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Soul Dust


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Table of Contents

Invitation ix Prelude Chapter 1: Coming-to Explained 3 Part One Chapter 2: Being "Like Something" 27 Chapter 3: Sentition 42 Chapter 4: Looping the Loop 53 Part Two Chapter 5: So What? 69 Chapter 6: Being There 80 Chapter 7: The Enchanted World 104 Chapter 8: So That Is Who I Am! 125 Chapter 9: Being Number One 140 Part Three Chapter 10: Entering the Soul Niche 155 Chapter 11: Dangerous Territory 165 Chapter 12: Cheating Death 177 Envoi 203 Acknowledgments 215 Notes 217 Index 239

About the Author

Nicholas Humphrey has held posts at Oxford and Cambridge universities, and is now professor emeritus of psychology at the London School of Economics. His many books include "A History of the Mind" and "Seeing Red".


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2011: Top 25 Books "Soul Dust, Nicholas Humphrey's new book about consciousness, is seductive--early 1960s, 'Mad Men' seductive. His writing is as elegant, and hypnotic, as that cool jazz stacked on the record player. His argument feels as crystalline and bracing as that double martini going down, though you might find yourself a little woozy afterward. And his tone is as warm and inviting as that big, crackling fire, even if the dim flicker does leave things a bit obscure in the corners... [Soul Dust] is not only thoroughly enjoyable but genuinely instructive too."--Alison Gopnik, New York Times Book Review "[E]loquent... Scientists are often accused these days of overlooking the awe and wonder of the world, so it's exciting when a philosopher puts that magic at the very heart of a scientific hypothesis."--Matt Ridley, Wall Street Journal "Humphrey, the psychologist who discovered blind sight, combines the latest research on neurology and psychology with age-old philosophical questions about the nature of perception and sensation." "Humphrey begins where Crick and others have left off...[He] has laid out a new agenda for consciousness research."--Michael Proulx, Science "How is consciousness possible? In Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness, psychologist Nicholas Humphrey, a leading figure in consciousness research, proposes a startling new theory. Consciousness, he argues, is merely a magic show we stage inside our heads. This show has allowed humans to become aware of themselves and their surroundings."--Victoria Stern, Scientific American Mind "[Nicholas Humphrey's] new book is a beautifully written and highly original essay... He is right to focus on the notion of the soul, and to emphasize the degree to which we humans are 'connoisseurs of consciousness'... [F]ew consciousness enthusiasts have succeeded so well."--Adam Zeman, Standpoint "It was a pleasure to engage with the book Soul Dust..."--Ben Ehrlich, Beautiful Brain blog "[I] highly recommend Soul Dust for anyone looking to get a better understanding of consciousness."--Gary Williams, Minds and Brains blog "Nicholas Humphrey's Soul Dust tells its story from the beginning. Humphrey, an eminent English psychologist, aims to explain what a soul is, and to show, from an evolutionary perspective, why it's useful to have one. His conclusion, explained in readable prose, and illustrated with easily-comprehended evidence and examples from science, philosophy, and literature, is that the soul is 'not so much a physical object as a mathematical object,' and that its evolutionary usefulness lies in making 'life more worth living.' Its relaxed prose disguises the book's boldness: Soul Dust is ambitious, and just about as zany, as Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents."--Josh Rothman,'s Brainiac blog "Humphrey takes us on a journey that stimulates and educates, leaving our ipsundrum all the richer, if more lonely."--Douglas K. Candland, PsycCritiques "Humphrey offers an ingenious and crucial account of how it is that each of us experiences solely our own sensations, however much or little these echo what others report."--San Francisco Chronicle "Once again, Humphrey gives readers a provoking look at the mystery of consciousness. A follow-up to his Seeing Red: A Study in Consciousness, this volume focuses on the 'hard problem' of consciousness... Often poetic, Humphrey draws not only on the philosophers and neuroscientists who are central in the debates about consciousness but also cites the work of theologians, literary figures, and, yes, poets to illustrate how central the motive of transcendence is to the consciousness of the human being. Even those who disagree with Humphrey's premise or conclusions will want to read this book."--Choice "[E]legant ..."--Montreal Mirror "Consciousness is an immensely complex and, yes, evolved characteristic of life that should be studied from the ground up rather than the top down. This is precisely why Nicholas Humphrey's book ... is so important... [T]he general outlook to consciousness on which he bases the book is definitely one that should not have taken this long to get noticed. Cognitive science as we know it today would be very different if the views presented in this book had been adopted sooner."--Frank Saunders, Dialogue "Humphrey has read widely not just in philosophy and the sciences, but in the arts and humanities as well. In presenting the fullness of human life made possible by human consciousness, he quotes incisively from artists and poets ranging from Elizabeth Barrett Browning and A. A. Milne to Wassily Kandinsky and Woody Allen. By drawing on sources outside the usual purview of scientific or even philosophical discussions of consciousness, Humphrey presents a richer understanding of what it means to be human than do most writers in the field, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for that."--Paul Johnston, Commonweal

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