The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory

The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory

by David J. Chalmers
     
 

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What is consciousness? How do physical processes in the brain give rise to the subjective life of a conscious mind? These questions are among the most hotly debated issues in science and philosophy today. Now, in "The Conscious Mind," philosopher David J. Chalmers offers a cogent analysis of this debate as he lays out a major new theory of consciousness, one that… See more details below

Overview

What is consciousness? How do physical processes in the brain give rise to the subjective life of a conscious mind? These questions are among the most hotly debated issues in science and philosophy today. Now, in "The Conscious Mind," philosopher David J. Chalmers offers a cogent analysis of this debate as he lays out a major new theory of consciousness, one that rejects the prevailing reductionist trend of science, but is still compatible with a scientific view of the world. Writing in a rigorous, thought-provoking style, the author takes us on a far-reaching tour through the philosophical ramifications of consciousness. Chalmers convincingly establishes that contemporary cognitive science and neuroscience do not begin to explain how subjective experience emerges from neural processes in the brain. He proposes that conscious experience must instead be understood in a new light—as an irreducible entity (like such physical properties as time, mass, and space) that exists at a fundamental level and cannot be understood as the sum of simpler physical parts. In the second half of the book, he sets out on a quest for a "fundamental theory"—a theory of the basic laws governing the structure and character of conscious experience - and shows how this reconception of the mind could lead us to a new science of consciousness.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Chalmers (philosophy, Univ. of California at Santa Cruz) analyzes the mind-body problem in terms of that elusive relationship between the physical brain and conscious events. Focusing on subjective experience as such, he rejects all reductive (materialist) explanations for conscious experience in favor of a metaphysical framework supporting a strong form of property dualism. His theory is grounded in natural supervenience, the distinction between psychological and phenomenological properties of mind, and a novel view of the ontological status of consciousness itself. Chalmers uses thought experiments (e.g., zombie worlds, silicon chips, a global brain, and inverted spectra) and discusses such issues as causation, intentionality, and epiphenomenalism. Even so, the critical reader is left asking, How can physical facts be relevant to the emergence of consciousness beyond an evolutionary naturalist worldview. Ongoing neuroscience research may provide a sufficient explanation of consciousness within a materialistic framework. Nevertheless, as a scholarly contribution to modern philosophy, this is suitable for all academic and large public libraries.H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
Booknews
Chalmers (philosophy, U. of California, Santa Cruz) challenges cognitive science and neuroscience to explain how subjective experience emerges, finding that neither can adequately explain the phenomenon. His proposed theory views conscious experience as an entity (like time, mass, and space) existing at a fundamental, irreducible level. All this heady thought is made concrete by lucid writing and many examples of "experiments" to illustrate the concepts of the author's theory, including applications to artificial intelligence and quantum mechanics. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Gregory R. Mulhauser
[The book's] greatest use may be for those unfamiliar with the philosophical literature, but it will also challenge the thinking of even the most self-assured aficionados.
Psyche
From the Publisher
"Certainly one of the best discussions of consciousness in existence."—The Times Higher Education Supplement

"A startling first book....Offers an outstandingly competent survey of the field."—The Economist

"Chalmers shakes up the reductionist world of neurological research by asserting that scientists need to approach the conscious experience as a basic, nonphysical component of the world, similar to time, space, and matter."—Science News

"David Chalmers is widely credited for posing the so-called hard problem of consciousness:...What is the nature of subjective experience? Why do we have vividly felt experiences of the world? Why is there someone home inside our heads?"—The New York Times

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195105537
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
03/01/1996
Series:
Philosophy of Mind Series
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.55(h) x 1.41(d)

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