Sir John Eccles, expert neuroscientist and collaborator with Karl Popper delivered two series of lectures at the University of Edinburgh from 1978–79. The first series of lectures was published under the title The Human Mystery, followed by this second volume. After developing a strong theory of dualist interactionism and using this to explore human self-consciousness in the first volume, this volume moves to discuss this idea of dualist interaction in relation to developments in neuroscience. By dualist-interactionism, Eccles argues that we are material beings with a material brain; we are also non-material beings, with a mind that can exert an influence on the physical world. The open lectures provide a good introduction to the mind-body problem in the context of neuroscience. (One of the highlights of the book are the careful and highly detailed neurological diagrams). From there Eccles moves on to consider the neo-cortex of the brain in more detail, arguing that pattern generating capabilities of the modules of the neo-cortex offers new models of interaction between the mind and the world. After a lecture on sensory input and a lecture on the role of pain, Eccles turns to consider that complex set of neural interactions which we experience as sleeping. After considering something so personal, Eccles then moves on to the idea of ‘World 3’––the world of the cultural heritage of mankind and the ways in which individual memory and creativity interact with this world.
The final lectures cover a wide range of topics, moving from free will, the meaning of life, some essential ethical postulates and the idea of free will. Eccles argues that we are engaged in the tremendous adventure of consciously co-experienced existences and that a religious view on life and a scientific acceptance of the facts of material reality are in no way contradictory. As Eccles concludes, the cosmos is not just running on and running down for no reason. With his wide-ranging erudition and scholarly breadth of engagement, Eccles' work is both rigorous and approachable. For those who wish to learn more about the ways in which neurological science, theology and philosophy may interact, this volume, read alongside the earlier set of lectures, is a peerless introduction.