How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence

By Christopher Potter

A startling investigation of what it means to be human.

Human beings know how to make machines. But what kind of machine is a human being? And could we ever make one?

In order to answer these questions, other questions get in the way:

What is it like to be a human being?
What is it like to be some other kind of animal?
What is reality?
What is consciousness?
Is there a God?
What is love?
Why live?

The questions proliferate.

But all these questions can be viewed as facets of a single question:

What is science?

In ‘How To Make a Human Being’ Christopher Potter shows how, at every scale of description, human beings escape the net of scientific reductionism. What it is to be human can be glimpsed in the details: in the opening of a window, in a shared joke. But cannot be caught by any reductive scientific description.

Format: ebook
Release Date: 27 Mar 2014
Pages: None
ISBN: 978-0-00-744780-0
Christopher Potter spent almost a quarter of a century in publishing, over 17 of those years at the independent publishing house Fourth Estate, where he became publisher and managing director. His first book was the much-praised ‘You Are Here, A Portable History of the Universe’. ‘How To Make a Human Being’ is his second.

”'A clever, subtle, enjoyable book ” - and a deeply English one, full of idiosyncrasy and resistance to easy answers’ Sunday Times

”'Sparky and fun… Auperb. Potter investigates what it is to be human, and his method is to investigate the history of human thought” - Evening Standard

”'Beautiful and profound … Not only unlike any work of literature I’ve read, it comes closer than any new work I’ve read to doing full justice to the impossible complexity of living a life … It concerns matters of mortality, and of grocery shopping. It is - I’ll just say it - a significant book” - Michael Cunningham, author of 'The Hours’

”'A sort of commonplace book full of paradox and conflicting ideas, shocking facts and redemptive anecdotes, turbulent with two or three millennia of human thought … The source material is wonderfully diverse … Very enjoyable” - Guardian

”'Well-travelled imaginations will enjoy a jaunt with fiery polymath Christopher Potter; 'How to Make a Human Being' is a quirky investigation into our deepest nature” - Hilary Mantel, Guardian

”'Rich and wonderful … A clever, subtle, enjoyable book. If we are a parliament of selves, this book is a parliament of explanations” - Sunday Times

”'Potter illuminates the human in all its manifestations from single cell to creator of culture … The scattershot narrative somehow coalesces into a brilliant whole and compelling case for anti-reductionism” - Nature Magazine

”'Potter always has something interesting to say, even if you disagree … this is a wonderful and unique book.” - Lisa Randall, Professor of Physics at Harvard University