Summary

What is human consciousness, and how is it possible? This question fascinates thinking people from poets and painters to physicists, psychologists, and philosophers. From Bacteria to Bach and Back is Daniel C. Dennett's brilliant answer, extending perspectives from his earlier work in surprising directions, exploring the deep interactions of evolution, brains, and human culture.
Part philosophical whodunit, part bold scientific conjecture, this landmark work enlarges themes that have sustained Dennett's legendary career at the forefront of philosophical thought. In his inimitable style - laced with wit and arresting thought experiments - Dennett shows how culture enables reflection by installing a bounty of thinking tools, or memes, in our brains. Language, itself composed of memes, turbocharged this interplay. The result, a mind that can comprehend the questions it poses, emerges from a process of cultural evolution.
An agenda-setting book for a new generation of philosophers and other researchers, From Bacteria to Bach and Back will delight and entertain anyone who hopes to understand human creativity in all its wondrous applications.
©2017 Daniel C. Dennett (P)2017 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By G Douglas Whistler on 12-03-17

An excellent Dennett exploration

This brilliant exploration through many fields of investigation is another triumph for one of the deepest thinking philosophers of our times. His style, as always, is accessible, clear, jovial, and entertaining, while his conclusions and food for thought are fascinating and convincing. An excellent new book, which invaluably updates, reexplains, and delves deeper into ideas with which listeners may already be familiar through his "Darwin's Dangerous Idea", "Consciousness Explained", "Freedom Evolves", and "Breaking the Spell".

The performance in this version is very strong; Perkins' voice and tone suit Dennett's style well, and he is to be praised for dealing well with Dennett's occasionally idiosyncratic sentence structure and use of grammatical syntax. There are several pronunciation mistakes, but nothing to distract from the text.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Jim W on 20-03-18

A lot of waffle

I’ve listened for a while now and heard a lot about these amazing theories that I will be hearing about, but he’s still yet to describe any of them. There is a lot of battling with himself and the voices in his head telling him he’s wrong for the various reasons (described at length), and a fair bit of off-topic discussion such as the ratio of male:female geniuses (spoiler: not the greatest revelation if you’re a woman), but I’m yet to hear anything about the mind. Who knows maybe the third hour is where all the revelations are. Sorry Dan, I’ve chosen ignorance.

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Caroline Smith on 13-02-18

Classic Dennett; maybe not for beginners!

If you're a Dennett fan you'll love it. But it's really dense; I had to listen to entire chapters over again before moving on just to make sure I'd "gotten" it. But it was totally worth it and I enjoyed every bit of it.

I wouldn't start out with this book if you're new to Dennett. It makes me want to go back and reread "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" and I think that is a good sort of "prequel" to this, as is "Consciousness Evolves." If you read and enjoy this book and haven't given those a listen, you really should. (I've also read and really loved "Breaking the Spell" and "Freedom Evolves," but they don't connect as much to this one as the others.)

I found it difficult to focus on if I was trying to multitask. It takes a lot of attention. Best for listening to while driving, washing the dishes, or going for a walk.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Mark on 15-03-17

How come there is a 'me'?

Consciousness has always been the greatest mystery to me. I fully believe in the idea that human beings are mammals evolved in accordance with the principles of Darwinian natural selection. I’m an atheist and I love the writing of people like Dawkins, Pinker and Hume, who are referred to often in this book.

It seems clear to me that there are also other animals who experience consciousness. By that I don’t mean that they are intelligent, although the ones I’m thinking of do have above average intelligence in the animal kingdom (dogs, cats, seals, dolphins, etc) but that they are aware of their experiences. They see and feel what is happening to them. They feel pain, hunger, fear – there’s more to it than just behaviouristic responses to environmental stimuli. I just don’t understand where this consciousness in humans and other animals came from.

I understand how the presence of the nervous system and painful stimuli will serve the Darwinian purpose of preventing you from doing damage to yourself, but I’ve never understood where the ‘me’ comes from who really feels the pain when I stub my toe. How do you get a ‘me’ from the movement of electricity through the central nervous system? If you built a computer as complicated as the human brain would it develop a ‘me’ and be ‘aware’? – I don’t think so (but I really don’t know that for sure).

This book addresses this question. Does it provide the answer? Sadly, no, not for me. It provides lots of interesting and helpful insights into the evolution of intelligence, but, unless I just didn’t get it, it doesn’t explain for me the emergent property of consciousness.

I’d still highly recommend it. I enjoyed every bit of it. I think I might listen to it again. But it didn’t answer the question for me. Maybe the question is unanswerable. Maybe it is beyond our understanding. Maybe we just have to accept that consciousness is just another of the many emergent properties that we see all around us in the natural and cultural world. I still don’t know.

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27 of 33 people found this review helpful

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