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The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory
     

The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory

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by David J. Chalmers
 

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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

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.

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199839353
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
05/09/1996
Series:
Philosophy of Mind
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
428,764
File size:
3 MB

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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Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago