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Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience have revolutionized our understanding of the human mind and human cognition. But what implications do these new findings have for the place of reason--long considered the crowning human faculty that ensured transcendent purpose--in human life? This is the profoundly important question Donald Calne, a leading neurologist and clinician, addresses in Within Reason.
His conclusions are startling, disturbing, and of immense potential usefulness. Offering both a general explanation of the way the mind works and a compelling humanistic defense of the value of science and rationality, Calne shows that reason has no direct links to the brain's pathways of pleasure and satisfaction that motivate our behavior. Reason is simply a powerful tool put into the service of goals it cannot determine or change. Within Reason brilliantly and succinctly delineates how reason--through its deployment in all domains of human endeavor, from science to religion, from ethics, commerce, and government to art and music--has enabled mankind to achieve dominance over all other forms of life without providing any specifiable content, beyond survival, to the meaning of existence. Echoing the great religious and philosophical traditions but written from the perspective of neuroscience, Within Reason offers a new and fascinating picture of the role of rationality in both evolution and daily consciousness.
PRAISE FOR WITHIN REASON:
"Donald Calne is a renowned neurologist with a deep knowledge of brain and mind who has thought long and passionately on why we are as we are. Now, in Within Reason, he has brought together all his varied knowledge into a profound essay on the human condition. Reason emerges not as a sovereign power but as a strategy evolved of our species with no moral absolute of its own--a strategy that can be used, equally, for the noblest enterprises or the basest. In a sense, this is what philosophers from Aristotle to Kant have said, but here the thesis is grounded in Dr. Calne's deep knowledge of the human nervous system and its evolution."
--Oliver Sacks, author of Anthropologist on Mars and The Island of the Colorblind
"Calne traces the evolutionary, neuroethologic, genetic, linguistic, and cultural development of human reasoning with clarity and focus. He shows our humanness has emerged from rational thought and that our precariousness as a species will depend on a yet unperceived consilience to contain and bias reason for choosing good. Calne is in league with Steven Pinker, Antonio Damasio, and E. O. Wilson among other current important neuroscientists and Within Reason provides compelling new insights into the workings of the human brain."
--Roger N. Rosenberg, M.D., Zale Distinguished Chair in Neurology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and Chief Editor, Archives of Neurology
"In this fine, erudite book, Donald Calne places human reason against the background of our neurology and evolutionary biology. He tells us that rationality by itself provides little guidance for life. For anyone who feels that science is of necessity reductionistic and morally insensitive, here is a book to prove them wrong."
--Frans de Waal, author of Good Natured
"I consider this a major intellectual achievement. Following the inextricable link of brain and mind, Donald Calne has pursued the application of reason to language, social and individual behavior, ethics, commerce, religion, art, and science. This broad canvas provides the background for his erudition and for his uncanny ability to make complicated subjects absolutely clear."
--Lewis P. Rowland, M.D., Neurological Institute, College of Physicians and Sugeons of Columbia University New York Presbyterian Hospital