The Mind is Flat


The Mind is Flat: The Illusion of Mental Depth and The Improvised Mind  by Nick Chater

I’ve lost count of the number of popular science books I started and never manage to finish. I’m attracted to them by reviews that make them sound more accessible than they often turn out to be. I got to the end of this one and feel I understood most of it. I love it for its clarity and the boldness of its central premise. Which basically is that the idea of the subconscious and inner mind is a bit of a hoax we play on ourselves to help us make sense of the world we inhabit. I’m not sure I agree fully with the idea that all we add up to is a moment by moment invented interpretation of ourselves. But he argues his case so well and so poetically that I was always engaged. And by the end I was on the verge of almost total conversion.  Some thoughts and lines from his book still echo around my flat mind:

“Our thoughts are not shadows of an alternative inner reality, to be charted and discovered; they are fictions of our own devising, created moment by moment”

“Beneath the momentary flow of fragmented and astonishingly sketchy experiences and even sketchier recollections from memory, there is precisely nothing. Well, of course, there is a frenzy of brain activity, but there are no further thoughts. The only thoughts, emotions, feelings are those that flow through our stream of consciousness”

“We are being hoaxed: both our verbal explanations and our sensory experience are vapours, masquerading as solid form”

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