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Perplexities of Consciousness (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) Hardcover – January 28, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


I highly recommend to take a good time with this book. Its reading is worthy for all people interested in psychology, philosophy of mind, cognitive sciences and consciousness studies.

(David Fajardo-Chica Metapsychology)

About the Author

Eric Schwitzgebel, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, is the co-author (with Russell T. Hurlburt) of Describing Inner Experience? Proponent Meets Skeptic (MIT Press, 2007).

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Product Details

  • Series: Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology
  • Hardcover: 238 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book (January 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262014904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262014908
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,831,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Shaby on December 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Perplexities of consciousness is an excellent work, it is clear, concise and easy to read. The work focuses on why humans in general are poor judges of their conscious phenomenology or their ongoing conscious experience. Schwitzgebel challenges the reader through various avenues - what color do we dream in? do objects appear flat or elliptical? What do we see when our eyes are closed? Are we constantly receiving (and aware) of feedback from our shoes etc.? In all these cases, Schwitzgebel's philosophical argumentation takes the following form: 1) Opinions regarding the above mentioned phenomena vary tremendously, even among "experts" in the field, 2) it is not possible for opinion to vary this much, C) We really do not know the answers to these basic questions and thus we are not aware of our ongoing conscious and basic phenomenology.

My critiques: 1) The book does not focus on consciousness except in one chapter where the different "models" of consciousness are assessed such as the sparse, abundant, and moderate views. Consciousness is never clearly defined in the book. Rather the book has to do with "introspection" going wrong. 2) I find it difficult to accept a scenario where my introspection can be wrong, I've no doubt that my sensory or cognitive machinery may err, however, I introspect correctly on these incorrect mental states. An example of introspection going wrong would be someone introspecting pleasure- however they are not in any physical or mental state of pleasure and thus their introspection is wrong. However, if I view the world as being red all the time because of a problem in my retinal machinery, it is clear that my senses are wrong, however, my introspection is still correct to say "the world appears red". If I see the world in color, but my visual areas in the brain translate this into a red world, once again, my introspection leads me to believe the world is red. Is this really an introspective problem? I am not convinced as such.
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Format: Paperback
As I first started reading "Perplexities of Consciousness," I wondered whether I would want to read a whole book about questioning introspection. I'm glad that I did, because the author does an excellent job casting doubt upon our abilities to reliably examine our own thinking and perceiving. In each of the chapters, Schwitzgabel tackles a subject such as dreaming in color, the abundance or sparsity of consciousness, what we "see" with our eyes closed, etc., and proceeds to demonstrate that it's not clear what the right answers are since so many experts (and experimental subjects) disagree (the author challenges the reader to try out the experiments and it is quite worthwhile to do so). The book is well-written, though I found a couple of sections slow going with details more useful for researchers in the field than the lay person with a deep interest in consciousness (that would be me). Fortunately one can skim those sections without losing much. I expect that I'll be thinking about this book and the perplexities it raises for a long time.
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