far received.
- 288 pages
- 5-5/8 x 8-3/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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