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The Consciousness Instinct

Unraveling the Mystery of How the Brain Makes the Mind

Michael S. Gazzaniga

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Consciousness Instinct Download image

ISBN10: 0374538158
ISBN13: 9780374538156

Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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How do neurons turn into minds? How does physical “stuff”—atoms, molecules, chemicals, and cells—create the vivid and various worlds inside our heads? The problem of consciousness has gnawed at us for millennia. In the last century there have been massive breakthroughs that have rewritten the science of the brain, and yet the puzzles faced by the ancient Greeks are still present. In The Consciousness Instinct, the neuroscience pioneer Michael S. Gazzaniga puts the latest research in conversation with the history of human thinking about the mind, giving a big-picture view of what science has revealed about consciousness.

The idea of the brain as a machine, first proposed centuries ago, has led to assumptions about the relationship between mind and brain that dog scientists and philosophers to this day. Gazzaniga asserts that this model has it backward—brains make machines, but they cannot be reduced to one. New research suggests the brain is actually a confederation of independent modules working together. Understanding how consciousness could emanate from such an organization will help define the future of brain science and artificial intelligence, and close the gap between brain and mind.

Captivating and accessible, with insights drawn from a lifetime at the forefront of the field, The Consciousness Instinct sets the course for the neuroscience of tomorrow.


Praise for The Consciousness Instinct

"Mr. Gazzaniga does a better job of tackling the problem [of how neural activity gives rise to consciousness] than innumerable philosophers and neuroscientists before him . . . [He] displays a rare ability to combine breadth and depth of scientific learning with good, grounded philosophical judgment. As a result, The Consciousness Instinct could be the clearest and most compelling attempt to demystify the mind yet written."—Julian Baggini, The Wall Street Journal

"[Gazzaniga is] one of the greatest neuroscientists living today . . . [The Consciousness Instinct] is a window into the mind of one of the greats. It is a rare opportunity to watch a scientific champion grapple with perhaps our most formidable mystery."—Eliezer J. Sternberg, The Washington Post

"Gazzaniga is a bold scientist . . . He guides readers through neurology, biology and psychology, discussing the origin and neural underpinnings of language or the mechanism of facial recognition . . . Engaging."—Douwe Draaisma, Nature

"Unquestionably one of the top experts in his field . . . This is a book for readers of all ages who are intrigued by consciousness and how it works. As he has done in previous books, Gazzaniga easily draws readers into one of the most fascinating conversations taking place in modern science."Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[Michael S. Gazzaniga] adopts a philosophical approach in this insightful book . . . He also refreshingly grounds the work in real experimental data, revealing himself to be an intelligent mental explorer and master syncretist. Gazzaniga’s accessible, well-organized arguments are bound to provoke deep metathoughts, and readers should find his treatise delightful."Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt



“Speak English!” said the Eaglet. “I don’t know the meaning of half those long words, and, what’s more, I don’t believe you...

About the author

Michael S. Gazzaniga

Michael S. Gazzaniga is the director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the president of the Cognitive Neuroscience Institute, the founding director of the MacArthur Foundation’s Law and Neuroscience Project, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Sciences. He is the author of many popular science books, including Tales from Both Sides of the Brain. He lives in California.

Charlotte Gazzaniga

Michael S. Gazzaniga

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