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Cognitive scientist pens philosophical fiction e-book

book cover

In his first work of fiction, Shimon Edelman, professor of psychology, hasn’t strayed far from his interests, which focus on vision, language and consciousness and more generally on psychological, neurobiological and computational understanding of how the mind works.

“Beginnings,” which is available only as an e-book, is a collection of interlinked narratives, poems and essays that revolve around a single protagonist. The brief description of the book on Amazon and iTunes recruits an eclectic trio of characters to tease the reader:

"Jorge Luis Borges, Philip K. Dick and Edward Abbey walk into a bar on a small desert planet. "Is this really me?" murmurs Borges, staring at the mirror behind the counter. "Is this really a bar?" asks Dick. "Oh forget it, let's just go for a hike," says Abbey and heads back to the door.

“Those who go off into the desert do so, often, to leave the world of their past behind. What if there were a place where you could regain it instead?"

So what is the book about?

Says Edelman: “The book‘s short chapters follow several threads: episodes from the protagonist’s family history, meditations on memory, an account of a journey on foot through the desert in pursuit of a mysterious goal, a series of essays written for a class that the protagonist teaches, a prospectus for a commercial virtual reality environment. Five of the chapterlets are poems, composed in verse – four original ones and one translated from Russian, ostensibly by the protagonist. It all comes together at the end – or so I think… you’ll be the judge.”

Edelman, the author most recently of “The Happiness of Pursuit” (2012) and co-editor of a technical volume on consciousness, “Being in Time: Dynamical Models of Phenomenal Experience” (2012), said that the book speaks directly to both to his scientific interests and to his hobbies, including literature, desert hiking and Jewish history. The book, which runs to about 100 electronic pages, is intended for general readers.

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