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In this unique exploration of the mysteries of the human brain, Roger Bartra shows that consciousness is a phenomenon that occurs not only in the mind but also in an external network, a symbolic system. He argues that the symbolic systems created by humans in art, language, in cooking or in dress, are the key to understanding human consciousness. Placing culture at the centre of his analysis, Bartra brings together findings from anthropology and cognitive science and offers an original vision of the continuity between the brain and its symbolic environment. The book is essential reading for neurologists, cognitive scientists and anthropologists alike.Read more
- Presents a new perspective from which the problem of consciousness can be understood
- Offers an original vision of the continuity between the brain and its symbolic environment
- Analyzes the links between the brain, language, art, play, and symbols
Reviews & endorsements
"Anthropologist by training, and today a leading public intellectual and social theorist in Latin America, Roger Bartra here dextrously argues that the plasticity of cultural and social networks facilitate a "prosthetic" connection to the brain and consciousness."
Matthew Gutmann, Brown UniversitySee more reviews
"A daring and brilliant hypothesis, and yet another intellectual debt we owe to one of the premier thinkers of our time."
James D. Faubion, Rice University
"… this ground-breaking anthropological study reveals the brain as an external - social - organ."
John Kraniauskas, Birkbeck, University of London
"… a thorough and provocative analysis of the nature of consciousness and free will from the perspective of an anthropologist with a deep knowledge of neuroscience, sociology and philosophy. The author challenges reductionist views on these perennial themes, while highlighting the importance of cultural and social networks in the definition and in the genesis of consciousness. This must-read authoritative work is a valuable reference source for neuroscientists, philosophers, as well as social and cultural anthropologists. No doubt this book will stir up a much needed debate, particularly within the neuroscience community; neurobiologists in general consider consciousness exclusively as a phenomenon that takes place inside the brain of the subject, producing awareness of the self, but largely ignoring "culture" and "the other"."
F. Javier Alvarez-Leefmans, Wright State University, Boonshoft School of Medicine
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- Date Published: August 2014
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107629820
- length: 208 pages
- dimensions: 227 x 152 x 12 mm
- weight: 0.33kg
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
Part I. Consciousness and Symbolic Systems:
1. The hypothesis
2. Evolution of the brain
3. Brain plasticity
4. Is there an internal language?
5. Amputations and supputations
6. The atrophied exocerebrum
7. The symbolic substitution system
8. Neuronal mirrors
9. Consciousness within hand's reach
10. Outside and inside: the immense blue
11. The musical spheres of consciousness
12. Artificial memory
13. The lost soul
Part II. Brain and Free Will:
14. The hands of Orlac
15. Does free will exist?
16. An experiment with freedom
17. The moral brain
18. Unchained reasons
19. Freedom in play
20. External symbols
21. Final reflections.
Interview with Roger Bartra, author of Anthropology of the Brain, at London Book Fair 2015
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