Hot Best Seller

The Ghost in the Machine

Availability: Ready to download

Σ’ ένα προηγούμενο βιβλίο μου, την «Πράξη της Δημιουργίας», είχα συζητήσει την τέχνη και την ανακάλυψη, τις δόξες του ανθρώπου. Τούτο δω το βιβλίο κλείνει με μια συζήτηση γύρω από τα δεινά του ανθρώπου, συμπληρώνοντας έτσι τον κύκλο. Το κάτω κάτω, δημιουργικότητα και παθολογία του ανθρώπινου νου είναι και τα δύο όψεις ενός και του ίδιου νομίσματος, που στο ίδιο νομισματοκο Σ’ ένα προηγούμενο βιβλίο μου, την «Πράξη της Δημιουργίας», είχα συζητήσει την τέχνη και την ανακάλυψη, τις δόξες του ανθρώπου. Τούτο δω το βιβλίο κλείνει με μια συζήτηση γύρω από τα δεινά του ανθρώπου, συμπληρώνοντας έτσι τον κύκλο. Το κάτω κάτω, δημιουργικότητα και παθολογία του ανθρώπινου νου είναι και τα δύο όψεις ενός και του ίδιου νομίσματος, που στο ίδιο νομισματοκοπείο της εξέλιξης έχει κοπεί. Η πρώτη είναι υπόλογη για το μεγαλείο των καθεδρικών μας ναών, η δεύτερη για τις υδρορροές που τους στολίζουν για να μας θυμίζουν ότι ο κόσμος είναι γιομάτος τέρατα, διαβόλους και κακά πνεύματα. Καθρεφτίζουν τους χείμαρρους της παραφροσύνης που διατρέχουν την ιστορία του είδους μας υπονοώντας ότι κάπου, στην πορεία του προς την άνοδό του, κάτι δεν πήγε καλά. Η εξέλιξη έχει παραβληθεί μ’ ένα λαβύρινθο από αδιέξοδα σοκάκια και τίποτα δεν μας εμποδίζει να συμπεράνουμε πως ο εξοπλισμός με τον οποίο έχει εφοδιασθεί ο άνθρωπος από τη γέννησή του, αν και ανώτερος απ’ όποιου άλλου έμβιου είδους, δεν παύει παρ’ όλα αυτά να περιέχει και κάποιο ενγενές σφάλμα, ή ατέλεια, που του δίνει μια προδιάθεση για την αυτοκαταστροφή.


Compare

Σ’ ένα προηγούμενο βιβλίο μου, την «Πράξη της Δημιουργίας», είχα συζητήσει την τέχνη και την ανακάλυψη, τις δόξες του ανθρώπου. Τούτο δω το βιβλίο κλείνει με μια συζήτηση γύρω από τα δεινά του ανθρώπου, συμπληρώνοντας έτσι τον κύκλο. Το κάτω κάτω, δημιουργικότητα και παθολογία του ανθρώπινου νου είναι και τα δύο όψεις ενός και του ίδιου νομίσματος, που στο ίδιο νομισματοκο Σ’ ένα προηγούμενο βιβλίο μου, την «Πράξη της Δημιουργίας», είχα συζητήσει την τέχνη και την ανακάλυψη, τις δόξες του ανθρώπου. Τούτο δω το βιβλίο κλείνει με μια συζήτηση γύρω από τα δεινά του ανθρώπου, συμπληρώνοντας έτσι τον κύκλο. Το κάτω κάτω, δημιουργικότητα και παθολογία του ανθρώπινου νου είναι και τα δύο όψεις ενός και του ίδιου νομίσματος, που στο ίδιο νομισματοκοπείο της εξέλιξης έχει κοπεί. Η πρώτη είναι υπόλογη για το μεγαλείο των καθεδρικών μας ναών, η δεύτερη για τις υδρορροές που τους στολίζουν για να μας θυμίζουν ότι ο κόσμος είναι γιομάτος τέρατα, διαβόλους και κακά πνεύματα. Καθρεφτίζουν τους χείμαρρους της παραφροσύνης που διατρέχουν την ιστορία του είδους μας υπονοώντας ότι κάπου, στην πορεία του προς την άνοδό του, κάτι δεν πήγε καλά. Η εξέλιξη έχει παραβληθεί μ’ ένα λαβύρινθο από αδιέξοδα σοκάκια και τίποτα δεν μας εμποδίζει να συμπεράνουμε πως ο εξοπλισμός με τον οποίο έχει εφοδιασθεί ο άνθρωπος από τη γέννησή του, αν και ανώτερος απ’ όποιου άλλου έμβιου είδους, δεν παύει παρ’ όλα αυτά να περιέχει και κάποιο ενγενές σφάλμα, ή ατέλεια, που του δίνει μια προδιάθεση για την αυτοκαταστροφή.

30 review for The Ghost in the Machine

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

    I have to start by pointing out a serious rift between why I was recommended this book and why I kept reading it: a philosophy major drunkenly trying to defend free will told me I might be impressed by the book's arguments, and I took it as a challenge. I'd love to see an intelligent response to determinism, a sharp knife to poke at the thick skin of my convictions. To be frank, I did not find that in this book. Koestler's arguments against determinism are, to my perspective, peripheral to the bul I have to start by pointing out a serious rift between why I was recommended this book and why I kept reading it: a philosophy major drunkenly trying to defend free will told me I might be impressed by the book's arguments, and I took it as a challenge. I'd love to see an intelligent response to determinism, a sharp knife to poke at the thick skin of my convictions. To be frank, I did not find that in this book. Koestler's arguments against determinism are, to my perspective, peripheral to the bulk of his thesis, which is that evolution has landed man in a blind alley by giving him an exponential growth of cortex that he hasn't yet figured out how to use in concert with the older and more slowly developed subcortical structures. Yet the determinism arguments are treated as foundational in light of the strongly behaviourist tendencies of the scientific era against which he was battling. The result is that he ends up debating a macro-level stimulus-response caricature of determinism that few determinists today hold as sufficient-- a straw man by current standards but, sure, admirable and fairly unique for psychological science circa 1960. It could even be that such relentless (and at the least witty and delightful to read) attacks on behaviourism helped to open bright minds to the cognitive revolution, so we won't hold that against him. But we will hold it against that philosophy major for bringing a knife to a gunfight, and encourage him to read some newer books.... Much of the remainder was a fascinating read, however. Koestler takes us through evolutionary theory and hierarchical systems theory, tying the two together to look at the larger whole of humanity in terms of some evolutionary phenomena. One of his focuses is on the "blind alley" in evolution, in which a species becomes overspecialized for its environment and then can't adapt properly to new changes in that environment. In the history of evolution, this has happened a number of times, but nature has a way of getting out of it: paedomorphism, basically extending the growth phase of development and evolving off younger forms of the species. This is a process that Koestler calls reculer pour mieux sauter (roughly: taking a step back to jump better), and it's one of the more interesting of the ideas he applies to other levels of the human hierarchical system. For example, he cites this process as the means to creativity in both art and science. Breakthroughs are obtained by breaking down the existing state of thought and working from older ideas in combination with new knowledge (and thus is hit upon the very reason I read old and outdated books like this one). In a later thread of his theoretical mixology, Koestler takes a closer look at the structure of hierarchical systems, in which each element is both a whole on its level and a part of the level above it-- a duality which he calls a holon and which term is probably this book's most enduring contribution. A holon in a hierarchical system embodies a fundamental tension between integrative (i.e., parts of a whole) and self-assertive (i.e., each part is a whole in itself) tendencies. He not only explains humour, art, and science as lying along a continuous spectrum on this dimension, but also proposes that most of human woe can be explained by the dichotomy. Specifically, that whereas overexpression of the self-assertive tendency can lead to small scale violence, overexpression of the integrative tendency moves the behaviour one step up in the hierarchy and leads to large-scale violence. So nationalism, religion, cults, etc., are a submission of the "wholeness" of the part to the benefit of the larger whole, and lead to destruction on a broader scale. I'm not generally one for such broad theorizing, but I love this idea. After hitting that broad and impressive peak, he reels the magnifying glass back down to the level of the individual human and argues that we've evolved into a sick blind alley that makes us prone to the delusions inherent in closed systems. A closed system doesn't behave hierarchically, but locks its parts into the part role and leaves the larger closed system the only whole, rejects opinions from outside the system, and so on. Whether these delusions are expressed in terms of mental illness or social illnesses like nationalism/religion, the result is the same and it is not good. Also generally on board with this idea, and at this point I began to develop expectations about where he was going with it... And then suddenly the message begins a glorious spiral of WTF so far off the mark of the natural extension I'd extrapolated from the book's brilliant middle portion that it took me and my incredulity an entire two weeks to read the last few chapters. Basically, Koestler sketches the need for a drug to "unlock the potentials of the underused cortex" by somehow allowing more distributed communication with subcortical structures, and thereby evading the closed system that amplifies the part/whole tension and leads to our madness as a species-- a madness defined by what he calls the absolute certainty of self-destruction by nuclear war. If the leaps in this synopsis are hard to follow, I'm sorry, but his elaboration doesn't do much better. The 1960's come through loud and clear in these pages, and it's such a pity that he ends on this note, to the tune of my repeating the word NOPE. Not to mention that in the same breath as he expounds on the virtues of such a drug, he deeply misunderstands Huxley's proposal for the virtues of hallucinogens. If there's an afterlife, I hope Mr. Huxley and Mr. Koestler have by now discussed, over magical heaven tea, that they completely agree about what drugs can and cannot do with the contents of a human brain, because wow what a misreading of Huxley. BUT I DIGRESS. Take the last bit with a grain of salt and forgive Koestler the hubris of assigning a much-deplored relic of psychology's past as his arch-nemesis, and this is a profoundly interesting extrapolation of known scientific processes to new milieus, with at worst thought-provoking and at best insightful results. With the reality of those elements however, it's hard not to take the rest with at least a half-grain of the same salt. If one's foundational assumptions are outdated, it's difficult not to question the validity of anything built on them. Nevertheless, it was delicious and surprisingly far-ranging food for thought and I'm glad I got into a drunken debate with a philosophy major. Even though he's wrong.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mark Longo

    I'm a little torn on this one. At times, Koestler's brilliance dazzles, as when he describes his conception of "holons", Janus-faced part/holes ubiquitous in natural systems. His deconstruction of behaviorism is also quite entertaining, and devastating, though dated by now. And overall, the book is filled with piercing insights by a thoughtful and perceptive author. However, there's also a whole lot of crap in this book, just flat out nonsense, particularly as related to evolutionary theory. Per I'm a little torn on this one. At times, Koestler's brilliance dazzles, as when he describes his conception of "holons", Janus-faced part/holes ubiquitous in natural systems. His deconstruction of behaviorism is also quite entertaining, and devastating, though dated by now. And overall, the book is filled with piercing insights by a thoughtful and perceptive author. However, there's also a whole lot of crap in this book, just flat out nonsense, particularly as related to evolutionary theory. Perhaps many of these errors represent the state of the art in 1967, though from my limited readings of that era I don't think so. Koestler positions himself as a revolutionary thinker and it's always a gamble to step outside of the mainstream. My biggest disappointment with this book was with the rather trite and creepy advice Koestler gives us at the end to address his diagnosis of humanity's inherent "delusional" character. Worth a read to see the historical genesis of a great word/concept (holon) and for some beautifully articulated scientific insights, but beware of copious factual quicksand.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    Koestler examines the notion that the parts of the human brain-structure which account for reason and emotion are not fully coordinated. This kind of deficiency may explain the paranoia, violence, and insanity that are central parts of human history, according to Koestler's challenging analysis of the human predicament. Masterful . An excellent discussion of the pitfalls of Behaviorism and the many facets of biology, anthropology, and evolution. Koestler examines the notion that the parts of the human brain-structure which account for reason and emotion are not fully coordinated. This kind of deficiency may explain the paranoia, violence, and insanity that are central parts of human history, according to Koestler's challenging analysis of the human predicament. Masterful . An excellent discussion of the pitfalls of Behaviorism and the many facets of biology, anthropology, and evolution.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    I remember this book was very dense and academic (not scientifically so, but his writing style is pretty arch, if I remember correctly) but very interesting. It's either about neurobiology, psychology, or metaphysics, or all three. I recommend it, I think. And since I'm the only one so far to have written a review of it, you're just going to have to trust me. I remember this book was very dense and academic (not scientifically so, but his writing style is pretty arch, if I remember correctly) but very interesting. It's either about neurobiology, psychology, or metaphysics, or all three. I recommend it, I think. And since I'm the only one so far to have written a review of it, you're just going to have to trust me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    W.B.

    A nonpareil example of interdisciplinary writing. The year in the think tank for Koestler issued in an amazing book. The challenges to straightforward Darwinian evolution put forth by a man of letters are more cogent than those put forward by many better-trained scientists (true, he was utilitizing and synthesizing information gained directly from scientists in that think tank experiment). A missed classic. If the science he puts forward here is repeatable, this is going to be one of those examp A nonpareil example of interdisciplinary writing. The year in the think tank for Koestler issued in an amazing book. The challenges to straightforward Darwinian evolution put forth by a man of letters are more cogent than those put forward by many better-trained scientists (true, he was utilitizing and synthesizing information gained directly from scientists in that think tank experiment). A missed classic. If the science he puts forward here is repeatable, this is going to be one of those examples where genius got mistaken as quaintness.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gaelan D'costa

    I intuitively agree with Arthur Koestler's organization of psychological, individual and sociological units into 'holons' which appear unified from one direction and distributed into separate pieces from the other. I also agree with his summation that the integrative tendencies of man have, though necessary, produced far more upset in this world than the self-assertive tendencies of individuals. The book is dated, so there are debatable assumptions that stem from eurocentrism, the continued existe I intuitively agree with Arthur Koestler's organization of psychological, individual and sociological units into 'holons' which appear unified from one direction and distributed into separate pieces from the other. I also agree with his summation that the integrative tendencies of man have, though necessary, produced far more upset in this world than the self-assertive tendencies of individuals. The book is dated, so there are debatable assumptions that stem from eurocentrism, the continued existeance of the cold-war focus, and the idea that man's flows are an operational flaw can be 'fixed.' with some kind of technique or technology. While these may colour his conclusions they do not lessen the use of the intermediate model of behavior he constructs for descriptive (and not prescriptive) purposes.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John

    Chances are that brain-function knowledge has improved since the 60s when Koestler wrote this. But armed with what was known then, this book makes a strong scientific case for what Kurt Vonnegut always liked to say, that our biggest problem is that our brains are too big for our own good. Behind the scenes is Koestler's obsession with how someone as intelligent as himself could have been duped into being an active member of the Communist Party at the height of Stalin's purges, but I think that o Chances are that brain-function knowledge has improved since the 60s when Koestler wrote this. But armed with what was known then, this book makes a strong scientific case for what Kurt Vonnegut always liked to say, that our biggest problem is that our brains are too big for our own good. Behind the scenes is Koestler's obsession with how someone as intelligent as himself could have been duped into being an active member of the Communist Party at the height of Stalin's purges, but I think that obsession makes the book better. Figuring out what's wrong with human development is literally a matter of life and death for him. Not a lighthearted read, but definitely worth it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

    I finally read this book after years of familiarity with just the title. I always thought it was a political book about the Soviet Union! I thought "the machine" was a reference to Stalin's Soviet machine and thought "the ghost" was a reference to the people who were someday going to rise up against the machine. I suppose I had these mistaken assumptions because of Koestler's book Darkness at Noon, which I did read years ago. Anyway, I was surprised to find that Ghost in the Machine has nothing I finally read this book after years of familiarity with just the title. I always thought it was a political book about the Soviet Union! I thought "the machine" was a reference to Stalin's Soviet machine and thought "the ghost" was a reference to the people who were someday going to rise up against the machine. I suppose I had these mistaken assumptions because of Koestler's book Darkness at Noon, which I did read years ago. Anyway, I was surprised to find that Ghost in the Machine has nothing to do with politics or the Soviet Union! Well, perhaps indirectly, but the book is basically about science and psychology! It's actually quite well done and more detailed than most people probably understand about the subject. I was impressed by his scholarship and clarity of explanation. Considering the time it was written, he did well in making his critique. Of course, nowadays his critique is outdated, but there are certainly many people who have no idea about any of this and would still be informed by much of it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Koestler himself is not a scientist, but he is very interested in science, and particularly in how the human mind works. In this book, Koestler explores on the intellectual, emotional and creative processes of the mind, employing ideas from such fields as psychology, biology, physics and art in an analysis of how we organize knowledge and how we think. Koestler’s writing is clear, and he employs both examples and diagrams to supply concreteness to his arguments.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    What’s the problem with humans? Why do we keep killing each other or, short of that, cause unto one another undue and unnecessary misery? Does this tendency to destroy, to ruin things constantly, exist in other species? Why was B.F. Skinner such a boring asshole? According to Koestler, who somehow made the jump from ex-communist dystopian novelist to amateur biologist before taking his own life, humans are unique not only because they can produce masterpieces like the Sistine Chapel and “War and What’s the problem with humans? Why do we keep killing each other or, short of that, cause unto one another undue and unnecessary misery? Does this tendency to destroy, to ruin things constantly, exist in other species? Why was B.F. Skinner such a boring asshole? According to Koestler, who somehow made the jump from ex-communist dystopian novelist to amateur biologist before taking his own life, humans are unique not only because they can produce masterpieces like the Sistine Chapel and “War and Peace,” but also because they have the ability to produce weapons so powerful that hundreds of thousands of lives can be taken in an instant. The whole premise of this book is the idea that something has gone wrong with our evolution as a species, that we grew up too fast, and as a result are left with two brains, one responsible for logic, reasoning, creativity and the like, and the other for the involuntary and the visceral. The layout of this book is strange, in my opinion. After spending the first 150 or so pages ranting in a spirited attempt to discredit determinist views on psychology and free will, and in the process coining some interesting terms (see: holon), Koestler moves quickly to the point he wants to make: humanity is at once glorious and destructive, and in spite of the beauty we have the ability to create, our tendency towards violence has grown exponentially in tune with the population of earth. Living closer to one another has made us hate each other more, the ability to travel easily has led to stricter controls on movement and immigration, and of course, our scientific achievements will most likely lead to the loud and fiery death of ourselves and the planet. I read “Darkness at Noon” last year and loved it, then grew more interested in Koestler as a person, which led me to read this book, and I don’t regret it. The style is eccentric, but I didn’t find myself disagreeing with most of the arguments made. I would’ve given this book 4 stars, however I was unlucky in buying this version. Every book contains a few typos you can live with. In this book, whole pages were missing, in addition to some truly horrible editing on other pages where every F had mysteriously been replaced with a T. Or maybe Koestler wrote it that way. Maybe he purposefully left out pages 167, 179, and 191. It would seem to go with his character.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Well, that was an interesting ride. Koestler is definitely what I would call an armchair academic. Well read, fun to talk to at parties, full of fascinating ideas ... not quite sure quite sure if the ideas are right though, but that's okay, they are just so interesting to talk to. I read this book because I love Ghost in the Shell and wanted to read the book which inspired, at least the title. Imagine my surprise when the book mentions that the title came from Prof. Gilbert's book, The Concept of Well, that was an interesting ride. Koestler is definitely what I would call an armchair academic. Well read, fun to talk to at parties, full of fascinating ideas ... not quite sure quite sure if the ideas are right though, but that's okay, they are just so interesting to talk to. I read this book because I love Ghost in the Shell and wanted to read the book which inspired, at least the title. Imagine my surprise when the book mentions that the title came from Prof. Gilbert's book, The Concept of the Mind. Not much of the Koestler book has to do with the anime though. The description of a surgery where people describe a movement of the body not caused by their mind, that was certainty an inspiration, as well as the very central idea of a 'ghost.' A mind which exists outside of the brain. The way Koestler at the end of the book shares his solution (won't spoil it because it was a bit of a shocker to me), speaks to that desire for rapid change to overcome humanity. Koestler is a fun writer, with a nice dose of humour and sarcasm. He jumps around so much though, that it makes it difficult to see his logical progression of thoughts. It feels more like, rather than wanting to convince us of a claim, he just wanted to talk for as long as possible on every subject he could. The section on evolution I found the most interesting. Will keep his ideas in mind, even if I have a gut level reaction that he is wrong. He seems to be implying a teleological model to evolution, which made me cautious. The only real critique (beyond whether he is right or wrong because I am not knowledgeable in all the fields he mentions) is that his perspective is pretty eurocentric, in that old aristocratic sense. He doesn't speak as a human from all races, but specifically as a European academic. At one point he says, "The fast breeders in Asia, Africa and Latin America are by nature the least amenable to disciplined family planning." Besides being a very questionable and racist statement, it goes against almost the entire spirit of the book, in how scientific developments can change attitudes and ways of living. I feel like he calling every non-white people a marsupial with a statement like that (A reference to the book).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jan Notzon

    Wow. This is an immensely scholarly treatise basically proposing a theory of how we think and how the old-brain and the neocortex communicate--or don't. It starts out as a refutation and dismissal of Behaviorism and is quite effective in that regard. It then takes on mind-body dualism and at first, I found it quite challenging. As I read on, it became less and less challengingly esoteric and, as a result, more enjoyable. Koestler's arguments are well-supported and quite finely reasoned. If you ha Wow. This is an immensely scholarly treatise basically proposing a theory of how we think and how the old-brain and the neocortex communicate--or don't. It starts out as a refutation and dismissal of Behaviorism and is quite effective in that regard. It then takes on mind-body dualism and at first, I found it quite challenging. As I read on, it became less and less challengingly esoteric and, as a result, more enjoyable. Koestler's arguments are well-supported and quite finely reasoned. If you have any conversance with neurology it wouldn't be overly-challenging but still I would say, rewarding.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    The Lay-Person’s view is that this book is incredible. It is fascinating, thought provoking, intriguing, and – from a perspective of the end of 2015 – the most frightening thing I have ever read. I will admit that the content is dated; that the idea of mass psychopharmaceuticals (potentially in the drinking water) has a definite 1960’s feel. But removing suggestions that would have been perfectly natural during the 1960s counter-culture revolution, the rest is eye opening to say the least. Most re The Lay-Person’s view is that this book is incredible. It is fascinating, thought provoking, intriguing, and – from a perspective of the end of 2015 – the most frightening thing I have ever read. I will admit that the content is dated; that the idea of mass psychopharmaceuticals (potentially in the drinking water) has a definite 1960’s feel. But removing suggestions that would have been perfectly natural during the 1960s counter-culture revolution, the rest is eye opening to say the least. Most reviewers agree that the first ¾ of this book is solid. The research is fabulous; it is presented in a reader-friendly manner. I am not sure if I agree with the basic premise that the problems human beings face are related to the physical speed of our brain growth – but an hypothesis is simply an unproven idea; with this in mind, it is a plausible argument as presented in this book. The part that had me reevaluating the way I see humanity was the end (just before the “cure” of mass doses of LSD). At this point, with the help of many other authors, Koestler predicts our current societal situations. Koestler explains why Trump has followers, why so many people want to carry guns everywhere they go, the flood of refugees around the world, Russian aggression in the Crimea, even the root causes of terrorism. I do not believe I would have been so moved by this book 10 years ago. Today though – it is a frightening reality check – and it does not look good for our species.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Satish Bagal

    Arthur Koestler wrote literature and fiction in nineteen forties and early nineteen fifties. In late fifties he turned to science. In "The Ghost in the Machine" he concludes, and I feel he does so without much conviction, that the human race, owing to some faults/defects during evolution, may be marching to its early end. Much has happened in science since Koestler wrote in the sixties and seventies. Indeed of late Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker very forcefully and convincingly argued that t Arthur Koestler wrote literature and fiction in nineteen forties and early nineteen fifties. In late fifties he turned to science. In "The Ghost in the Machine" he concludes, and I feel he does so without much conviction, that the human race, owing to some faults/defects during evolution, may be marching to its early end. Much has happened in science since Koestler wrote in the sixties and seventies. Indeed of late Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker very forcefully and convincingly argued that the human race as a whole has fared far better and has been evolving better and leaving violence much behind. And yet Koestler's triology "The sleepwalkers", "The Act of Creation" and "The Ghost in the Machine" taken together broke a new path in the history of science: It led a direct assault on the reductionism and gave new hope to the young scientists in the seventies. For more details you may refer to my longish blog with the following link. http://satish-bagal.blogspot.in/2012/... Satish Bagal

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nuno

    Koestler makes some amazing arguments on the structure and evolution of life (really worth reading). He seems to be one of the pioneers behind some of the concepts that inspired multi-agent systems and artificial intelligence (from a philosophical standpoint). Regardless of the great discussions and insight given by Koestler, his writing is sometimes peculiar (perhaps because it is from 1950s), which made it hard to understand and follow some parts of the book. I suspect however, that's mostly be Koestler makes some amazing arguments on the structure and evolution of life (really worth reading). He seems to be one of the pioneers behind some of the concepts that inspired multi-agent systems and artificial intelligence (from a philosophical standpoint). Regardless of the great discussions and insight given by Koestler, his writing is sometimes peculiar (perhaps because it is from 1950s), which made it hard to understand and follow some parts of the book. I suspect however, that's mostly because of my own ignorance regarding several disciplines discussed in the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mark Maguire

    A difficult but fascinating work, written by one of the most influential and important authors within the field. The Author's' critique of the Behavioural Shool; Positivist methodology, and Passive Darwinism are as detailed as they are apposite. I certainly feel more able to contribute to existing debates within the field as a result of reading this book. A fascinating book, which will act as a foundation for further studies in this area. A difficult but fascinating work, written by one of the most influential and important authors within the field. The Author's' critique of the Behavioural Shool; Positivist methodology, and Passive Darwinism are as detailed as they are apposite. I certainly feel more able to contribute to existing debates within the field as a result of reading this book. A fascinating book, which will act as a foundation for further studies in this area.

  17. 4 out of 5

    David

    A trip down memory lane for the reviewer but the theories are now a little dated, excepting for the essay On Not Flogging Dead Horses...that's still well worth the read. Recommended for Koestler fans. 4 out of 5 stars. A trip down memory lane for the reviewer but the theories are now a little dated, excepting for the essay On Not Flogging Dead Horses...that's still well worth the read. Recommended for Koestler fans. 4 out of 5 stars.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mommalibrarian

    History of science. Very illuminating until he lets his personal opinion get the best of him and just goes on and on about the faults of certain scientists.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy Ele

    The conclusion to Arthur Koestler's trilogy on the mind of man. It has been quite the journey, delving into this three tome work of brilliance. I loved the SleepWalkers, I loved the Act of Creation, and I liked the Ghost in the Machine. I feel that there was a lot missing from the final book in the three book work. I cannot help but realize that the build up to the end of the book took way too long to get to, and when we finally reached the end it was all over very abruptly. The ending of the bo The conclusion to Arthur Koestler's trilogy on the mind of man. It has been quite the journey, delving into this three tome work of brilliance. I loved the SleepWalkers, I loved the Act of Creation, and I liked the Ghost in the Machine. I feel that there was a lot missing from the final book in the three book work. I cannot help but realize that the build up to the end of the book took way too long to get to, and when we finally reached the end it was all over very abruptly. The ending of the book seemed rushed and I am sure it is because of the daunting task it would have taken to study all of the atrocities of humankind and then to also set them out as examples. The final argument of Koestler's work is that our overly burdened brilliant brain is unable to cope with its immense powers. This is an argument that I definitely agree with, especially when we view history and see all of the atrocities that man has committed alongside (seemingly contradictory) all of the great works of beauty that we have also made. At the end of the book we get to a conclusion of what Arthur Koestler believes can be the salvation of our split mind. SPOILER ALERT The idea that we must manufacture a drug unlike any other, borrowing (I guess, since he mentions Huxley being a proponent of mescaline) from all of the beneficial psychedelic plants (and I do think he meant fungi as well) in order to cure humankind of mental blockages, and schizophrenia, as well as it's destructive tendencies seems a very rational proposition. Also, to his credit, Arthur Koestler argues that this drug will by no means bestow spiritual enlightenment, but bestow on us only a cure for the ailments of the mind which have led to the insane errors that we have fallen into, time and time again. Koestler uses the examples of iodonized water to heal a tribe of cretinism as a way in which we tamper our human biology in order to cure us of ailments, and thereby argues that it would be the same kind of procedure with this drug. Overall, it was a very interesting work, but I was expecting something more of substance, that would shed light on the destructive tendencies, in the collective mind of humankind.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anthony O'Connor

    Arthur Koestler is a skillful writer, dripping with knowledge and full of interesting insights. Always an interesting read. He can also be trite and silly. After a rebuttal of behaviorism - fair enough - he gets to the theme of this book which is the paranoid/delusional streak running through humans. Fair enough. Not many would deny that. Except of course for the few with vast and heavy vested interests in the status quo. Its all so just. Righteous. etc etc. He suggests a biological explanation base Arthur Koestler is a skillful writer, dripping with knowledge and full of interesting insights. Always an interesting read. He can also be trite and silly. After a rebuttal of behaviorism - fair enough - he gets to the theme of this book which is the paranoid/delusional streak running through humans. Fair enough. Not many would deny that. Except of course for the few with vast and heavy vested interests in the status quo. Its all so just. Righteous. etc etc. He suggests a biological explanation based on half baked amateurish explanations from neuro science. Standard stuff I wont bother repeating. And after all of his, I have to say it, pompous wiseacre-ing his proposed solution is a universally administered stabilizing pill !! Calming people down. Finally bringing reason and emotion into harmony. What a load of simplistic claptrap. Not to mention the opportunities such a process would provide to all of those 'altruistic', 'benevolent' dictators out there. Putin, Xi Jing and Kim Jong-un would be laughing their asses off. If they aren't already. And this from a man who has done such a fine job of documenting the murderous horrors of totalitarian regimes!! We are all, as he would agree, a curious mix.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Oliver Wood

    Via years of research at various symposiums and tutorials, Ghost in the Machine sees Athur Koestler take on some of the big topics of evolutionary biology and philosophy of mind. The book starts out with some fairly straightforward refutations of behavioursm. Although Koestler's couldn't have known at the time, these might have been left out altogether since the theory will have gone out of fashion 20 years later. But it's what follows after the examination of behaviourism that's integral to the Via years of research at various symposiums and tutorials, Ghost in the Machine sees Athur Koestler take on some of the big topics of evolutionary biology and philosophy of mind. The book starts out with some fairly straightforward refutations of behavioursm. Although Koestler's couldn't have known at the time, these might have been left out altogether since the theory will have gone out of fashion 20 years later. But it's what follows after the examination of behaviourism that's integral to the main thesis: here we find Koestler unveiling his set-piece, a neologism which defines and describes any physical or mental unit which behaves both as a part and as a whole - a 'holon' as he calls it. Since the first chapters are almost exclusively preoccupied with refuting behaviourism, and given the title, you'd expect the holon to be brought to bear on some dualistic theory of mind. Instead, the book goes off into various evolutionary controversies. The main argument here hinges on the idea that mutations don't occur independently from the rest of an organism, they occur as part of a whole, with the whole reordering itself around it – this is supposed to explain how hatchlings inexplicably come with the various tools to break out of its shell at the same time as having been fertilised inside one. But these evolved organs are also self-contained units, like an engine in a car, which Koestler seems to suggest is why we see certain organs (e.g. eyes, limbs) reappearing throughout the animal kingdom. As it happens, I'm not sure the holon theory really accounts for any of this. It doesn't seem to follow from the concept that, on the part level, a unit will harmonise itself around it, and the whole harmonise around it. Something could be both a part and whole without doing a cohesive whole or integrative part. The evolutionary angle to this book, unsurprisingly, requires specific biological principles to become intelligible. Koestler is probably on safer ground when he finds that the problem of war/genocide (something he had personal experience of during WW2) can be directly explained in terms of the holon. Such catastrophes, we are told, occur where the whole becomes overly harmonised or 'integrative' rather than the result of overly-individualistic social units. Excessive individuation sometimes produces serial killers, it is granted, but this is a far lesser evil than the co-operation involved in large-scale slaughter. Where exactly the balance lies between individuality and socialisation is not made clear. The holon innovation, which takes up about the first 150 pages of the book, is in fact, quickly abandoned from this point. For the rest of the book, we get topics such as 'The Peril of Man' which could be a chapter from an Erich Fromm book, 'The Stage and the Actor' we might be an essay by Erving Goffman, and some speculation about the roots of creativity and laughter, which are only vaguely related to the metaphysical ideas that have come before. As Koestler states from the start, he has taken a few years out to interact with lecturers and attend symposiums, and much of what is presented reads like an attempt to exteriorise in print all the disparate ideas he's come across. As the final chapter approaches, we begin with some grave premonitions about nuclear destruction, and the threat to mankind from within is presented in the same poetical and apocalyptic terms that can be found in most popular science-psychology books of the period. It is within the last 35 pages that we learn what Ghost in the Machine has been all about – it turns out to have been the prelude to an argument for transhumanism. But Koestler, unlike most transhumanists, does not see the next evolutionary step in man's future to be cybernetic. The key to cementing our long-term co-operation lies in pharmacology; the self-administering of medicine which will enable the newly evolved part of the brain and the old mammalian brain to get on together, or at the least, for the neocortex to finally rein the instinct-driven mind in. And, since it isn't explained, we must assume that the 'ghost' in the machine is the new layer of neural matter sitting on top of the old rote-learning substance beneath it. The problem with all this, aside from the introducing the solution so late in the process, is that we don't get any sense of how any of this is going to happen: it is simply the business of biologists to invent something and make it snappy. The ethical and logical issues that such a solution might entail (e.g. inequality of access, testing medicines on beings who cannot consent) are not broached – surprising, since, we might wonder what the role of any broadly-educated thinker who deems the typically expansive philosophical dilemmas insignificant. Koestler does tell us a lot, about biology, psychology, physics, chemistry, etc. but – having read all 339 pages of this – I'm still not convinced he explains their respective controversies any better than one of the many popularist experts in each field. N.B. Fans of Terrence Mckenna may notice the embryo of many of his ideas here. Paedomorphosis (where a creature reaches an evolutionary blind alley, returning to some earlier ancestral form so as to resume development) was probably the influence if not the linchpin for McKenna's archaic revivalism. There's also some bits (possibly originally lifted from Pierre Teilhard) about humanity being 'pulled' through history, and also many intimations about evolution tending towards ever greater complexity. You can imagine a young Mckenna reading all this - along with some Joseph Pearce - and everything fitting into place as he discovers the material which will last him his entire career.

  22. 4 out of 5

    M.R. Dowsing

    I struggled a little at the beginning of this, but gradually got really into it. A very difficult book to review properly without spending hours on it, I think... Koestler has some very interesting things to say about the human race and why we are the way we are. There's a lot of interesting stuff about evolution, a subject on which Koestler offers some intriguing speculation. He totally trashes behaviourism and ultimately reaches a surprising conclusion. It's impossible not to admire the author I struggled a little at the beginning of this, but gradually got really into it. A very difficult book to review properly without spending hours on it, I think... Koestler has some very interesting things to say about the human race and why we are the way we are. There's a lot of interesting stuff about evolution, a subject on which Koestler offers some intriguing speculation. He totally trashes behaviourism and ultimately reaches a surprising conclusion. It's impossible not to admire the author's ambition - he really goes after the big questions here!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Omar Rodriguez-Rodriguez

    This book was written in 1967 and the style shows. It is dense and academic but not unreadable, just dated. It has great ideas about behavior, mind, determinism, group mentality, etc. The concept of "holon", for which the book is famous, was interesting. Still I was most interested in the parallels drawn between animal and mechanical operations and the concept of physical and mental states as "ghost in the machine". I wouldn't read the book a second time but I would go over my highlights. Lots o This book was written in 1967 and the style shows. It is dense and academic but not unreadable, just dated. It has great ideas about behavior, mind, determinism, group mentality, etc. The concept of "holon", for which the book is famous, was interesting. Still I was most interested in the parallels drawn between animal and mechanical operations and the concept of physical and mental states as "ghost in the machine". I wouldn't read the book a second time but I would go over my highlights. Lots of inspiring ideas and metaphors, all written at a time before computers became ubiquitous.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mike Rot

    I need to read his follow-up book, Janus: A Summing Up, and honestly, reread this book too because it is dense and it requires a greater concentration than I was giving it on the first go-around. Fascinating ideas about the schizophrenic streak in the human brain and his conceptualization of holons and integrative tendencies within nature as ways of explaining curiosities of evolution. I got that giddy feeling reading some passages.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Toria

    A fascinating book with unconventional thoughts about evolution and humanity. Presents a useful framework for thinking about parts and wholes. I don't necessarily agree with everything in it, and it's dated in some of its evidence and language, but 5 stars for the depth and followthrough of unconventional thinking. A fascinating book with unconventional thoughts about evolution and humanity. Presents a useful framework for thinking about parts and wholes. I don't necessarily agree with everything in it, and it's dated in some of its evidence and language, but 5 stars for the depth and followthrough of unconventional thinking.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Martin Adams

    Koestler's arguments and insightful analyses in this book still has relevance 50 years on. wish i had read this 50 years ago it would have made a difference to my approach in solving everyday problems of life as an individual. the notion of holons is as valuable today as in the time of its conception. Koestler's arguments and insightful analyses in this book still has relevance 50 years on. wish i had read this 50 years ago it would have made a difference to my approach in solving everyday problems of life as an individual. the notion of holons is as valuable today as in the time of its conception.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sara Lencastre

    It's a great book, but it's quite heavy to read. I'm not sure if it's because I am not a native english speaker nor because of the complex vocabulary that Koestler uses. Would've give it a perfect score, but not the case. However, great choice to pick if you're looking for something philosophical. It's a great book, but it's quite heavy to read. I'm not sure if it's because I am not a native english speaker nor because of the complex vocabulary that Koestler uses. Would've give it a perfect score, but not the case. However, great choice to pick if you're looking for something philosophical.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    A tremendous word the contents of which have become one of the many clichés of our culture. That is, for those of us that think and read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    IAAI

    Highly recommended. Though take it with a pinch of salt.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Wesley Fox

    I managed to get through two-thirds. The Ghost in the Machine reads like a blow-by-blow account of an intra-disciplinary battle in psychology and philosophy departments. Since I am neither a psychologist or a philosopher, most of the text was dry and uninteresting. Koestler does shift his approach and try to speak to readers that aren't university professors in a few instances but ends up insulting them with painfully simple and tedious explanations. From what little I do know about psychology, I managed to get through two-thirds. The Ghost in the Machine reads like a blow-by-blow account of an intra-disciplinary battle in psychology and philosophy departments. Since I am neither a psychologist or a philosopher, most of the text was dry and uninteresting. Koestler does shift his approach and try to speak to readers that aren't university professors in a few instances but ends up insulting them with painfully simple and tedious explanations. From what little I do know about psychology, the book is dated and has only limited relevance today. Part 1 or roughly the first 7 chapters are obsolete. They are a critique of behavioralism and related psychology theories that are no longer relevant today. There are also sections that are painfully tedious and don't seem to have any value at all. It is very difficult to see how the cross-disciplinary book seeks to put it all together. When I picked up the book, I was under the impression there was going to be a powerful challenge to the mind-body duality but after reading over half of it, there is no coherent "assault" at all, just a few potshots mixed in with thick exposition using obscure words and neologisms. The discussions on evolutionary theory and biology are more interesting and much less dated. Still, he seeks to offer up a contrary position to behavioralism and other major theories, creating all sorts of neologisms, and asking readers to make hypothetical leaps with him on almost every page. The exercise becomes exhausting to the point where one feels like Koestler is building theories on top of theories. Having said that, the evidence he does present for his "ground floor" theories and ideas are compelling in some instances. Overall, this book is more or less an antiquated intellectual work similar to reading Greek philosophers speak of physics or biology. We've since moved past many of the things mentioned in the book and it is pretty obvious the disciplines did not adopt his various neologisms. I cannot recommend this one unless you want to learn more about the intellectual debate taking place and the origins of the term "Ghost in the Machine" which has been misused by Hollywood in I, Robot.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...