ART by NEVILLE MORAY
New Book Just Published
This book owes its origins to a modern anachronism, the Men’s Book Club of the Riviera. Its author, Neville Moray, is an anachronism too. He is a distinguished experimental psychologist and human factors engineer, well known to psychologists for his early work in selective attention, and more widely, for his technical work in mental workload measurement and human-machine interaction. It is not uncommon to find an author prepared to accept the challenge of explaining human nature in terms the lay person can understand. But to find one who in doing so can range from principles of Aristotelian logic to an understanding of machine intelligence and how living things are organised and have evolved, is rare. Polymaths are supposed to be extinct.
It is a long time since I read a book of anything like comparable originality and breadth. Moray writes for the lay person, and addresses some well-worn questions, such as the nature of consciousness, or whether free will exists, but his take is refreshingly different from any other I have read. He explains the basis of science in some detail, and his insistence on the indivisibility of scientific knowledge is relentless. There are no ‘ghosts in the machine’ here, no ‘feather beds for falling Christians’, no concessions to Cartesian dualism. Yet there is no comfort either for strict materialists. On the contrary, this is a writer not afraid to call a soul a soul, though I suspect that what he means by ‘soul’ will not be quite what you may expect. His book has the explicit aim of raising questions in the minds of readers, about how we should conceptualise having a soul, or a will in the context of neuroscience, or how we should explain what it means to speak of human nature.
Despite the author’s intentions, it is not always an easy read, and it challenges all the time. I did not agree with everything I read, but I enjoyed reading it. I kept going back for more. It certainly made me think, and I am very inclined to turn my students loose on it.
John Elliott, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Singapore
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