Consciousness Explained

Consciousness Explained

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Overview

"Brilliant...as audacious as its title....Mr. Dennett's exposition is nothing short of brilliant." —George Johnson, New York Times Book Review

Consciousness Explained is a a full-scale exploration of human consciousness. In this landmark book, Daniel Dennett refutes the traditional, commonsense theory of consciousness and presents a new model, based on a wealth of information from the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and artificial intelligence. Our current theories about conscious life-of people, animal, even robots—are transformed by the new perspectives found in this book.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316180665
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 10/20/1992
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 244,476
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.37(d)

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Consciousness Explained 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has incited some of the most violent debates among my friends and colleagues. Yet, I think the controversy boils down to this: some people will unavoidably hate this book; others will see it as an epiphany, as I did. If you believe that there is some sort of spiritual world 'out there' not governed by and external to the laws of physics, you will see this book as horrible and possibly evil. And, that's just fine. I mean no disrespect here. If, on the other hand, you believe that, ultimately, the answers lie in science, then this book is absolutely wonderful. It provides answers to questions about consciousness that make you feel good at having placed your trust in science. Best of all, he provides a path to understanding the mysteries still plaguing those studying consciousness. Put differently, the magic of consciousness is reduced to mere slight of hand (and possibly camera tricks, too). I recommend the title even to the spiritualist. It may well be a little annoying, but you might as well know the competition better. As for the materialist, sit back and enjoy!
scroeser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A detailed and extensive reexamination of consciousness. You may not agree with all of it, but it will certainly make you think.
ElectricRay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Consciousness Explained is a hard, but very rewarding, book. I first read it five years ago, and thought I mostly got it, but on reflection, I realise now I probably didn't. After recently getting through Dennett's equally fascinating (and hard) "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" I read it again. It's properly sinking in now, and I think I mostly have it. I think. If you're considering reading Consciousness Explained, I recommend having a look at Darwin's Dangerous Idea first; some of the ideas Dennett expounds there, particularly on the nature of algorithmic progression, are extremely useful for getting a handle on Dennett's central theme in Consciousness Explained. Dennett's views in each are really quite closely related. However, the "intuitive gap" (i.e., the distance in credibility between what Dennett proposes and how things "seem" intuitively) is huge in the case of consciousness, but comparatively small for Evolution. To wit: Consciousness: Intuitively, there's a "central meaner" in the brain sitting in a "Cartesian theatre" enjoying the son-et-lumière. Dennett says this is an illusion, and there is no "narrative centre" of consciousness at all - in not so many ways, consciousness itself is an illusion; an aggregation of multiple sensory inputs and outputs of the cerebellum, all of which are performing their own functions independently of each other. "BUT AN ILLUSION TO WHOM?" you want to scream. It just doesn't seem to make sense. Evolution: Intuitively, the universe seems designed. It seems impossible that it could be the result of blind, unintelligent operations. Darwin says that this is nevertheless the case, through the algorithmic mechanism of reproduction, mutation and natural selection of multiple organisms performing their own functions independently of each other. This isn't such a stretch, especially as the notion of a designer of the universe is an even more problematic idea, when you give it a moment's thought. And that's precisely the point. Dennett argues persuasively (as, of course, many have before him) that a Cartesian theatre is just such a preposterous idea as a designer of the universe. Once you've ruled it out, all you are left with is the mechanical functions of the brain (unless, with Roger Penrose, you want to say "Quantum Mechanics did it!"), so you don't have any choice in the matter: the only question is how to build these mechanical, independent operations up into something which can function like consciousness. Like evolution, an aggregation of algorithms can be a "crane" which can achieve more than a simple algorithm. And so on. When you account for the actual - heterophenomenological, if I may be so bold - quality of consciousness, you notice it's incomplete, it's bitty, it's missing stuff: it isn't quite the widescreen, 7.1 THX certified surround-sound audio-visual experience we think it is, which is all grist to Dennett's mill. Dennett is open that this is an opening salvo rather than a complete theory, and I am very interested to find out where this has all led. To my mind too much time is spent on stimulus and response - qualia, visual images and the like - which ought to be comparatively easy to explain in terms of multiple drafts - and not enough time is spent explaining how on Dennett's theory a human being, who only *seems* to have consciousness, can create clearly intentional objects, such as this book review, or more critically, a book as coherent and persuasive as Dennett's. It is difficult to analyse this sort of intentional action without a "central meaner" to be putting the view. I think Dennett's view might be able to be developed in this direction, but to my mind insufficient resource was put into this endeavour. As he does in Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett courts controversy and seems to pick intemperate fights with his competitors, and you do wonder whether a few straw men aren't being erected. Certainly, there is the odd cheap shot, but that adds to the entertainment v
llasram on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I haven't read this in several years, so I suspect that the science is somewhat out of date, but the philosophy is top-notch. I admit some possible carpenter¿s-wooden-moon bias going on, but I honestly can¿t see how a metaphysically materialistic consciousness could operate other than Dennett describes.
Jewsbury on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author is a philosopher. However, the book opens with some disturbing hyperbole about the nature of consciousness, revealing the author¿s lack of knowledge about the philosophy of science. The book then launches into some painstakingly slow expositions. Halfway through the book he finally speeds up and he finished the introduction. At this point, he announces he will not actually say how the mind works just indicate how one might be able to explain consciousness. Revealingly, he disparages his colleagues in cognitive fields as conceited, arrogant and narrowly focussed. He says they just guess and do not have any answers. He argues several points, in so doing making use of specially crafted unilluminating jargon such as Joycean, Vorsetzer, CADBLIND and zimbo. Firstly creating useful categories for non-identical things is subjective. Thus when we have a sequence of mental processes involving perceiving, deciding and acting, we cannot set objective demarcation lines. Likewise the set of underlying actions contributing to the consciousness self is fuzzy. Secondly the brain processes information in parallel, thereby providing multiple alternative opinions. Thirdly there is no command central in the brain; rather it uses a workspace to which all processes have two-way access. Then he opines that every autonomous system controlled by high-level software running on a virtual serial architecture is conscious. Were this pseudo-definition to be what we commonly think of as consciousness, and were our brains such parallel processes, then he would have shown how an explanation of consciousness was possible.
anandrajan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the most wrong headed books on consciousness. At times Dennett reminds me of Gates and Clinton on the witness stand.
m.a.harding on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dennetts views on qualia are rubbish but the rest is fantastic - a great synthesis and also original.
GreyHead on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mini-review: This is not a book about NLP, and I doubt that the author has ever heard of NLP. Yet his thesis of the `mechanism of mind¿ and of the how consciousness might work is, in my opinion, another significant piece in the jig-saw that links the NLP model with what might be called `more mainstream¿ philosophy and, perhaps, `psychology¿ though this book is definitely in the former class.
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