Second Nature


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Brain Science and Human Knowledge

Gerald M. Edelman, M.D., Ph.D.

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Burgeoning advancements in brain science are opening up new perspectives on how we acquire knowledge. Indeed, it is now possible to explore consciousness—the very center of human concern—by scientific means. In this illuminating book, Dr. Gerald M. Edelman offers a new theory of knowledge based on striking scientific findings about how the brain works. And he addresses the related compelling question: Does the latest research imply that all knowledge can be reduced to scientific description?

Edelman’s brain-based approach to knowledge has rich implications for our understanding of creativity, of the normal and abnormal functioning of the brain, and of the connections among the different ways we have of knowing. While the gulf between science and the humanities and their respective views of the world has seemed enormous in the past, the author shows that their differences can be dissolved by considering their origins in brain functions. He foresees a day when brain-based devices will be conscious, and he reflects on this and other fascinating ideas about how we come to know the world and ourselves.

Gerald M. Edelman, M.D., Ph.D., is director, The Neurosciences Institute; president, Neurosciences Research Foundation; and chairman, Department of Neurobiology, The Scripps Research Institute. He has received many honors and awards, including the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. He lives in La Jolla, CA.

"Until this provocative book, I thought that Gerald Edelman was merely one of our greatest and most original thinkers in neuroscience. But now having read such a remarkable disquisition on the relationship between brain physiology, consciousness and knowledge as he presents here, I have become certain of something about which I had previously only wondered: he is also one of our greatest philosophers."—Sherwin Nuland, Yale University; author of How We Die

"Edelman's Second Nature offers the mature synthesis of his reflections on brain and mind. Somehow, it is both intellectually satisfying and wise."—Antonio Damasio, author of Descartes' Error and Looking for Spinoza

"A remarkable contribution to the philosophy of the mind, Edelman's Second Nature breaks new ground to an age-old problem by launching brain-based epistemology. Original, lucid, concise, succinct: easily the best in the field."—Apostolos P. Georgopoulos, Regents Professor, University of Minnesota

“Dr. Edelman has done something unique in this book. He deals both with the important epistemological issues and the mechanisms in the brain that give rise to them.”—Avrum Stroll, University of California, San Diego

“In the tradition of John von Neumann’s The Computer and the Brain and Erwin Schrödinger’s What Is Life? Gerald Edelman summarizes his seminal contributions to our understanding of the human brain and the human mind. The reader is drawn into a conversation with a master, who is at once witty and wise.”—Howard Gardner, author of Changing Minds


"It was William James's dream that physiology, psychology and philosophy be joined into a single discipline, and in Second Nature, the latest volume in Gerald M. Edelman's seminal series of books on Neural Darwinism, this dream of a brain-based epistemology is brought closer than ever to realization. For anyone who is interested in human consciousness, this is required reading. "—Oliver Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

"Second Nature is well worth reading. It serves as a bridge between the traditionally separate camps of ‘hard’ science and the humanities."—Richard Restak, Wilson Quarterly

"[Edelman] reviews the latest research in brain-based approaches to consciousness, creativity, and mental illness."—

"Nobel prize-winner Edelman develops his neural Darwinism account of consciousness based on brain activity, dynamics, and structure. He synthesizes Darwinism, physics, and biology opposing traditional epistemology, Cartesianism, dualism, and linear-thinking computer models of consciousness/ghostly 'minds in machines.' . . . He presents an optimistic picture of research developing autonomous brain-based devices, and comprehensive explanations of creativity and neuroses without Freud's stories. Recommended."—Choice

"There is an austere beauty about Edelman's vision of mental life as an endlessly novel performance, infinite variety paralleled by repetition, the sameness of forms within ever-changing matter. His book is a powerful antidote to mechanistic, reductionist accounts of the mind-brain and deconstructionist literary theory"---John Cornwell, The Sunday Times

"Written with an element of care and circumspection often missing in clinical discourse. . . . In a world commonly marred by haste, this book exemplifies the diligent thinking that can occur outside of the clinical arena."—Donald A. Redelmeier, Canadian Medical Association Journal

Selected as a 2007 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.
ISBN: 9780300120394
Publication Date: October 24, 2006
224 pages, 5 1/2 x 7
3 b/w illus.

Sales Restrictions: For sale in the U.S. and Canada only
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