A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind

A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind

What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves

Book - 2013
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What if our soundest, most reasonable judgments are beyond our control?

Despite 2500 years of contemplation by the world's greatest minds and the more recent phenomenal advances in basic neuroscience, neither neuroscientists nor philosophers have a decent understanding of what the mind is or how it works. The gap between what the brain does and the mind experiences remains uncharted territory. Nevertheless, with powerful new tools such as the fMRI scan, neuroscience has become the de facto mode of explanation of behavior. Neuroscientists tell us why we prefer Coke to Pepsi, and the media trumpets headlines such as "Possible site of free will found in brain." Or: "Bad behavior down to genes, not poor parenting."

Robert Burton believes that while some neuroscience observations are real advances, others are overreaching, unwarranted, wrong-headed, self-serving, or just plain ridiculous, and often with the potential for catastrophic personal and social consequences. In A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind , he brings together clinical observations, practical thought experiments, personal anecdotes, and cutting-edge neuroscience to decipher what neuroscience can tell us - and where it falls woefully short. At the same time, he offers a new vision of how to think about what the mind might be and how it works.

A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind is a critical, startling, and expansive journey into the mysteries of the brain and what makes us human.

Publisher: New York : St. Martin's Press, 2013
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9781250001856
Branch Call Number: 612.82 Bur
Characteristics: 264 p


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Jul 02, 2015

As a teacher of critical thinking, I found this and Burton's other books invaluable. Well worth reading.

Jun 25, 2014

This book is appalling rubbish. Burton is neither skeptical nor assessing current science about the mind or brain. Rather he is reiterating his pet theory from another book he wrote. To the effect that humans can never really find out things because we have an innate thing that makes us always believe our ideas are right even when not. This not a mainstream or an accepted idea in brain science or anywhere else. Also he is not a scientist and does not seem to know what science is. He's a retired doctor who is now a novelist. There's a lot of hypey garbage written about "neuroscience". If you are looking for a book that cuts through the guff, this isn't it.

Aug 11, 2013

This is an insightful, but easily accessible accessment of modern neuroscience that is both cautiously skeptical and complimentary. Burton explains how so many extraordinary claims by neuroscientists and others associated with the field are often hyperbolic, and sometimes even disingenuous. He explains the irony and conflict-of-interest of the human mind studying itself. While acknowledges that neuroscience research has yielded some interesting and important information, he convincingly argues that there are limits to what it can tell us about ourselves; and there probably always will be.

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