Consciousness Regained: Chapters in the Development of the Mind by Nicholas Humphrey (OUP, £3.95) "THIS is not that book". If this seems a controversial statement to make in a preface, then it evinces much of the writing in Nicholas Humphrey's Consciousness Regained.
The Miltonesque title is appropriate for 1-fumphrey's punchy, exuberant style also accommodates plenty of literary substantiation for his ideas. Yet that opening statement is more than simply Mr Humphrey's
way of confessing that the book he eventually wrote is not the one he originally had in mind.
Consciousness Regained is in fact a collection of broadcasts, book reviews and short articles by the author which have all been separately published or transmitted. If much of what appears in the text sounds familiar, it could be that we have actually read it or heard it before.
There is, however, a new twist to Mr Humphrey's version of a book of collected pieces. As well as the inclusion of some new material, he links it all together with a question: why do human beings behave as they dO?
In answering his central question Mr Humphrey unlocks the mysteries of pet-keeping, belief in ghosts, dreaming and religious ecstacy with the key assumption of "biological adaptiveness". The supreme and exclusive validity of the theory of evolution is both his premiss and his pitfall.
It is, according to his thesis, "biologically adaptive" for human beings to learn to understand each other, arid, as an extension of this, in line with the commonplace that we best understand what we experience ourselves, a human being needs to extend and experiment with his mental and emotional resources.
Consciousness Regained, though polemical, is fascinating to read for its content alone. The author delves deep into human behaviour and multiplies examples both from the sphere of scientific observation as well as from literary sources.
His section on nuclear war is particularly penetrating, and provides a refreshing contrast in tone: once no longer testing out his theories, Nicholas Humphrey writes as a deeply 'committed and humane thinker.