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The Four Realms of Existence


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About the Author

Joseph E. LeDoux is Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science and Professor of Neural Science, Psychology, Psychiatry, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at New York University. He directs the Emotional Brain Institute at NYU. His many books include Anxious and, most recently, The Deep History of Ourselves.


LeDoux’s aim is to provide a new theory of being human by dividing our evolutionary past into four realms: biological at the bottom, then neurobiological, cognitive and conscious…Along the way are excellent accounts of the evolution of brain structures and cognitive abilities.
*New Scientist*

[LeDoux] suggests that there are four basic varieties of life on Earth: biological, neurobiological, cognitive and conscious. The book provides an in-depth description of these realms (I found the cognitive one especially thought-provoking) and describes how they evolved.

A rigorously scientific yet eminently readable exploration of what it means to be human…[LeDoux] delves into complex notions of personality and the self, the construction of internal narratives, and memory, elegantly making the case for the emergent properties of the mind without recourse to an undetectable soul or reducing the complexity of human existence to merely physical factors. The result is a finely wrought, thought-provoking feast for the mind.
*Publishers Weekly (starred review)*

Joseph LeDoux is one of the most influential researchers and engaging writers in contemporary neuroscience. In The Four Realms of Existence, LeDoux takes the reader on an eye-opening journey into some of the most profound mysteries of mind and brain. Full of provocative ideas and startling insights, this captivating book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the basis of human experience.
*Daniel L. Schacter, author of The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers*

Joe LeDoux is a leading light in the neuroscience of consciousness, and his new book is fascinating, engaging, and provocative. He proposes that consciousness is a kind of story that the brain tells itself, and he backs up this intriguing proposal with a wealth of evidence, including many discoveries of his own. Well worth reading.
*Anil Seth, author of Being You: A New Science of Consciousness*

LeDoux is a deep and synthetic thinker, aiming to advance our understanding of the mind in a way that is consistent with our best science and philosophy. His encyclopedic mastery of evolutionary biology, neurobiology, cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and the philosophy of mind allows him to build a theory of mind that does justice to the theory of evolution. A terrific book!
*Owen Flanagan, author of How to Do Things with Emotions*

One of our great scientific storytellers, Joe LeDoux deftly exposes the insufficiencies of current understandings of self and personality to capture the totality of who and what a person is in this fascinating and deeply researched book on what it means to be human.
*Daniel J. Levitin, author of The Organized Mind and Successful Aging*

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