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The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (Philosophy of Mind Series) Paperback – November 27, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0195117899 ISBN-10: 0195117891 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Philosophy of Mind Series
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 27, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195117891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195117899
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1.2 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Chalmers (philosophy, Univ. of California at Santa Cruz) analyzes the mind-body problem in terms of that elusive relationship between the physical brain and conscious events. Focusing on subjective experience as such, he rejects all reductive (materialist) explanations for conscious experience in favor of a metaphysical framework supporting a strong form of property dualism. His theory is grounded in natural supervenience, the distinction between psychological and phenomenological properties of mind, and a novel view of the ontological status of consciousness itself. Chalmers uses thought experiments (e.g., zombie worlds, silicon chips, a global brain, and inverted spectra) and discusses such issues as causation, intentionality, and epiphenomenalism. Even so, the critical reader is left asking, How can physical facts be relevant to the emergence of consciousness beyond an evolutionary naturalist worldview. Ongoing neuroscience research may provide a sufficient explanation of consciousness within a materialistic framework. Nevertheless, as a scholarly contribution to modern philosophy, this is suitable for all academic and large public libraries.?H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Certainly one of the best discussions of consciousness in existence."--The Times Higher Education Supplement

"A startling first book....Offers an outstandingly competent survey of the field."--The Economist

"Chalmers shakes up the reductionist world of neurological research by asserting that scientists need to approach the conscious experience as a basic, nonphysical component of the world, similar to time, space, and matter."--Science News

"David Chalmers is widely credited for posing the so-called hard problem of consciousness:...What is the nature of subjective experience? Why do we have vividly felt experiences of the world? Why is there someone home inside our heads?"--The New York Times

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Customer Reviews

I highlighted throughout the book though and plan to reread these sections.
Ida Santos-Vissiere
Chalmers observes that subjective information processing invariably accompanies sensory and neural signal processing.
Alex Vary
The book is very clearly written; you don't need a formal education in philosophy to follow his arguments.
Willam Penn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

126 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Willam Penn on November 30, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The basic problem with any materialist theory of consciousness is that there is no room for consciousness to *do* anything -- it is caused by certain material processes but does not itself cause anything. The firing of a neuron can always be explained in terms of the firing of other neurons, the impingement of a photon on a photoreceptor, or some other objectively observable cause. At no point is it necessary to say that "this neuron fired because the brain it was part of had such-and-such a subjective experience". Thus consciousness is not logically necessary in our objective description of the material world, so we can at least conceive of a world where David Chalmers' zombie twin writes papers and books about the mind-body problem without ever having any subjective experience itself. This seems absurd but the absurdity is inherent in all the various flavors of functionalism or property dualism. And "new physics" won't change the picture at all -- string theory, quantum gravity, quantum multiverses, and any as yet unconcieved of physical theory are all simply more of the same kind of "ontological stuff" that we already have -- objective procedures for predicting the behavior of objectively measurable things.
Some functionalists attempt to make the problem go away simply by declaring conscious states a matter of definition -- "pain" is some set of states of an information processing system, "pleasure" is some other, etc. Thus whether a robot that makes a convincing whine when you hit it actually experiences pain is a matter of definition.
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76 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Owen Flanagan on March 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
A bunch of us (PS Churchland, PM Churchland, Dan Dennett, Frank Jackson, Colin McGinn, Joe Levine ,Tom Nagel, John Searle, Jaegwon Kim, and many others) have been writing about how to understand how talk of *mind* and talk of *brains* connect and if, and in what sense, mind *is* brain. Dave Chalmers breaks out of the crowd & makes us rethink everything. I am on record as not thinking the *hard problem* is as hard as Dave does; but read Chalmers for the argument that I (& most others underestimate) the difficulty. I think also that the move from conceivability (of zombies) to possibility is a problem. The fact remains that this is the most important work in consciousness studies in recent years.

One small thing: one reviewer of my *Consciousness Reconsidered* complains that I don't respond to Chalmers. This is true. My defense: my book appeared 4 or 5 years before Dave's. It would have been hard to respond to him.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book; it should be read as a companion to mathematician/neuroscientist Scott's Stairway to the Mind. Both authors take the position of naturalistic dualism (Scott based on emergent properties and nonlinear mathematics) as well as questioning the role of quantum physics in consciousness (both see it as just another factor which still doesn't answer the question). The book provides a welcome comparison and criticism of different theories. Although Chalmers is more honest and humble in his approach than is Dennet, I still believe we are a long ways away from uncovering the ultimate nature of conscious awareness. This being said, the naturalistic dualism of Scott and/or Chalmers seems more reasonable than the reductionism of the Churchlands or Dennet--denying consciousness doesn't make it go away.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By J.C. on January 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is an incredibly important book, as it cogently & decisively challenges a view of mind that is something of a received dogma in philosophy of mind, namely, materialism/physicalism. Chalmers is machine-like in tearing down the superficially strong but ultimately weak arguments from the materialist side. Any impartial reader will come to the conclusion that something is very wrong w/ materialism; the only ones who will deny this are those in the hold of the dogma themselves.
Reading through the other reviews here, I have noticed several criticisms the indicate that the reviewer did not read the book in its entirety. For example, one review complains that Chalmers does not recognize the difference between conceivability & possibility, when it fact a significant chunk of the book is devoted to exactly that distinction, w/ Chalmers making it quite clear why the distinction is irrelevant to his argument.
One methodological advantage of the book, by the way, is that it is readable by people w/ all levels of philosophical background. Sections that are largely technical are marked w/ an *, and the book is structured so that these sections can be skipped w/o losing the main story & argument of the book. Beware, however, of attempting to critique Chalmers' view on technical philosophical grounds without reading the * sections (as the reviewer mentioned above seems to).
Anyway, this is a well-written, important book by one of the most interesting & exciting philosophers around. Anyone interested in philosophy of mind or cognitive science will do well to own it.
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