Consciousness: Creeping up on the Hard Problem

Consciousness: Creeping up on the Hard Problem

by Jeffrey Gray
     
 
How does conscious experience arise out of the functioning of the human brain? How is it related to the behaviour that it accompanies? How does the perceived world relate to the real world? Between them, these three questions constitute what is commonly known as the 'Hard Problem' of consciousness. Despite vast knowledge of the relationship between brain and behaviour

Overview

How does conscious experience arise out of the functioning of the human brain? How is it related to the behaviour that it accompanies? How does the perceived world relate to the real world? Between them, these three questions constitute what is commonly known as the 'Hard Problem' of consciousness. Despite vast knowledge of the relationship between brain and behaviour, and rapid advances in our knowledge of how brain activity correlates with conscious experience, the answers to all three questions remain controversial, even mysterious. This important new book analyses these core issues and reviews the evidence from both introspection and experiment. To many its conclusions will be surprising and even unsettling -: The entire perceived world is constructed by the brain. The relationship between the world we perceive and the underlying physical reality is not as close as we might think. Much of our behaviour is accomplished with little or no participation from conscious experience. Our conscious experience of our behaviour lags behind the behaviour itself by around a fifth of a second - we become aware of what we do only after we have done it. The lag in conscious experience applies also to the decision to act - we only become aware of our decisions after they have been formed. The self is as much a creation of the brain as is the rest of the perceived world. Written by a leading scientist, this analysis of how conscious experience relates to brain and behaviour is accessible and compelling. It will have major implications for our understanding of human nature.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An excellent overview that touches expertly on the many biological and psychological features underlying the consciouse experience." —Journal of Consciousness Studies

"In many ways the book is a tour de force, reflecting not just Gray's sensitive understanding of and extensive research in neuroscience, but unusually for a neuroscientist, a relatively sophisticated understanding of the philosophical issues surrounding consciousness as well... a fine thoughtful book. It is leading edge, engagingly written in a way that both students and researchers will appreciate, and forms a fitting testament to his searching intellectual life." —Applied Cognitive Psychology

"A well-written, thoroughly researched investigation... a significant piece of scholarship. Throughout, Gray presents complicated philosophical and neurobiological issues in a logical and coherent manner, and he clears the ground for other scientists to propose solutions to the hard problem of consciousness. Jeffrey Gray passed away in April 2004. This book is a testament to his intellectual giftedness, energy, and enormous talent." —Learning for Democracy

"... will be enjoyed by everyone interested in consciousness. Gray, a neuropsychologist, eloquently summarizes significant experimental results on consciousness and, more importantly, explains both how these results interrelate and how they constrain potential theories of consciousness. He also uses these results to build a novel, fascinating thoery of what consciousness does and does not do. Throughout the work Gray's accessible presentation remains deeply respectul of psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosopher's approaches to consciousness. In this repect, Gray's book is an ideal work for an interdisciplinary audience." —Psyche

"The late Professor Emeritus Jeffrey Gray is one to be remembered well. He is known for many things, including being of the most highly cited experimental psychologists in the UK to generating theories of human consciousness... This book is the culmination of Gray's long-standing quest for understanding the essential properties of consciousness... Gray's book is well worth the read. His coverage of models that address the hard problem of consciousness is reasonably complete. Gray is highly skilled at thoroughly critiquing each model (always finding both strengths and weaknesses). He gives the same constructive criticism to each model, in exactly the same measure he gives his own. His style is entirely fair-minded and refreshing... This is an excellent book that comes at the conclusion of the life of an outstanding member of academia. It is a timeless addition to any library for this reason alone." —Science and Consciousness Review

"Gray admits that reconciling a causal role for consciousness with the completeness of physics is difficult. I would say impossible. His book is unusual, though, in devoting considerable attention to the question of the efficacy of consciousness. Everyone who believes that continued research will throw light on the nature of consciousness including those who deny its causal efficacy can meanwhile acknowledge its supreme value and enjoy language and science and appreciate beauty." —Philosophy Now

"...remarkable both for the clarity of its expositions, and for the patience with which he explores the prospects for integrating the hard problem into normal science." —New Scientist

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780198520917
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
02/03/2007
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
360
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 6.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

In 1983, Jeffrey Gray received the Presidents' Award of the British Psychological Society. He has given the Lister Lecture to the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1967), the Myers Lecture to the British Psychological Society (1977), the Donald Hebb Lecture at McGill University, Montreal (1994), and the Kenneth Craik Lecture (1995) at St John's College, Cambridge. He was elected a Fellow of the British Psychological Society in 1993, President of the Experimental Psychology Society 1996-1998, and life-time Honorary Member of the Experimental Psychology Society, 1999. He was Mary Morten Moody Visiting Professor, VMI, Virginia USA in 1983, and Visiting Professor at the CollPge de France, Paris, in 1999. He has received an Honorary Doctorate from Washington and Lee University, Virginia USA, 2000, and an Honorary Fellowship at Goldsmiths College, London University, 2002.

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