In this important book, Susan Hurley sheds new light on consciousness by examining its relationships to action from various angles. She assesses the role of agency in the unity of a conscious perspective, and argues that perception and action are more deeply interdependent than we usually assume. A standard view conceives perception as input from world to mind and action as output from mind to world, with the serious business of thought in between. Hurley criticizes this picture, and considers how the interdependence of perceptual experience and agency at the personal level (of mental contents and norms) may emerge from the subpersonal level (of underlying causal processes and complex dynamic feedback systems). Her two-level view has wide implications, for topics that include self-consciousness, the modularity of mind, and the relations of mind to world. The self no longer lurks hidden somewhere between perceptual input and behavioral output, but reappears out in the open, embodied and embedded in its environment.
Hurley traces these themes from Kantian and Wittgensteinian arguments through to intriguing recent work in neuropsychology and in dynamic systems approaches to the mind, providing a bridge from mainstream philosophy to work in other disciplines. Consciousness in Action is unique in the range of philosophical and scientific work it draws on, and in the deep criticism it offers of centuries-old habits of thought.
Susan L. Hurley (1954–2007) was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bristol.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Reappearing Self
PART 1: ACTION AND THE UNITY OF CONSCIOUSNESS
1. Three Mistakes about Consciousness
2. Self-Consciousness, Spontaneity, and the Myth of the Giving
3. Unity, Objectivity, and Norms
4. Nonconceptual Self-Consciousness: Perspective, Access, and Agency
5. Unity, Neuropsychology, and Action
PART 2: PERCEPTION AND ACTION
6. Wittgenstein on Practice and the Myth of the Giving
7. Content and Environment: Parallels between Perception and Action
8. Perception, Dynamic Feedback, and Externalism
9. Neuropsychology versus the Input-output Picture
10. Alternative Views of Perception and Action
Appendix: Outline of the Arguments
What People are Saying About This
A cogent and novel contribution. Hurley has performed a major service to cognitive science. It is beneficial to philosophy of mind to appropriate detailed empirical findings to major issues in dispute, and it is of benefit to neuropsychology for the implications of such findings for our broad understanding of how the human mind/brain works to be clarified by an expert philosopher of mind. Marcel Kinsbourne, M.D., Tufts University
It is about time there was a good book relating some of the really 'deep' philosophical issues concerning the nature of mind and consciousness to the recent explosion of exciting work in cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and the dynamics of situated action. In this wonderful and timely book Susan Hurley achieves all that and more. Hurley challenges the persuasive image of the mind as insulated, by the twin buffers of perception and action, from the wider world that our thoughts concern. Once mind is thus seen as in a certain sense 'continuous' with the world, it becomes possible (indeed, compulsory) to rethink fundamental issues in philosophy and cognitive science. Andy Clark, Washington University
This is a virtuosic book, displaying a quite remarkable breadth of vision. Susan Hurley's reflections on consciousness and action are original, deep, and challenging, and she shows herself to be completely at home with her subject matter, which ranges from psychology and neuroscience through to the finer points of Kant scholarship and Wittgenstein interpretation. The book challenges many current conceptions, and is likely to push the philosophy of mind--and indeed, our whole understanding of ourselves as embodied and embedded, experiencing and acting, subjects and agents--in new directions. Martin Davies, Corpus Christi College, Oxford
An extremely impressive, stimulating contribution to current work on consciousness...[Hurley's work] draws on a synthesis of an extraordinarily wide range of materials, in philosophy, psychology and neuro-science. Altogether this is a truly remarkable book.
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