The Self-Field: Mind, Body and Environment

Oxford: Routledge (2021)
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Abstract

In this incisive study of the biological and cultural origins of the human self, the author challenges readers to re-think ideas about the self and consciousness as being exclusive to humans. In their place, he expounds a metatheoretical approach to the self as a purposeful system of extended cognition common to animal life: the invisible medium maintaining mind, body and environment as an integrated 'field of being'. Supported by recent research in evolutionary and developmental studies together with related discoveries in animal behavior and the neurosciences, the author examines the factors that have shaped the evolution of the animal self across widely different species and times, through to the modern, technologically enmeshed human self; the differences between which are presented as relations of degree rather than absolute differences. Much like our primitive ancestors, he contends, routine human behaviour is governed more by unconscious instinct than self-conscious rationality, and is generally resistant to any major changes in customary habits of life, until compelled in time to do so. However, in extreme and rapidly evolving circumstances, as with climate change, tardy responses may become so detached from reality as to constitute an actual threat to survival.

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