Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Watching out for common sense (Books - The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, ed. Richard Dawkins- "One Self" by Nicholas Humphrey)

I continue to dip into Richard Dawkins's impressive and diverse collection of science writing, The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, this time stopping to admire Nicholas Humphrey's essay on the self-organization of 'self.' How does the unity of our many selves create consciousness of a single self without direction, this essay asks? Humphrey meditates on the movements of his baby son and an analogy he makes of the tuning up of the separate instrumental players of an orchestra and their ability to play as one without a conductor. Dawkins admires Humphrey's ability to spot the important questions, particularly when, as he says, "they are camouflaged against a background of common sense," and that highlights one of the roles that great thinkers play. Common sense can be useful to every-day thinking, but not necessarily to the role of shifting paradigms in the science of consciousness. Scientific process must not be lured by the quick conveniences that our minds favor. Nothing may be taken for granted. And yet, Humphrey has the talent to couch his uncommon thinking in accessible prose so that the uncommon thought seems for the reader almost familiar.

Here are some of my other posts on The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing: 1, 2, 3.

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