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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy that makes sense.
This is one of the early philosophy books that started to make sense on the issue of consciousness. Comming from a decade where Joe Levine told us there was a gap, Frank Jackson that materialism left something out, McGuinn told us we could not understand it, the Churchlands wanted to get rid of the thing, this book is a great relief. Consciousness, according to Flanagan,...
Published on July 6, 2002 by Carlos Camara

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars but he sure does need a good editor. About as much fun to read as ...
Content is fabulous, but he sure does need a good editor. About as much fun to read as walking on broken glass.
Published 2 months ago by John Yates


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy that makes sense., July 6, 2002
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This review is from: Consciousness Reconsidered (Bradford Books) (Paperback)
This is one of the early philosophy books that started to make sense on the issue of consciousness. Comming from a decade where Joe Levine told us there was a gap, Frank Jackson that materialism left something out, McGuinn told us we could not understand it, the Churchlands wanted to get rid of the thing, this book is a great relief. Consciousness, according to Flanagan, is a natural phenomenon, rooted in the brain. IT is real, capable of being defined, it evolved, and tractable scientifically. We need not despair, nor look in wrong and exotic places like quantum mechanics. Psychology, phenomenology, neurobiology and cognitive science will do. This is useful philosophy.
In the first chapter, Flanagan sketches the field of philosophy of consicousness. He defines the different positions (consicousness is mysterious, consciousness does not exist, consciousness does not matter, consciousness is unintelligeble, consciousness is miracolous, etc..) and argues for naturalism and the adequacy of science to take on the job. In chapter 2, he shows why elimination of the concept of consicousness will not do. Surely, the concept is ot clear, but it points to a real phenomenon in need of explanation. In chapter 3, Flanagan talks about consciousness and the brain, how and why it evolved, and tries to make clear that there is nothing strange about the idea that cosnciousness might just be the brain itself.
IN chapter 4, Flanagan discusses qualia. He concentrates on Dennetss position that qualia should be eliminated scince nothing could have the properties philosophers claim qualia has. Flanagan agrees, but rightly notices that quala need not refer to that which philosophers talk about. Qualia are real, and there is something like to be in a phenomenal state. In chapter 5, Flanagan chalenges the inteligibility gap and the knowledge argument. Consicousness is the brain, but understanding the brain will not cause you to experience somebody elses consciousness. The gap is epistemological not ontological.
In chapter 6 Flanagan discusses the new mysterianism, the view that consicousness is a netural explanation, but beyond our cognitive abilities to explain or understand. He points out that most arguments for this position are invalid. The standards set in this view for explanation are unrealistically high, and progress has been done in understanding consciousness, regardless of what mysterians may say. Chapter 7 takes on epiphenomenalism, the view that consicousness serves no function and no casual role. This view in coeherent and should be taken reasonable. Indeed sometimes consiousness seems to be a bystander. But others, it is essential for initiating behaviour, functioning cognitively correctly and develop the self.
Chapter 8 is about phenomenology and how the stram of consicousness, although not quite real, is an accurate description of the first person prespective. Chapter 9 is about the illusion of a cartesian I or ego that rules mental life. As chapter 10 makes clear there is a self that is a center of a narrative, it emerges from the brain, but it does not have cartesian properties. The book concludes with the idea that consicousnes can be explained, that a scientific theory is possible and that cognitive science, psychology and neurscience will succeed.
This is good philosophy indeed. Consicousness is portrayed simply, as a natural phenomentol being understood through science. There are some objections one could make, but in all, considering the philosophical views of consicousness, this one is science friendly and informative. THis is the kind of constructivism that one should expect form philosophers.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid consciousness philosophy, July 11, 2002
This review is from: Consciousness Reconsidered (Bradford Books) (Paperback)
Owen Flanagan's statement of his approach to consciousness makes more sense than those of the Nagels, Jacksons, and Rosenthals of the world. While I tend to find materialist approaches most convincing, I'm often left wanting with respect to those materialists' understandings of real neuroscience.
What I liked about Flanagan's view is that he doesn't necessarily try to show off any sort of advanced knowledge of neuroscience because he doesn't have it, and realizes it. Instead, he emphasizes a multidisciplinary, practical approach to understanding consciousness.
However, I think he overestimates the importance of psychology -- this is, of course, probably based entirely on my bias as a student of neurobiology and reductionism, which purports someday to reduce psychology to neuroscience. But still, I give him credit for a solid theory that makes intuitive sense.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE PHILOSOPHER/NEUROBIOLOGIST EXPOUNDS "CONSTRUCTIVE NATURALISM", May 22, 2013
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This review is from: Consciousness Reconsidered (Bradford Books) (Paperback)
Owen Flanagan (born 1949) is Professor of Philosophy and Neurobiology at Duke University; he has also written other books such as The Problem Of The Soul: Two Visions Of Mind And How To Reconcile Them, The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to this 1992 book, "Naturalism is the view that the mind-brain relation is a natural one. Mental processes just are brain processes... But there is a gnawing suspicion that the picture of persons as sophisticated information processors leaves something out. And indeed, it does. We are CONSCIOUS CREATURES... Our mental life has a phenomenal side, a subjective side, that the most sophisticated information processor might lack. Whereas the brain seems suited to processing information, it is harder to imagine the brain's giving rise to consciousness. The very idea of consciousness materializing... is puzzling. The rich phenomenology of the conscious stream and complex neural activity appear to belong to two entirely different orders: the subjective and the objective. This book is an attempt to make less puzzling the idea that consciousness is a natural phenomenon." (Pg. xi)

He says in the first chapter, "There are several main philosophical positions on the problem of consciousness... Finally, there is constructive naturalism. This is the position I aim to defend... I think that naturalism is true... I maintain that there is reason for optimism about our ability to understand the relation between consciousness and the brain. We can make intelligible the existence of consciousness in the natural world." (Pg. 2) He adds, "Consciousness IS essentially involved in being intelligent and purposeful in the way(s) in which we are... I take the nature and function of conscious mental events and the action they figure in as fundamental. For this reason I favor a form of functionalism that analyzes input-output relations in terms of the processes that mediate and subserve them in the normal biological cases, not in any possible cases whatsoever." (Pg. 6) He also adds, "The theory of consciousness I favor is a neurophilosophical one, so it will be good if I can have the eminent neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland in my camp." (Pg. 26)

He asserts, "Naturalism can explain why only you can capture what it is like to be you. Only your sensory receptors and brain are properly hooked up to each other and to the rest of you so that what is received at those receptors accrues to you as your experiences. That consciousness exists at all is amazing. But given that it does, Dewey is right that 'there is no mystery with its being connected with what it is connected with.'" (Pg. 94)

He says in the final chapter, "There must be truths about consciousness, since consciousness exists, is a natural phenomena, and is in need of explanation. So there can be a theory of consciousness. What sort of unity the theory will possess and what interrelations it will have to other theories within the overall science of the mind we do not yet know." (Pg. 220) He concludes, "the task is... to sketch a naturalistic theory of consciousness consistent with our natures as biological creatures with nervous systems of a certain kind. There are possible creatures that are identical to us at the level of observable input-output relations but that lack inner lives altogether. We are not like this. Consciousness is essential to human nature and to the human mind." (Pg. 221)

This book is of considerable interest for anyone seriously studying the philosophy of mind, or cognitive neuroscience.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful reading !, April 14, 2000
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This review is from: Consciousness Reconsidered (Bradford Books) (Paperback)
After reading through various titles on Science, Consciousness and philosphy, I came across this title. I was initially apprehensive about one more title. Should I read or not! .
But well I am glad that I did. Never seen a better handling of topic in a simple narrative form.
I recommend this book but little caution that the person should have a little context on this subject.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good But Repetitive Intro to Consciousness, February 14, 2002
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This review is from: Consciousness Reconsidered (Bradford Books) (Paperback)
This book offers an interesting perspective on the topic of consciousness for someone who understands the basics but does not have a sustained, in-depth knowledge of the various theories. It does a good job of presenting Flanagan's own neurophilosophical theory while offering discussion of the competition.
Flanagan does not answer his dualist critics, such as David Chalmers, at great length. He focuses more on other naturalists.
This book is generally a good overview of the topic, though a great deal of the content of this book is contained in Chapter 8 of Flanagan's work "The Science of the Mind." That was a disappointment, and due to that and the fact that the discussion could have been a bit more in-depth, the book gets 4 stars and not 5. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in modern theories of consciousness.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars all great conscious arguments can be found here:, July 31, 2004
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This review is from: Consciousness Reconsidered (Bradford Books) (Paperback)
owen flanagan is a masterful scholar that leaves hope for a concept alot of contemporary scientists have given up on and tried to quine. His naturalistic debates are wonderful and illuminating and he criticizes other scientists and philosophic work. All his points are logical and have proof with citations and selections from other works. For the best naturalistic and contemporary philosophic arguments theres no one else to go to other than owen flanagan.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, August 4, 2014
This review is from: Consciousness Reconsidered (Bradford Books) (Paperback)
I WANT TO SEE THE TABLE CONTENTS OF AMAZON BOOKS!!!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars With all due respect, December 17, 2012
This review is from: Consciousness Reconsidered (Bradford Books) (Paperback)
I noticed the following comment in a review here which many otherwise learned readers considered helpful, to wit:

"We need not despair, nor look in wrong and exotic places like quantum mechanics. Psychology, phenomenology, neurobiology and cognitive science will do. This is useful philosophy."

With all due respect to cousin Owen, this is bulls***. Consider the following quip from Freeman Dyson: "There is nothing else except these [quantum] fields: the whole of the material universe is built of them."

Well, this would seem to constrain the solution set in a wonderful manner. Thus, on a mind/brain identity theory such as we find in Feigl, Chalmers and me, our sensory fields must be quantum fields -- specifically photon fields. For as Abdus Salam explains, "[All] chemical binding is electromagnetic in origin, and so are all phenomena of nerve impulses."

If, as would seem plausible, mental states and processes are "phenomena of nerve impulses," it seems to follow as a ready consequence that mental states and processes are "electromagnetic in origin."

Although a bit jarring, the physics, math and biology all works out beautifully, as I have explained at tedious length. Of course, the reader will need to study up on quantum theory to "get it" and that requires a bit of work -- and so the foregoing is necessarily an exercise in casting pearls before swine. Nonetheless, it is all so simple that I am now secure in the knowledge that, thousands of years from now, people throughout the known universe will misspell my name and misconstrue my meaning.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars but he sure does need a good editor. About as much fun to read as ..., December 9, 2014
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This review is from: Consciousness Reconsidered (Bradford Books) (Paperback)
Content is fabulous, but he sure does need a good editor. About as much fun to read as walking on broken glass.
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Consciousness Reconsidered (Bradford Books)
Consciousness Reconsidered (Bradford Books) by Owen Flanagan (Paperback - December 10, 1993)
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