MIND/BRAIN/BEHAVIOR INITIATIVE
Cover: Seeing Red: A Study in Consciousness, from Harvard University PressCover: Seeing Red in PAPERBACK

Seeing Red

A Study in Consciousness

Product Details

PAPERBACK

Print on Demand

$31.00 • £26.95 • €28.95

ISBN 9780674030541

Publication Date: 02/28/2009

Academic Trade

160 pages

5-1/2 x 7 inches

26 schematic drawings

Belknap Press

Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative

World

Add to Cart

Media Requests:

Related Subjects

“Consciousness matters. Arguably it matters more than anything. The purpose of this book is to build towards an explanation of just what the matter is.” Nicholas Humphrey begins this compelling exploration of the biggest of big questions with a challenge to the reader, and himself. What’s involved in “seeing red”? What is it like for us to see someone else seeing something red?

Seeing a red screen tells us a fact about something in the world. But it also creates a new fact—a sensation in each of our minds, the feeling of redness. And that’s the mystery. Conventional science so far hasn’t told us what conscious sensations are made of, or how we get access to them, or why we have them at all. From an evolutionary perspective, what’s the point of consciousness? Humphrey offers a daring and novel solution, arguing that sensations are not things that happen to us, they are things we do—originating in our primordial ancestors’ expressions of liking or disgust. Tracing the evolutionary trajectory through to human beings, he shows how this has led to sensations playing the key role in the human sense of Self.

The Self, as we now know it from within, seems to have fascinating other-worldly properties. It leads us to believe in mind-body duality and the existence of a soul. And such beliefs—even if mistaken—can be highly adaptive, because they increase the value we place on our own and others’ lives. “Consciousness matters,” Humphrey concludes with striking paradox, “because it is its function to matter. It has been designed to create in human beings a Self whose life is worth pursuing.”

From Our Blog

Jacket: Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500, by Peter Wilson, from Harvard University Press

A Lesson in German Military History with Peter Wilson

In his landmark book Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500, acclaimed historian Peter H. Wilson offers a masterful reappraisal of German militarism and warfighting over the last five centuries, leading to the rise of Prussia and the world wars. Below, Wilson answers our questions about this complex history,