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This book really got my limbic system and ACC going. Brillantly engaging and deeply frustrating. Bruce Hood is a distinguished academic, (he's won prizes) and a fantastic communicator. "The Self Illusion" is well written, flows seamlessly, and the author's delivery is delightful. The chapter on the www, avatars and social networking is excellent. Yet I spent much of the book shouting at my iPhone. It's not that I mind being an illusion - Allan Watts & Daniel Dennett have claimed as much - it's that it's never very clear what BH means by "the self". He freely hops between the "experiencing self", self as "personality", "self image" or our varied "personas". He rarely refers to the "self" without appending "illusion" thus implanting a paired association. Caveat emptor!
So, yes, we may be a "bundle of perceptions", but a necessary condition is a perceiver. Yes, we may be more or less influenced by other people (depending on our temperament). Yes, we may develop personalities adapted to our environment (mirror self). Yes, we may be deluded by own self image. Yes, we may present different self images (personas) in different situations. Yes, we make sense of our experience using imperfect memories to make a story. Yes, we are not a single "homunculus", but more like a hierarchy of committees (all of whom are "me"). Yes, the preparation for any decision may begin deep in our minds, probably way down in our awareness.
However, none of these for me indicate the self is an illusion, only that it is complex, multilayered, dynamic, adaptable, constrained & mysterious. BHs own mind/brain analogy of a web is helpful, but he misses out the obvious central point - that as the strands converge, sentience (self) emerges, then self awareness. As he states in ch1, "You are your brain", so his subtitle "Why there is no 'you' inside your head" is annoyingly contradictory. Overall however I really enjoyed disagreeing with this book. Well written, well read and much food for thought.
19 of 19 people found this review helpful
I was a bit daunted to start this as the subject could make one a bit despondent but Bruce Hood delivers it in a thoughtful, positive and informative way. It think he goes off topic on occasion but its all ways interesting. This is a general science book for the general public. Recommended.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I began this audiobook with high hopes. Here was a new book arguing for a radical and boldly counterintuitive thesis, namely that the very center of our conscious existence, our sense of self, is an illusion. If there ever was a claim worthy of a book-length defense, this would surely be it.
Sadly, however, the book fell far short of my expectations. In fact, the author spent very little time at all making the (probably very difficult) case for the "self illusion," and instead used this topic as a platform for talking about pretty much anything he seemed interested in, from how the internet is shaping our brains to the psychology of laughter. Basically, the book reads like a low-level tour of psychology, with topics only loosely (and sometimes not at all) connected to the topic of "the self," broadly construed. As a basic introduction to psychology for extremely lay audiences, it succeeds fairly well. As a cogent argument for the illusion of selfhood, it fails abysmally.
Worse still, even if you are looking for an introduction to psychology, I would not waste your credit on this, as most of the material covered has already been covered more thoroughly and more entertainingly in other works, like "Predictably Irrational," "How the Mind Works," "The Happiness Hypothesis," or "The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking."
And as if this weren't enough bad news for "The Self Illusion," Bruce Hood unfortunately succumbed to the "authors make better narrators" fallacy, and the book suffered greatly for it. Hood's voice is dull and plodding, adding very little life to the text, and his faint scottish accent was slightly distracting at times.
49 of 57 people found this review helpful
I really enjoyed this book. It is really interesting, the author's narrative style is easy to listen to, and afterwards I have a better understanding of my 'self' and others. Enjoyable!
3 of 3 people found this review helpful