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Picturing the Mind: Consciousness through the Lens of Evolution

Picturing the Mind: Consciousness through the Lens of Evolution

Current price: $39.95
Publication Date: February 1st, 2022
The MIT Press
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Consciousness in all its possible human and nonhuman varieties, explored through words and images. 

What is consciousness, and who (or what) is conscious—humans, nonhumans, nonliving beings? How did consciousness evolve? Picturing the Mind pursues these questions through a series of “vistas”—short, engaging texts by Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka, accompanied by Anna Zeligowski’s lively illustrations. Taking an evolutionary perspective, Ginsburg and Jablonka suggest that consciousness can take many forms and is found not only in humans but even in such animals as octopuses (who seem to express emotions by changing color) and bees (who socialize with other bees). They identify the possible evolutionary marker of the transition from nonconscious to conscious animals, and they speculate intriguingly about aliens and artificial intelligence.
Each picture and text serves as a starting point for discussion. The authors consider, among other things, what it’s like to be a bat (and then later, what it’s like to be a bat in virtual reality); ask if the self is like a hole in a doughnut; report that women, children, and nonwhite men were once thought by white men to be less richly conscious; and explore what sets humans apart—is it music, toolmaking, cooperative parenting, blushing, sentience, symbolic language? In Picturing the Mind, questions suggest answers. 

About the Author

Simona Ginsburg is Associate Professor at the Open University of Israel, where she developed and headed the MA Program in Biological Thought. Eva Jablonka is Professor at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University. Ginsburg and Jablonka are coauthors of The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul: Learning and the Origins of Consciousness (MIT Press). Anna Zeligowski is an artist and physician. Her illustrations have appeared in numerous books and articles on scientific subjects.