Introduction to Readings


The criteria I have used to recommend reading is indispensability.  If I cannot imagine having come up with the neuroself concept without reading a given work, I have included it here.  However if a work, however good and famous, did not play a significant role in producing or reinforcing my beliefs, I have not included it.  There are therefore many holes in this list that will be obvious to experts; which is to say, it does not necessarily cover what college courses would.  It should also be mentioned that the list includes prominently the work of thinkers who have long been kept “outside the academy.”  That is, for reasons almost always pertaining to the author’s explicit interested in panpsychic principles, the author’s inclusion on college reading lists would invite some measure of derision from academic colleagues, and thus at best for reasons of peer pressure, and at worst out of pure ignorance, the works of Ken Wilber, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and virtually any introspective psychology from Asia – Buddhism in particular, but also Kabbalah, Sufism, Hinduism and so forth, are almost never found on college reading lists for the hard sciences.  The list below is therefore a record only of what I found indispensable for the development of my own ideas.  Therefore it will be useful primarily to readers who are either so interested in, repulsed by, or indifferent to my thoughts that they wish to replicate portions of my intellectual travels in an effort to see whether their own will or will not be led to similar conclusions.

Three additional notes.

First, you will notice that I have only included writers whose ideas are clearly presented in everyday language. It is worth noting that Aritotle, Hume, Bacon, Snow, Popper, and others – but, admittedly, particularly the English – have a cultural commitment to clarity and congeniality.  Other undoubtedly intelligent people – Foucault comes to mind – are not represented here because I have found them so damn hard to follow that I eventually lost track of the difference between what they were saying and what I was hearing, and put them down for good.  Particularly towards the end of the twentieth century, when apparently all the good thoughts had been thunk already, many academicians became enamored of abstruse and convoluted writing intended unconsciously to obscure that they lacked the courage to be clear for fear, I suppose, of being revealed as mortals.  And thus a whole epoch of academic work is essentially lost, the texts having become Rorshach tests from which one learns nothing about anyone but oneself.  I have tried to emulate Bacon, Snow and Popper in particular, who not only did not sacrifice explanatory power on the alter of comprehensibility, but gained it.

Second, you will notice that I have been attracted to authors who seem to be arguing against someone else.  Everybody seems to have some dunderhead whose thoughts they have found ridiculous.  Hume, Snow, Popper, Bacon, Kant – they are all angry (as in the case of Popper), and at the very least annoyed, by silly people whose ideas they have been forced to debunk.  Or, in the case of Kant arguing with Hume, annoyed by brilliant people whose fascinating but insufficiently considered ideas functioned for them as intellectual alarm clocks.  I point this out only to reassure the reader – and really, if I am honest, myself  – that there is a precedent for my exasperation with and personal war against modern Pop Neuroscience, whose glib practioners offer facile and incomplete but apparently sufficient explanations of the brain that only delay the general public’s realization that the Neuroscience Emperor lacks for clothing.  If nothing else, having a sparring partner – even if he is a straw man – is useful for exercise.

Third, I have read and re-read most of these works many times, as they are all deep and reward contemplation.  However some I regard as “aspirational,” particularly those from physics and mathematics.  Or those by Immanuel Kant.   I have flipped through them many times, yet they sit on my bookshelf unread and over my head. I have included them here (accompanied by asterisks) so that the reader knows the ghosts that have haunted me in the form of unknown ideas.

Readers are encouraged to write in with suggestions and corrections.

Table of Contents/Categories of Recommended Reading 

1. Introduction to Recommended Reading

2. Philosophy of Science

3. Physics

4. Chemistry

5. Biology

6. Physiology

7. Evolutionary Theory

8. Game Theory

9. Cybernetic (Control or Systems) Theory

10. Information Theory

11. Psychology and Psychiatry

12. Social Theory

13. Mysticism and Metaphysics Per Se

14. Comprehensive Models (totalizing theories)



7 Comments

  1. I’m just nerdy enough to not only read your list but wade through some of the books mentioned. So, where is it? Am I missing something really obvious? All I could find was this non-selectable index to the list.

    Re: “Particularly towards the end of the twentieth century, when apparently all the good thoughts had been thunk already, many academicians became enamored of abstruse and convoluted writing intended unconsciously to obscure that they lacked the courage to be clear for fear, I suppose, of being revealed as mortals.” If that were honestly what’s happening, then I have a word or two for the authors of science and math textbooks, based on my own frustrations as an undergraduate in engineering. But I realize that it’s difficult to write clearly on complex topics, and the fact that physics, for instance, is extremely difficult to understand by me makes it no less important.

    However, I used to agree with you. Then I went back to school for my M.A., and found that Foucault, for example, is actually quite clear to someone who has dedicated the necessary study hours to reading his books.

    “And thus a whole epoch of academic work is essentially lost, the texts having become Rorshach tests from which one learns nothing about anyone but oneself.” Oddly, I am not the only person on the planet capable of reading and understanding Foucault. It’s common enough in English departments.

    1. I kind of agree with you. I remember I once put aside three hours in college and felt like I got a ton out of two pages – or maybe it was two paragraphs – of Foucault. But I remember also thinking if he had wanted to, he could have made himself clearer and I could have had more time to read more of his book.

  2. I reacted in a similar way to Kathy, asking why the list wasn’t selectable! I don’t know yet whether my favourite volumes/articles about mind/brain/self/knowing/consciousness are in your list or not. However, I hope you’ve included something on autism, salience and mirror neurons. Also, I’m really annoyed that you have prompted me into yet another diversion from trying to concentrate on just one topic, as I’m really trying to make myself job-ready again! Bugga!

    1. Can you send me the link you are talking about? I’ll try to see what the problem is. Feel free to send in suggestions for the reading list! Just email me or make the comment right on the page. This really is a group effort. p

  3. Peter –
    Where is the list? The links don’t seem to work in Chrome and I have to read something intelligent because my middle age brain needs a workout.

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