The Wonder of Consciousness: Understanding the Mind through Philosophical Reflection

The Wonder of Consciousness: Understanding the Mind through Philosophical Reflection

by Harold Langsam

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Overview

An argument that what makes consciousness wonderful is its intelligibility.

Consciousness is a wonderful thing. But if we are fully to appreciate the wonder of consciousness, we need to articulate what it is about consciousness that makes it such an interesting and important phenomenon to us. In this book, Harold Langsam argues that consciousness is intelligible—that there are substantive facts about consciousness that can be known a priori—and that it is the intelligibility of consciousness that is the source of its wonder.

Langsam first examines the way certain features of some of our conscious states intelligibly relate us to features of the world of which we are conscious. Consciousness is radically different from everything else in the world, and yet it brings us into intimate connection with the things of the world. Langsam then examines the causal powers of some of our conscious states. Some of these causal powers are determined in an intelligible way by the categorical natures of their conscious states: if you know what consciousness is, then you can also know (by the mere exercise of your intelligence) some of what consciousness does.

Langsam's intent is to get the philosophy of mind away from the endless and distracting debates about whether consciousness is physical or not. He shows that there are substantive things that we can discover about consciousness merely through philosophical reflection. The philosopher who takes this approach is not ignoring the empirical facts; he is reflecting on these facts to discover further, nonempirical facts.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262015851
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 07/29/2011
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 244
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Harold Langsam is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 Introduction 1

1.1 Wonder and Intelligibility 1

1.2 Intelligibility and Philosophy 5

1.3 The Distraction of (Reductive) Physicalism 10

1.4 How to Ignore Physicalism 16

1.5 The Intelligibility of Consciousness: A First Step 24

2 The Intelligibility of Consciousness I: How Experience Relates Us to the World 29

2.1 The Intrinsic Nature of Experience 29

2.2 The Intelligible Relations between Observable Properties and Phenomenal Properties 38

2.3 How Observable Properties Intelligible Explain Phenomenal Properties 53

2.4 How Observable Properties Are Intelligibly Similar to Phenomenal Properties 61

2.5 How Consciousness Reveals the External World to Us: A First Step 65

3 The Intelligibility of Consciousness II: The Causal Powers of Conscious States 71

3.1 The Idea of Intelligible Causation 71

3.2 Motivating the Idea of Intelligible Causation 75

3.3 The Intelligible Causal Powers of Experiences 85

3.4 The Intelligible Causal Powers of Beliefs: Inference 99

3.5 The Intelligible Causal Powers of Rational Intuitions: Reflection 103

3.6 Intelligible Causation and Introspections 106

4 The Importance of Consciousness I: Belief, Rationality, and Knowledge 111

4.1 Consciousness and Rationality 111

4.2 Rationality and Reasoning 116

4.3 Some Applications of the Theory of Rationality 118

4.4 Two Kinds of Rationality 122

4.5 Justification, Rationality, and Intelligible Causation 129

4.6 The Unity of Knowledge 135

5 The Importance of Consciousness II: Desire, Feeling, and Value 141

5.1 Desire, Rational Desire, and Value 141

5.2 Two Kinds of Rational Desires 147

5.3 Bodily Sensations: Pleasures and Pains 156

5.4 Feelings 166

5.5 Ideal Desires: Consciousness and Value 179

6 The Wonder of Consciousness: Conclusions 185

Notes 189

References 215

Index 227

What People are Saying About This

Alex Byrne

The Wonder of Consciousness is a wonderful book.

Langsam approaches consciousness from the first-person point of view, and argues that a variety of substantial facts about consciousness can be known a priori. Full of original and provocative ideas, the book has an air of excitement that is rare in philosophical writing.

Susanna Siegel

This book is packed full of insights into conscious experience. Langsam sets out to describe the role of consciousness in perception, knowledge, inductive inference, practical reasoning, and pleasure and pain. He addresses a wealth of topics in compact prose that has a pleasing momentum as it brings us from one elegant piece of philosophy to the next.

Endorsement

The Wonder of Consciousness is a wonderful book. Langsam approaches consciousness from the first-person point of view, and argues that a variety of substantial facts about consciousness can be known a priori. Full of original and provocative ideas, the book has an air of excitement that is rare in philosophical writing.

Alex Byrne, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT

From the Publisher

" The Wonder of Consciousness is a wonderful book. Langsam approaches consciousness from the first-person point of view, and argues that a variety of substantial facts about consciousness can be known a priori. Full of original and provocative ideas,the book has an air of excitement that is rare in philosophical writing." — AlexByrne, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT

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