ALPHABETICAL BRAIN™ VOCABULARY
HUMANIST GALAXY OF
SECULAR SCIENCE STARS
June 26, 2020
Neuroscience and the life well lived
by Peter C. Whybrow.
W.W. Norton, 2015 (i-xiv, 380 pages)
"The supreme test of all political institutions and industrial arrangements should be the contribution they make to the all-around growth of every member of society." by John Dewey, American Educator / Philosopher (ix)
INTRODUCTION — IN THE AGE OF MAN --- Progress and its pursuit (1-15)
PART 1 — WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? (17-144)
1) OFF BALANCE — Surprised by affluence (19-44)
What the Delphic maxim symbolizes = "Know Thyself in the new context of the desire for novelty and myopic craving" (36-39)
What the Mattel study illustrates = "deeply conditioned in our habits" (40-41, habits 43)
2) HABIT AND INTUITION — Tuning the brain (45-68)
Illustration = Brain understood through the lens of creation (47)
note = Brain defined as doing continuous processing from a kaleidoscopic stream of stimulating information (47-48)
3) ENLIGHTENED EXPERIMENTS — Inventing the market society (69-90)
4) CHOICE — The brain's internal market (91-116)
use illus = ACTION-PERCEPTION (99)
use illus = CHOICE and EXECUTIVE COMPLEXITY (108)
note = The "Process" is going from the perception-action cycle to the orbital-frontal cortex (108-110)
5) MARKET MAYHEM — Of museums and money (117-144)
PART 2 — HOW TO LIVE? (145-175)
PROLOGUE — (145-146)
6) LOVE — Weaving the web of trust (147-175)
7) CHARACTER — Education and self-command (176-209)
8) HABITAT — Made to man's measure (210-234)
9) FOOD — The staff of life (235-263)
10) IMAGINATION — The playful, creative brain (264-292)
note = Use Einstein quote here:
REPRISE — WISDOM — Re-Tuning for a sustainable future (293-312)
AUTHOR NOTE, SUMMARY,
AND BOOK DESCRIPTION
AUTHOR NOTE = Peter C. Whybrow, MD, is director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles. Born and educated in England, he is the author of A Mood Apart and the award-winning American Mania — When More Is Not Enough among other books.
SUMMARY = In this optimistic and inspiring book, Whybrow offers a prescription for genuine human progress. The book is a call to action. Swept along by the cascading advances of today's technology, most of us take for granted that progress brings improvement. Neuroscience can open the search for a better future. However, despite spectacular material advance, the evidence grows that we are failing to create a sustainable future for humanity. We are out of tune with the planet that nurtures us.
BOOK DESCRIPTION = Technology itself is not the problem, but rather our behavior. And technology alone will not save us. To achieve success we will need the strength and wisdom of our better nature as humane social beings. [See 8 brain illustrations.]
Throughout its evolution the ancient brain that guides us each day has been focused on short-term survival. But fortunately we are intensely social creatures. Without the caring behaviors that flow from intimate attachments to others, we would be relying on a brain that is only marginally adapted to the complexity of the problems we must now face together.
Today we must grapple with survival, not in its immediacy but over the long term. The first step in finding our way forward is to reexamine who we are as creatures of this planet.
To this end, the book takes us on a fascinating tour of self-discovery, drawing extensively upon his decades of experience as a psychiatrist and his broad knowledge of neuroscience and human behavior. Illustrated throughout with engaging personal stories, the book's trove of cutting-edge science is enriched by philosophical, historical, and cultural perspectives.
What emerges is a summons: to rediscover the essential virtues of earlier nurturing, of mentored education, and an engagement with the natural world through curiosity and imagination.
BOOK LIST REVIEW = Like the brain itself, this book is made up of two complementary halves. The first is concerned with how the human brain developed, how it functions, and why it is so susceptible to immediate gratification. Basically, the brain has evolved only as far as to still default to consuming and enjoying what's available now rather than working and waiting for more and better. And the brain is not really equal to the pressures of present-day commercial culture, such as those exerted by cheap, tasty, high-calorie food and big-payoff banking shenanigans.
Our brains need fine tuning, and that is the focus of the book's other half, which discusses already-tested ways of making ourselves better able to resist commercial coercion. Solutions include such things as heightening empathy, educating to build good character, reviving small farming and gardening, building human-scale communities suited to existing physical and economic uses, and fostering imagination.
Compensating for a certain turgidness in the second half, the book describes the impacts of history, current events, and the personal experience on the brain. Whybrow uses reference to the history of science to illustrate and advance his arguments. -- Ray Olson.
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