Book review: Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain by Antonio R. Damasio.
This book describes many aspects of human minds in ways that aren’t wrong, but the parts that seem novel don’t have important implications.
He devotes a sizable part of the book to describing how memory works, but I don’t understand memory any better than I did before.
His perspective often seems slightly confusing or wrong. The clearest example I noticed was his belief (in the context of pre-historic humans) that “it is inconceivable that concern [as expressed in special treatment of the dead] or interpretation could arise in the absence of a robust self”. There may be good reasons for considering it improbable that humans developed burial rituals before developing Damasio’s notion of self, but anyone who is familiar with Julian Jaynes (as Damasio is) ought to be able to imagine that (and stranger ideas).
He pays a lot of attention to the location in the brain of various mental processes (e.g. his somewhat surprising claim that the brainstem plays an important role in consciousness), but rarely suggests how we could draw any inferences from that about how normal minds behave.