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Vilayanur Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee

Phantoms in the brain

Starting from the phenomenon of phantom limbs, Ramachandran looks at how the human mind responds to physical and neurological problems. He moves on through such conditions as: blindsight, neglect of one half of the body, and denial of paralysis. However his goal is wider than just describing the medical effects, he also takes the opportunity to explore the consequences for the philosophy of mind. He seems prepared to speculate more than most, but always recognises the vital importance of experimental support for ideas. If you are interested in the workings of the mind then this book will provide you with some fascinating insights

There's the risk with this sort of book that we see the patients as some sort of freak, being amused by their inability to do ordinary tasks, but Ramachandran avoids this mixing the examples with similar ones of everyday behaviour. Furthermore he shows that the wider knowledge of such conditions means a better chance of treating them. I feel that the most important part of Ramachandran's approach is his openness to new ways of testing ideas about the mind. For instance Freud's work is seen by many nowadays as a collection of untestable stories. However, Ramachandran shows that there is the possibility of finding ways of testing these ideas.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews