epub The Emerging Mind epub

by V.S. Ramachandran

I’ve been wanting to read something by Ramachandran for a couple of years – ever since I read The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science and 50 Psychology Classics.I hadn’t realised he had given the Reith Lectures in 2003 – and so I’ve listened to them (they are available here http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/)

They do make fascinating listening and he is often very funny.He clearly knew his audience – this line for example: ‘Now clearly laughter is hard-wired, it's a "universal" trait. You see it every society, every civilization, every culture, society, has some form of laughter and humour - except the Germans.’Naturally, the English audience lapped this up.

There are interesting asides throughout this series, particularly about how the size we make of our mouths when we say words often relates to the size of the objects being discussed (compare your mouth when you say 'teeny tiny' and 'enormous'.There are also interesting speculations on the role of art and what makes things appear ‘beautiful’ or at least fascinating in painting.He also goes over how he 'cured' the pain in phantom limbs – it really does take a very special kind of genius to have ideas like that.

But for me the most interesting part of this lecture series is the lecture on the relationship between synesthesia and metaphor.Synesthesia is an odd ability certain people have that allows them to see words or numbers in colour.First, he proves that certain people actually do have this ability in an interesting inversion of the colour blindness test – where he has a page full of fives and only a couple of twos placed on a page – however, the twos are arranged in a pattern, generally a square, a triangle or a circle.If people really do see fives and twos as different colours the shape these numbers make on the page should jump out at them – whereas for the rest of us it should take more effort to ‘see the pattern’.This, in fact, turns out to be the case.

However, his point is much more interesting than merely the fact that certain people aren't crazy.He speculates that being able to make connections between colours and numbers is an interesting foretaste and stepping stone in the evolution of metaphor and language generally.The evolution of language is something that does need some sort of explanation – he gives a nice history of attempts by biologists to explain it (from Wallace saying language was too complex to have evolved and should therefore be blamed on God, through Chomsky saying much the same, via Pinker saying it evolved, but not being sure just how).Again, Ramachandran provides some interesting speculations on how language may have evolved, mostly based on onomatopoeia and other similar identities of sound to meaning or sensation to meaning processes.I would need to read more about this, but given that proto-languages no longer exist these may well always remain interesting speculations.

A lot of this is very interesting.It is well worth a look.

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Book Title
Book Author
PublisherProfile Books(GB)
Release date 01.02.2005
Pages count208
eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
File size5.2 Mb
Book rating4.09 (309 votes)
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