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The Frontiers of Knowledge by A. C. Grayling


The study of knowledge is burgeoning. There are seemingly endless theories and studies that aim to connect synapses with neural pathways and so on and so on. The way the human brain works is constantly under scrutiny as science aims to understand it better. It is absolutely stunning, even to the layperson.


As a layperson, and one who dropped science early in school, this is the most accessible exploration of the hows and the whys of this area known thus far. Grayling has the innate ability to take hugely complex content and scaffold it in a way that makes complete sense and one may find themselves immersed for extended hours learning and growing in this area.


As well as exploring the now and providing a line in the sand for our current situation, Grayling also provides another history to the known existence of humanity. Like the field of neuroscience, the history of mankind has provided a number of New York Times Bestsellers recently including - but certainly not limited to - titles like Bill Bryson’s History of Nearly Everything, and Yuval Noah Harari’ s Sapiens (both excellent by and by). This adds to that list, but takes a slightly elevated tone to the competition by focusing more on the development of cognition and, more broadly, science.


As the title suggests The Frontiers of Knowledge: What We Now Know About Science, History and the Mind, the book is a compendium of a sort-of greatest hits in discovery since time immemorial. The ‘frontiers’ of this new venture laid out in plain and simple language, mostly. Obviously this level of science does require a significant proportion of jargonistic language but never so much that it becomes overbearing (no offense to the late and great Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time).


The third section held the most engrossing information, titled ‘The Brain and the Mind’. From the title alone one can begin to imagine that constant pressure between what is felt, and what is truth. That battle of emotion and rationale. It concentrates its efforts on the delineation of both the brain and the mind and the function and purpose of both. As a teacher, this is endlessly fascinating and begins to explore the function of how we learn in a neatly packaged guide to the structural matrix that is the developing brain and mind.


Overall this book by A.C. Grayling is an everyman’s guide to the foundations on which we base our cognitive function. It is relevant, insightful and full of scientific discovery matched with anecdotal and perhaps even apocryphal tales. Just a joy to read and learn from, even for those burdened with a non-scientific brain.


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Viking, RRP $40