- Series: MIT Press
- Paperback: 830 pages
- Publisher: A Bradford Book; 1 edition (August 8, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262522101
- ISBN-13: 978-0262522106
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.7 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #558,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates 1st Edition
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Almost everyone agrees that we possess consciousness, but as this book demonstrates, that's where the agreement ends. What can we say about the mind without fear of contradiction? Not much, and that's how the study of consciousness stands out from other scientific and philosophical endeavors--the field's great minds argue cogently with little common ground, and nothing is safe from questioning.
For the adventurous and thoughtful reader, this is a paradise on the frontiers of knowledge. The Nature of Consciousness presumes a basic familiarity with science and philosophy, as well as a willingness to think and read carefully. With articles by such bright lights as Daniel Dennett, John Searle, Patricia Smith Churchland, and even the great William James, it provides both a comprehensive overview of the field and in-depth analyses of such issues as the mind-body problem and how we can study a phenomenon that may not be observed directly. It is best read as an update on Western scientific and philosophical replies to one of the great questions: Who are we? Given the universal appeal of such a question, the reader will undoubtedly find much within to challenge, puzzle, frustrate, and delight. --Rob Lightner
This is a very impressive volume―a comprehensive and superbly edited collection of essays on the hottest topic in the philosophy of mind. It will be the standard text for undergraduate and graduate courses dealing with consciousness.(Stephen P. Stich, Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science, Rutgers University & CUNY Graduate Center)
This book has been worth waiting for. It is the first, and the only, comprehensive collection of contemporary writings on the topic of consciousness. If anyone needed a proof that consciousness has returned―and regained its rightful place―as a fundamental problem in the philosophy and science of the mind, here it is. The book brings to us, in one satisfyingly hefty volume, the classic papers of the past three decades that have shaped the current debates on consciousness, together with more recent, 'state-of-the-art', discussions of all the major approaches and positions in this area. The familiar primary contributors to the field are represented here as well as many fresh voices with interesting things to say. The reader will get from this volume not only a full picture of the current state of the field but also a good sense of where the debates are headed. The appearance of this volume is a significant landmark: it both demonstrates the philosophical maturity of the field and lays out its problematic for the future. The three editors deserve our congratualations and gratitude for a job well done. Their book not only gives us a comprehensive coverage of the field but also, in an important way, helps to define the field itself.(Jaegwon Kim, Professor of Philosophy, Brown University)
A grand tour of the best of the exploding literature on consciousness. This indispensible collection covers a wide range of topics, from metaphysics to methodology, neuropsychology and more. The papers are well-chosen: diverse, multi-faceted yet without exception substantial. A rock crusher!(Andy Clark, Professor of Philosophy and director of the Philosophy/Neuroscience/Psychology Program, Washington University)
A broad set of essays on consciousness, many of which deal with foundational issues in Psychology and Philosophy of Psychology.They should be of interest to cognitive psychologists in general, including those doing cognitive neuroscience since many of the essays feature results and ideas from neuroscience.(Edward E. Smith, Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan)
This comprehensive collection brings together all the materials needed for an upper division or graduate level course on consciousness. It should greatly enhance both the teaching and the study of this most important and puzzling phenomenon.(Patricia Kitcher, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, University of California)
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The Preface states, "These are exciting times for thinking about consciousness, and this book represents the cornerstones of contemporary philosophical thinking on the subject. Also included is a small corpus of articles representative of current psychology and neuropsychology research on consciousness that has given rise to fruitful discussions in the philosophy of mind. We hope that this book will be useful for philosophers in presenting a structured overview of the relevant literature on consciousness... We are witnessing an upsurge of interest in consciousness concurrently in several disciplines---most notably, philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience." (Pg. xi)
One essayist wrote, "In order to get into some of the inner structure ... consider the following five questions... 1. What are the media and mechanisms of consciousness? Can consciousness occur in any type of material substance, or does it have to have a specific kind of underpinning (e.g., a carbon-based molecular structure)?... 2. Where is, if anywhere, the locus of consciousness? Can consciousness be localized in a specific organ... 3. Who can be said to be a conscious being?... 4. Why is there consciousness at all, and what is the role it plays in the general scheme of mental life and behavior of an organism?... 5. How does consciousness arise in, or emerge from, its underlying substance, structure, and mechanism, in the way it does?" (Pg. 31)
Owen Flanagan observes, "There are... no very good theories about why conscious experientially hominids should have been favored over merely informationally sensitive ones, and although it is pretty clear that sensational consciousness... comes with the human genome, it is not clear that, for example, moral self-consciousness does. Moral self-consciousness, like the ability to play chess or basketball, is allowed by our genes, but it was hardly selected for." (Pg. 101)
John Searle provides an illustration of a brain made out of silicon chips, then admitting, "I hasten to add that I don't for a moment think that such a thing is even remotely possible. I think it is empirically absurd to suppose that we could duplicate the causal powers of neurons entirely in silicon. But that is an empirical claim on my part. It is not something that we could extablish a priori. So the thought experiment remains valid as a statement of logical or conceptual possibility." (Pg. 493)
Nagel's famous article, 'What Is It Like to Be a Bat?' is included, wherein he says, "Conscious experience is a widespread phenomenon. It occurs at many levels of animal life... But no matter how the form may vary, the fact that an organism has conscious experience AT ALL means, basically, that there is something it is like to BE that organism.... fundamentally an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is like to BE that organism---something it is like FOR the organism." (Pg. 519) He adds, "It will not help to try to imagine that one has webbing around one's arms... that one has very poor vision, and perceives the world by a system of reflected high-frequency sound signals... Insofar as I can imagine this ... it tells me only what it would be like for ME to behave as a bat behaves. But that is not the question. I want to know what it is like for a BAT to be a bat." (Pg. 520-521)
This collection of articles will be "must reading" for anyone seriously studying the philosophy of mind, or consciousness studies.