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Anthropology of the Brain
Consciousness, Culture, and Free Will


  • Date Published: June 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107629820

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • 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
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    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 University

    '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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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 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.

  • Author

    Roger Bartra, University of Mexico
    Roger Bartra is Professor Emeritus at the University of Mexico (UNAM) and an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London.

Interview with Roger Bartra, author of Anthropology of the Brain, at London Book Fair 2015

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