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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Magnum Opus of Consciousness Studies, November 15, 2007
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This review is from: The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology) (Paperback)
I recently reviewed the excellent The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness, and I had expected that this book would be similar. In fact the two are excellent complements to each other.

So what is this book about, how is it structured, and how does it differ from the Blackwell Companion?

Both books set out to answer some of the Big Questions: How does consciousness arise in the human brain? What is self-awareness? What are the most promising theoretical and experimental approaches to the questions of consciousness?

The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness casts a wide net. There are 31 substantial chapters written by almost fifty of the best known authorities in different aspects of consciousness.

1. Introduction

PART I The Cognitive Science Of Consciousness
A. Philosophy

2. A Brief History of the Philosophical Problem of Consciousness: William Seager
3. Philosophical Theories of Consciousness: Contemporary Western Perspectives: Uriah Kriegel
4. Philosophical Issues: Phenomenology: Evan Thompson and Dan Zahavi
5. Asian Perspectives: Indian Theories of Mind: Georges Dreyfus and Evan Thompson

B. Computational Approaches To Consciousness
6. Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness: Drew McDermott
7. Computational Models of Consciousness: A Taxonomy and Some Examples: Ron Sun and Stan Franklin

C. Cognitive Psychology
8. Cognitive Theories of Consciousness: Katharine McGovern and Bernard J. Baars
9. Behavioral, Neuroimaging, and Neuropsychological Approaches to Implicit Perception: Daniel J. Simons, Deborah E. Hannula, David E. Warren, and Steven W. Day
10. Three Forms of Consciousness in Retrieving Memories: Henry L. Roediger ', Suparna Rajaram, and Lisa Geraci
11. Metacognition and Consciousness: Asher Koriat
12. Consciousness and Control of Actions: Carlo Umiltà

D. Linguistic Considerations
13. Language And Consciousness: Wallace Chafe
14. Narrative Modes Of Consciousness And Selfhood: Keith Oatley

E. Developmental Psychology
15. The Development Of Consciousness: Philip David Zelazo, Helena Hong Gao, and Rebecca Todd

F. Alternative States Of Consciousness
16. States Of Consciousness: Normal And Abnormal Variation: J. Allan Hobson
17. Consciousness In Hypnosis: John F. Kihlstrom
18. Can We Study Subjective Experiences Objectively? First-Person Perspective Approaches And Impaired Subjective States Of Awareness In Schizophrenia: Jean-Marie Danion And Caroline Huron
19.Meditation And The Neuroscience Of Consciousness: An Introduction: Antoine Lutz, John D. Dunne, And Richard J. Davidson

G. Anthropology/Social Psychology Of Consciousness
20. Social Psychological Approaches To Consciousness: John A. Bargh
21. The Evolution Of Consciousness: Michael C. Corballis
22. The Serpent's Gift: Evolutionary Psychology And Consciousness: Jesse M. Bering And David F. Bjorklund
23. Anthropology Of Consciousness: C. Jason Throop And Charles D. Laughlin

H. Psychodynamic Approaches To Consciousness
24. Motivation, Decision Making, And Consciousness: From Psychodynamics To Subliminal Priming And Emotional Constraint Satisfaction: Drew Westen, Joel Weinberger, And Rebekah Bradley

PART II The Neuroscience Of Consciousness
A. Neurophysiological Mechanisms Of Consciousness
25. Hunting The Ghost: Toward A Neuroscience Of Consciousness: Petra Stoerig
26. Neurodynamical Approaches To Consciousness: Diego Cosmelli, Jean-Philippe Lachaux, And Evan Thompson

B. Neuropsychological Aspects Of Consciousness: Disorders And Neuroimaging
27. The Thalamic Intralaminar Nuclei And The Property Of Consciousness: Joseph E. Bogen
28. The Cognitive Neuroscience Of Memory And Consciousness: Scott D. Slotnick And Daniel L. Schachter

C. Affective Neuroscience Of Consciousness
29. The Affective Neuroscience Of Consciousness: Higher- Order Syntactic Thoughts, Dual Routes To Emotion And Action, And Consciousness: Edmund T. Rolls

D. Social Neuroscience Of Consciousness
30. Consciousness: Situated And Social: Ralph Adolphs

Part III Quantum Approaches To Consciousness
31. Quantum Approaches To Consciousness: Henry Stapp

As you will see from the titles of the chapters, he first section - the cognitive science of consciousness - is mainly involved with philosophical, anthropological, and linguistic approaches to the nature of the conscious mind, together with some intriguing insights gathered from artificial intelligence and computational models.

There are highly readable chapters on such many key topics: the role of consciousness thought in retrieving memories, consciousness and the control of action and the existence of consciousness in animals. '

The second section - the neuroscience of consciousness - covers a similarly wide variety of topics. The final chapter dares to tread where many other books have not, by examining models of consciousness inspired by insights from quantum theory. Henry Stapp has made substantial contributions to this highly controversial area that has also attracted distinguished academics like David Bohm and Roger Penrose. '

My only regret is that such a broad and brave book did not also dip into some of the issues recently discussed in Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, With CD containing F. W. H. Myers's hard-to-find classic 2-volume Human Personality (1903) and selected contemporary reviews, which proposes that consciousness may not so much be created by the brain, but rather be contained by it.

For anyone interested in consciousness studies, both this book and the Blackwell Companion will be essential reading for many years to come.

Highly recommended

Richard G. Petty, MD, author of Healing, Meaning and Purpose: The Magical Power of the Emerging Laws of Life
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dense, difficult, and nearly exhaustive, December 15, 2007
This review is from: The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology) (Paperback)
The first two chapters are nearly impenetrable, but such is the nature of philosophers writing on consciousness. If I were to give awards for impenetrable literature I would award third place to political and economic philosophers (think Marx and Veblen), second place to corporate lawyers, and the grand prize to anyone writing on consciousness, with a special award to philosophers writing on consciousness. (Even Daniel Dennett-not a contributor to this volume--can be annoying!).

The first problem is defining consciousness itself. Most of the contributors to this heavy (3.6 pounds--don't drop it on your toe!) tome give, or at least attempt, some sort of definition; however often their definitions are so highly qualified and so thoroughly couched in technical language that the general reader is not further informed. This is clearly a book for specialists, the "handbook" in the title notwithstanding. ("hand.book n. 1. a concise manual or reference book providing specific information or instruction about a subject" --the American Heritage Dictionary).

But concise this handbook is not. There is little to no instruction that I could find, but there is information and plenty of it. Almost a thousand pages long, with each page containing two dense columns, this is the sort of book that will never be read from cover to cover by any but the most masochistic of readers. For those whose professional work requires being up to date on the latest thinking about consciousness, this book may be of some real value as a reference. The author index contains about 3,500 individual names! The subject index covers 42 double-column pages. Furthermore, each essay (there are 31 of them) contains book and article references, in all hundreds of them. And there are some footnotes. I think this is impressive. Perhaps the indices and references are the most valuable parts of the book. I say perhaps because, to be honest, I was not able to read more than a small portion of the book.

There are three parts, "The Cognitive Science of Consciousness," "The Neuroscience of Consciousness," and "Quantum Approaches to Consciousness." The latter part consists of only one chapter by Henry Stapp. It contains a subtle corrective to the standard interpretation of the famous finger-lifting experiment by B. Libet. In this experiment, Libet showed that a willed action, such as willing a finger to lift, is preceded by a readiness potential that appears BEFORE the conscious experience of willing appears. Consequently, free will appears to be an illusion. I don't think this set well with Stapp and so he has a quantum corrective beginning on page 899. Unfortunately I wasn't able to understand it. It appears that the willed probability of action was there before the readiness potential.

There was a lot more I didn't understand, and I am not so sure the fault is entirely mine. I did understand, as in Uriah Kriegel's essay "Philosophic Theories of Consciousness: Contemporary Western Perspectives," that the consciousness problem that is notoriously difficult relates to what D.J. Chalmers called "the hard problem" and what Kriegel calls "phenomenal consciousness." Kriegel writes, "there is a sense of 'conscious' in which a mental state is conscious when and only when there is 'something it is like' [italics in original] for the subject--from the inside--to have it. Thus, when I take a spoonful of honey, there is a very specific--sweet, smooth, honey-ish, if you will--way it is like for me to have the resulting conscious experience." (p. 36)

Another example of phenomenal consciousness would be the subjective experience of the color red. This aspect of consciousness, as opposed to what I call the identity and awareness aspects of consciousness, is what is most mysterious. This is the aspect of consciousness that I believe is the bugaboo for most people, including many philosophers. Quite simply there is no way that such subjective experiences can ever become objective. The experience of the red that I see may or may not be the same as the experience you have; and there is no way that we can say for sure whether our experiences are the same or different.

Now let me quickly give my definition of consciousness as the term is generally used. It has three aspects: The first is awareness of the world (including awareness of our self and our processes, that is, self-awareness). The second is self-identity. Notice that awareness of self is different from identification with self. The third is experience or sensation: the feelings we get when we experience the world. This is what Kriegel calls "phenomenal consciousness."

It would be useful if all writers on consciousness defined just which aspect of consciousness they are talking about. Without clear definitions we are speaking in babblese like postmodern theorists or corporate lawyers trying to obscure and muddle the true message to be conveyed. I am sorry to report that some parts of this book that I did read seemed muddled. Perhaps in this case, though, the fault really is mine. Nonetheless I am willing to bet that sometime in the future people will look back and wonder what all the gobbledygook was about. I am somehow reminded of the medieval preoccupation of clerics with the problem of how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
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