Daily Archives: August 29, 2011

*1/2 Soul Dust by Nicholas Humphrey

Soul Dust is a more challenging book than the usual novels and non-fiction exposes reviewed on this blog and I would classify it as a philosophical inquiry into the nature of consciousness. It starts with a rather obscure and not exactly welcoming parable of of an alien investigating our world but itĀ  gets better, and I quite enjoyed the discussionĀ  the descriptions of the beauty of what the author calls “presentism”, an ugly word to denote the intense emotion of simply enjoying the moment. Perhaps we should apply ourselves to that activity more often.

Then it gets a little crazy, as the author tries to explain how consciousness is uniquely human by asserting that animals cannot be conscious because they don’t understand death — and does a rather poor job of demonstrating that they don’t. The fact that chimps can stay with the dead seems to imply exactly the opposite, that they know their mate is dead and they are mourning him… The author also seems to imply that Neolithic drawings speak of consciousness (true enough), but because they resemble his doodles. That seems to be a bit much..

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