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The Character of Consciousness (Philosophy of Mind) Paperback – October 28, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"For all that Chalmers offers us his magnificent, mammoth and challenging tour de force, there are many conservative strands in his thought that warrant serious challenge. The first step is to get to know his arguments in detail -- and there is no better place to start than with this book."--Daniel D. Hutto, Philosophy

"This huge collection is very well written and well organized. Readers can start their intellectual journey from virtually any chapter, and try to broaden their intellectual journey by reading related chapters. The technicality is limited so that it does not thwart understanding in general. It is written for both professional philosophers and serious lay people." --Metapsychology

"This valuable book brings together the important work that David Chalmers has done on the topic of consciousness since the publication of his seminal The Conscious Mind in 1996. It includes an expanded treatment of his semantic two-dimensionalism and his argument against physicalism, along with a number of insightful discussion of conscious experience that are independent of these. No one interested in these topics should be without this book." --Sydney Shoemaker, Cornell University

About the Author

David J. Chalmers is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness at Australian National University and New York University. He is the author of The Conscious Mind, Philosophy of Mind: Classic and Contemporary Readings, and editor of the OUP series Philosophy of Mind.

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Product Details

  • Series: Philosophy of Mind
  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195311116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195311112
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1.5 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Paul L. Nunez on November 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Chalmers' earlier book The Conscious Mind. In Search of a Fundamental Theory (1996) was widely reviewed and praised. This new book may be viewed partly as a sequel; however, much of it consists of essays published earlier but updated to incorporate changes in Chalmers' ideas over the years, as well as providing smoother transitions between the 14 chapters. Some readers may be put off by this duplication, but I was happy to have everything easily available in one place and to hear of Chalmers' latest thoughts. I awarded five stars based on his excellent in-depth treatments of several areas of central interest to me even though other parts of the book may be read only by professional philosophers. Warning: If you are new to consciousness studies, this book is probably not the place to start.

Neuroscientist Christof Koch suggests that scientists should pay close attention to questions posed by philosophers, but not take their answers too seriously. This may be good general advice, but for me, Chalmers does an excellent job of presenting a plausible spectrum of prevailing metaphysical views labeled Types A-C (reductionist) and D-F (non reductionist) with his strongest arguments favoring the latter. He suggests, for example, that information may play a critical role in a theory of consciousness in addition to its known importance in the physical sciences (more on this later). Related to this informational conjecture is a chapter employing the popular movie The Matrix to address issues concerning our knowledge of the external world.
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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Joe J. Kern on October 31, 2010
Format: Paperback
First of all, this book is not the place to start if you're just getting into the field. It's an expansion on and updating of Chalmers' first book, 1996's The Conscious Mind, which largely consisted of his PhD dissertation after only four years of studying philosophy, and was somewhat hastily rushed into publication after he accidentally attained celebrity for elucidating the difference between the "hard" and "easy" problems in consciousness at a conference in 1994. The Character Of Consciousness is a more definitive statement of his views as a mature philosopher, a compilation and updating of separate pieces he has published since the first book, often times delving much deeper into the arguments and answering specific criticisms.

So, while The Character Of Consciousness may make gains in clarity, breadth, organization, and soundness of argument, Chalmers has lost some of the fervor that made parts of the first book such a thrill to read, and much of his connection to the layman. The ideas were new to him back then, and he was excitedly explaining them to himself as much as he was hoping to share them. He hasn't altered his views radically since that time, and The Character Of Consciousness loses some energy in its careful planning and execution, and due to the disparate origins of many of the sections.

But if you are sufficiently interested in philosophy of mind that you are prepared to read several books to get a deep understanding of a variety of perspectives and arguments, then I'd say Chalmers should certainly be one of them, as he is still a (if not the) leading non-materialist, and his earlier book (The Conscious Mind) rather than this one would be the one to start with.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bryce on December 30, 2012
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The content of this book is great. Chalmers is one of the foremost philosophers of his time. But note: this book is merely a collection of his papers, which can already be found for free on his website and elsewhere. The essays may be modified a bit, but so far as I can tell they are basically the same.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By dj on July 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Simply put, "The Character of Consciousness" is one of the most cogent, decisive, extant analyses of the mind and its place in nature.

I won't go into specific detail about the content of the book, as this information is available through's preview feature of the book's introduction. Here, it suffices to say that in "The Character of Consciousness", Chalmers both expands upon his previous work (i.e., "The Conscious Mind"), and goes far beyond it. The topics are elucidated and fleshed out, and various responses or criticisms are addressed in great depth. While this book is indeed dedicated to the philosophy of mind, much of the discussions therein also have broader implications/consequences for cognitive science, neuroscience, epistemology, and metaphysics.

True - as other reviewers have mentioned, much of this book is probably unsuitable for the layperson in philosophy or cognitive science. However, there are a handful of chapters that are much more accessible than others. Chalmers writes in a very straightforward manner that is easily understood (if, of course, you have a basic comprehension of the relevant topics/debates, and are familiar with some technical philosophical jargon). He is not at all verbose.

In sum, "The Character of Consciousness" is highly recommended - without a doubt essential reading in the philosophy of the mind.
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