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Book Review: “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Logic of Consciousness”

Written by Jeff Drake
6 · 26 · 19

[Please read Dr. Thomas’ first book, “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Physics of Consciousness” before reading this book, if at all possible. It’s not absolutely necessary, but hey, it’s only 99 cents!]

I’m going to admit up front for this review that I am a fan of Dr. Thomas. There’s a reason for this, the same reason I have read all his books. As I stated in a recent blog post to my friends, when I hear that Dr. Thomas has a new book coming out, I get excited, “Because he writes his books for people like me who are interested in understanding the concepts of physics, without burying us in the math. Oh, there’s some math in his books, for sure, enough to show me, at least, that he understands and is fluent in the mathematics of physics, but the math is definitely not necessary to understand the concepts he is conveying. I love that!”

And I loved this book, too.

If you’ve ever had a chance to go to an art gallery with an art expert who then proceeds to point out something that you missed completely in a particular painting you’ve been staring at for some time, it can leave you wondering, “How did I ever miss that?” Well, it’s the same when reading one of Dr. Thomas’ books. He has the gift of making the complex seem plain and exposing the sometimes profound implications that can arise from things that may seem ordinary. He often does this by simply asking a question… and then answering it. It seems very Socratic.

Before I get further into this review of his latest book, I want to say that I believe his two books on consciousness, Hidden in Plain Sight 9: The Physics of Consciousness, and this book, Hidden in Plain Sight 11: The Logic of Consciousness, represent works that are based on an important truth that we have to accept if we are to study consciousness in earnest and search for answers to the questions that consciousness raises (e.g., What is consciousness? What does it mean to be conscious? How can we identify consciousness?). That truth is simply this: finding answers to these questions requires a multi-disciplinary approach!

No single field of study is going to find the answers we seek. Understanding the mystery of consciousness requires not only the sciences such as physics, biology, psychology, neuroscience and computer science, to name some of the more obvious, but also requires the benefits that can be achieved from philosophy. That’s right, philosophy, specifically philosophical analysis. Let’s not forget that in the beginning, before science was even a thing, there was natural philosophy. In fact, the titles of Dr. Thomas’ two books on consciousness reflect this simple truth, one is about the physics of consciousness, the other about the logic of consciousness, logic being a particular philosophical analysis forn in ancient Greece and carrying through to the present day. Even Einstein used philosophical analysis to hone his theories (Professor John D. Horton, “Philosophy in Einstein’s Science,” 2010).

Dr. Thomas tells us up front that his book is divided into two parts, the first (chapters 1-5) are meant to help us understand the structure of the mind; the second half of the book (chapters 6-7) take us on a historical journey which ends with an “incredibly simple conclusion about consciousness.” (Thomas, Andrew. Hidden In Plain Sight 11: The Logic of Consciousness . Kindle Edition).

I read the book completely in one seating, as it’s not that long. But for a short book, it covered some fascinating topics! For example, in chapter 2, while exploring the structure of the mind, Dr. Thomas asks, “…what is it that distinguishes the conscious mind from the unconscious mind?” While walking us through his analysis, Dr. Thomas then leads us directly to the even larger question which is begging in the background, “Why is our mind divided into two parts, a conscious mind and an unconscious mind?” Damn good question! Inquiring minds want to know!

I’m not going to provide any spoilers here by reprinting the answers to the questions Dr. Thomas asks. Like I said, it’s a short book and you can find his answers yourself with little effort. I will, however, say that I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters where he discussed the structure of the brain and explained how our thought processes are similar to computer processing. This is by no means the first time someone has made this comparison, but Dr. Thomas explains it so well, using great examples, anecdotes and stories to get his points across, that it makes this book a pleasure to read.

Chapters 4 and 5 provide a deeper dive into the structure of the brain and he finishes this first part of the book with what struck me as a rather remarkable conclusion. Again, no spoiler here. But the more I think about this conclusion, the more it makes sense. Perhaps I’m biased due to spending a career as a process consultant.

Shifting gears in the second section of the book, Dr. Thomas reaches back further into history to take us on what the calls, “an epic journey.” And he’s not wrong. From ancient Greece and the Golden Ratio to Boolean logic and microprocessors, he wields logic as his tool – not so much like a hammer, but more like a scalpel in the hands of a skilled surgeon – as he leads us into a surprising discussion of thermodynamics, the brain, and consciousness. At least it was a surprise to me since it includes some things I hadn’t really thought about before and finishes with what I think is an absolutely brilliant conclusion about how to detect consciousness. I really hope Christof Koch will find the means to collaborate at some point with Dr. Thomas!

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Author

Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.
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