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The Conscious Brain: How Attention Engenders Experience (Philosophy of Mind) 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195314595
ISBN-10: 019531459X
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"The Conscious Brain achieves three great successes. First, it outlines the possibility of a unified theory of consciousness. Second, it provides a plausible, thorough, and empirically supported account of a perceptual theory of consciousness. And, third, it demonstrates the depth to which first- and third-person events can be theoretically correlated and identities defended.... A spectacularly broad-ranging synthesis of extant scientific and philosophical work on consciousness, it is a unique accomplishment." --Philosophical Psychology


About the Author


Jesse J. Prinz is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York, Graduate Center
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Product Details

  • Series: Philosophy of Mind
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019531459X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195314595
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.4 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,141,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Carlos Camara on January 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Prinz presents a very thought provoking theory of consciousness. It is a cognitive-neuroscience theory, so it includes information processing, neuroscience and philosophical aspects. This is refreshing, as most authors either present a philosophical theory with no information as to how it could be implemented in the brain (Kirk, Tye, etc.) or very neurologically oriented theories with weak philosophical grounding (Edelman, Koch, etc.). Prinz gives us his AIR theory, or "attended intermediate level representation" of consciousness. It depends on 3 main premises: attention is necessary for consciousness (but not sufficient, if I understand correctly), the contents of consciousness are intermediate level representations (in a cortical and information-processing hierarchical sense), and the conscious state is a attention-modulated intermediate representation associated to (in a complex way, not only "available" to) working memory through neural resonance (a type of synchrony or binding, but not quite).

Of course this is not to be taken to imply that Prinz is a representationalist, in fact he opposes mainstream representationalism. He also parts ways from "global workspace" type global availability (Baars, Crick) or neural synchrony binding (Singer, Llinas, Edelman). Prinz defends each premise in a chapter, and then continues to explain how his theory can clarify other problems such as qualia, binding, the phenomenology of thought as well as the usual philosophical issues (materialism, functionalism, gaps and traps etc.).

Of course, the idea of attention being in some way essential for consciousness is not new. At first the "searchlight" hypothesis was widespread.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a highly original work in a very complex, tricky field. I was particularly struck by Prinz's intriguing take on Damasio's accounts of self-awareness and self-consciousness, esp. in the critical account of the thalamus not so much as a locus of consciousness but rather as its precondition, or in Damasio's terms, as consciousness being located in first-order rather than second-order maps, favoring Prinz's quasi-phenomenological view of consciousness as attention and and his claim that attention comes down to availability to working memory.
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Format: Hardcover
Wow, this is a great book, where we finally gets a comprehensive up-to-date, informed account of what consciousness might be all about!
Sure, many of the details are contentious, but Prinz argues well for his views. And even when there is a difference of opinion, there is still a lot to be learned by carefully going through his arguments.

Interest in consciousness has grown steadily over the last quarter century. And getting an overview is pretty difficult, as there are probably almost as many theories as there are authors.
Sure, The Conscious Brain is primarily about Prinz's "Attended Intermediate-level Representation" Theory of Consciousness. But, the book also thoroughly compares with other consciousness theories. Thereby giving readers a better overview of what might be going on in the field of consciousness studies.

Probably, it is not that surprising that there are many theories about consciousness. Afterall, consciousness is a rather complicated thing. So, where (in the brain) should we look for consciousness?
Thinking of the mind as a computer might help. I.e. it is a device that processes information by transforming representations in accordance with rules. And, using this metaphor, it is natural to decompose a big system into various interconnected subsystems, each of which performs some aspect of a complex task.
Given this analysis, Prinz thinks the answer can be found in Ray Jackendoffs 1987 book ''Consciousness and the Computational Mind''. Jackendoffs answer is actually rather simple. He noticed that many of our mental capacities are organized hierarchially. And that it makes sense to talk about low-, intermediate-, and high-level processing systems. Tasks in the brain are broken down into stages.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Pretty good in places. Different questions. Yet falls short somehow.
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