Many animals, insects, and birds are described as social, but their colonies, hives, and flocks can’t be said to have a culture. Similarly, while animals are credited with intelligence and emotion, they’re not believed to have the “autobiographical self” that humans do. In his latest exploration of the unique qualities of the human brain, the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, author of Looking for Spinoza and Descartes’ Error, again combines science and philosophy to uncover the deepest secrets of what makes us human. SELF COMES TO MIND (Pantheon, $28.95) considers the continuum of brain and mind, consciousness and self; where is that elusive point at which a mass of cells yields abstract ideas, or where sensory awareness gives rise to a sense of one’s self as an autonomous being? If the answers remain elusive, the search for consciousness as a biological and evolutionary process is fascinating.
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