Book Review: Bruce Hood ~ The Self Illusion: who do you think you are? (2012)

Moving out of an intellectual comfort zone is bracing. Am I making decent critique or is it all a tedious misunderstanding?

Hood’s principal point is a, “major discovery is that there is no centre in the brain where the self is constructed.” Note ‘discovery’. Hood’s discovered this by looking at trauma to the brain, disease, maternal deprivation, social isolation, brutal authoritarian ‘research’, and so on. His evidence comes from, “studies of unfortunate individuals who have suffered some form of brain damage either through aging or accident.” This seems to be a neo-Platonist concept of perfection.

How does Hood ‘know’ the self doesn’t exist? He says that if a brain has a tumour behaviour is altered; if a child is denied speech opportunities it never achieves normal speech. Hood’s book is a study of harm. What else? It’s a study of imposed normality. He’s using standardisation procedures.

Hood’s book worries me because it defies Popper’s verification principle. Parents with more than one child know that very similar environments nonetheless only contribute to the child’s personality. The child’s self filters the environment. Worse: Hood’s problem is attempted enhancement as opposed to harm. Try this, “….importantly, there is little evidence that we can improve upon Mother Nature to supersize the early learning environment for a better intellectual outcome.” (my emphasis) In Hood’s context this a counter-factual.

At no point does Hood build a narrative about creativity, paradigm shifts, or anything else beyond the banal. Hood’s jog-trot through the human condition has some memorable moments but they don’t sustain his principal point.

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