Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory

Overview


What is consciousness? How do physical processes in the brain give rise to the self-aware mind and to feelings as profoundly varied as love or hate, aesthetic pleasure or spiritual yearning? These questions today are among the most hotly debated issues among scientists and philosophers, and we have seen in recent years superb volumes by such eminent figures as Francis Crick, Daniel C. Dennett, Gerald Edelman, and Roger Penrose, all firing volleys in what has come to be called the consciousness wars. Now, in The ...
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The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory

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Overview


What is consciousness? How do physical processes in the brain give rise to the self-aware mind and to feelings as profoundly varied as love or hate, aesthetic pleasure or spiritual yearning? These questions today are among the most hotly debated issues among scientists and philosophers, and we have seen in recent years superb volumes by such eminent figures as Francis Crick, Daniel C. Dennett, Gerald Edelman, and Roger Penrose, all firing volleys in what has come to be called the consciousness wars. Now, in The Conscious Mind, philosopher David J. Chalmers offers a cogent analysis of this heated debate as he unveils a major new theory of consciousness, one that rejects the prevailing reductionist trend of science, while offering provocative insights into the relationship between mind and brain.
Writing in a rigorous, thought-provoking style, the author takes us on a far-reaching tour through the philosophical ramifications of consciousness. Chalmers convincingly reveals how contemporary cognitive science and neurobiology have failed to explain how and why mental events emerge from physiological occurrences in the brain. He proposes instead that conscious experience must be understood in an entirely new light--as an irreducible entity (similar to such physical properties as time, mass, and space) that exists at a fundamental level and cannot be understood as the sum of its parts. And after suggesting some intriguing possibilities about the structure and laws of conscious experience, he details how his unique reinterpretation of the mind could be the focus of a new science. Throughout the book, Chalmers provides fascinating thought experiments that trenchantly illustrate his ideas. For example, in exploring the notion that consciousness could be experienced by machines as well as humans, Chalmers asks us to imagine a thinking brain in which neurons are slowly replaced by silicon chips that precisely duplicate their functions--as the neurons are replaced, will consciousness gradually fade away? The book also features thoughtful discussions of how the author's theories might be practically applied to subjects as diverse as artificial intelligence and the interpretation of quantum mechanics.
All of us have pondered the nature and meaning of consciousness. Engaging and penetrating, The Conscious Mind adds a fresh new perspective to the subject that is sure to spark debate about our understanding of the mind for years to come.
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Editorial Reviews

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

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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195117899
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1997
  • Series: Philosophy of Mind Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 344,116
  • Product dimensions: 9.14 (w) x 5.88 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David J. Chalmers is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His article "The Puzzle of Conscious Experience" appeared in the December 1995 issue of Scientific American.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Taking Consciousness Seriously
1 Two Concepts of Mind 3
2 Supervenience and Explanation 32
3 Can Consciousness Be Reductively Explained? 93
4 Naturalistic Dualism 123
5 The Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment 172
6 The Coherence Between Consciousness and Cognition 213
7 Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia 247
8 Consciousness and Information: Some Speculation 276
9 Strong Artificial Intelligence 309
10 The Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics 333
Notes 359
Bibliography 391
Index 405
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2006

    An exploration of consciousness for expert readers

    Philosopher and author David J. Chalmers makes an ambitious, daring attempt to expand the understanding of consciousness. Although he admits that his sympathies are with materialism, he concludes that materialist (physical) explanations cannot account for the existence of consciousness. His theory of consciousness is based in the natural world, but he proposes that consciousness has both physical and nonphysical properties. He suggests that a set of psychophysical laws are needed to explain the how and why of consciousness. Although parts of this book are densely technical and call for readers with a thorough background in mathematics, physics and philosophy, Chalmers has taken pains to make his material as accessible as possible to the average well-educated person. He even puts asterisks beside sections that lay readers are likely to find too daunting, and notes those sections general readers might most productively read, skim or ignore. We suggest this book to well-schooled readers who are interested in the philosophy of the mind, cognition or psychology.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2012

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