Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Patricia S. Churchland

Patricia S. Churchland is professor emerita of philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute. Her books include Brain-Wise and Neurophilosophy. In 1991, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.

Her new book is Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality.Italic
I recently asked Churchland what she was reading. Her reply:
Frank Dikotter’s book, Mao’s Great Famine, lately finished, taught me a great deal about how cruel, arrogant and pig-headed was Mao (apologies to pigs), and how death by starvation of tens of millions of Chinese could have been averted had a few fawning underlings been willing to stand up to the brute.

Scott Atran’s new book, Talking to the Enemy, also at my side, is brilliant. As an anthropologist studying on the ground the phenomenon of jihadi, Atran has discovered important data at variance with the conventional wisdom about why and how individuals become terrorists. Consequently the book is of enormous practical importance. It is been well reviewed in the UK, but almost studiously avoided in the USA media.

A book recently delivered by my friendly UPS man (he once coaxed our dogs back in the fenced yard after they escaped) is Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21t Century, by Carl Schoonover. It is as much art as science, with many compelling depictions of neurons, brain pathways, tissues such as the retina -- each made possible by highly innovative techniques.
Read an excerpt from Braintrust, and learn more about the book and author from the Princeton University Press website and Patricia S. Churchland's website.

The Page 99 Test: Braintrust.

--Marshal Zeringue