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The Conscious Mind : In Search of a Fundamental Theory - David J. Chalmers

The Conscious Mind

In Search of a Fundamental Theory

Paperback Published: 1st December 1997
ISBN: 9780195117899
Number Of Pages: 432

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What is consciousness? How do physical processes in the brain give rise to the self-aware mind and to feelings as profoundly varied as love or hate, aesthetic pleasure or spiritual yearning? These questions today are among the most hotly debated issues among scientists and philosophers, and we have seen in recent years superb volumes by such eminent figures as Francis Crick, Daniel C. Dennett, Gerald Edelman, and Roger Penrose, all firing volleys in what has come to be called the consciousness wars. Now, in The Conscious Mind, philosopher David J. Chalmers offers a cogent analysis of this heated debate as he unveils a major new theory of consciousness, one that rejects the prevailing reductionist trend of science, while offering provocative insights into the relationship between mind and brain.
Writing in a rigorous, thought-provoking style, the author takes us on a far-reaching tour through the philosophical ramifications of consciousness. Chalmers convincingly reveals how contemporary cognitive science and neurobiology have failed to explain how and why mental events emerge from physiological occurrences in the brain. He proposes instead that conscious experience must be understood in an entirely new light--as an irreducible entity (similar to such physical properties as time, mass, and space) that exists at a fundamental level and cannot be understood as the sum of its parts. And after suggesting some intriguing possibilities about the structure and laws of conscious experience, he details how his unique reinterpretation of the mind could be the focus of a new science. Throughout the book, Chalmers provides fascinating thought experiments that trenchantly illustrate his ideas. For example, in exploring the notion that consciousness could be experienced by machines as well as humans, Chalmers asks us to imagine a thinking brain in which neurons are slowly replaced by silicon chips that precisely duplicate their functions--as the neurons are replaced, will consciousness gradually fade away? The book also features thoughtful discussions of how the author's theories might be practically applied to subjects as diverse as artificial intelligence and the interpretation of quantum mechanics.
All of us have pondered the nature and meaning of consciousness. Engaging and penetrating, The Conscious Mind adds a fresh new perspective to the subject that is sure to spark debate about our understanding of the mind for years to come.

Industry Reviews

"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 "The Conscious Mind is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of consciousness. Chalmers pursues an idea that most other writers on consciousness have ignored, either because they haven't thought clearly enough to notice it or because they were terrified of acknowledging it. Writing The Conscious Mind was an act of courage, and Chalmers was no doubt emboldened by a well-founded confidence that he could state his argument with impeccable clarity and rigor."--Steven Pinker, MIT, author of The Language Instinct "Chalmers has written an exciting and fascinating book. I hope that because of it, consciousness in all its paradoxical glory will once more hold center stage in a robust philosophy of mind."--Eric Dietrich, Minds and Machines (This quote must be used in FULL! No exceptions. THIS QUOTE MUST BE USED FIRST IN ALL PROMOTIONS!!!) "The Conscious Mind is exceptionally ambitious and exceptionally successful--the best book in philosophy of mind for many years. It flies in the face of fashion, making a formidable case against materialistic orthodoxy. Legions of materialists are no doubt busy writing their rejoinders; but there will be few points left for them to make that Chalmers hasn't made already. We of the materialist opposition cannot go on about how he has overlooked this and misunderstood that--because he hasn't. All we can do is to disagree about which way the balance of considerations tilts."--David Lewis, Princeton University "This book should be widely read by those trying to fathom the physical basis of consciousness."--Christof Koch, Nature "Chalmers has done the field of consciousness studies a great service by taking its subject matter so seriously, Doing so has resulted in a work that reads like the swan song of reductionism, yet simultaneously offers a glimpse of its replacement."--J. Scott Jordan, Contemporary Psychology "His rich argumentation, considered self-objections, and useful thought-experiments contribute to a fruitful analysis of much of contemporary philosophy of mind/cognitive science. The writing is accessible to the informed general reader while providing sufficient formalization for specialists.... Useful, detailed notes and bibliography contribute to a highly recommended text."--Choice "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 "Certainly one of the best discussions of consciousness in existence, both as an advanced text and as an introduction to the issues....Chalmers has done about as good a job as could be done on this most intractable of problems." --Colin McGinn, The Times Higher Education Supplement "Taking as his starting point some very intuitive notions about consciousness, David Chalmers arrives at strange and startling conclusions about what this central knot of human existence really is. This is a grand exploration of the topic, brilliantly argued by someone who knows the territory inside out. Though I personally can't go everywhere Chalmers wants to take me, he's certainly one of the best possible guides."--Douglas Hofstadter, Indiana University "This splendid book is essential reading for anyone interested in the place of consciousness in the natural world. Chalmers argues persuasively and eloquently that standard reductive approaches in cognitive science and in philosophy of mind inevitably address only the easier problems associated with consciousness while ignoring the hard and central problem of explaining the phenomenal ("what it's like") qualities of experience--and that there is no hope of explaining these features reductively....The book is lucidly and engagingly written and is accessible to a wide audience of readers."--Terence E. Horgan, The University of Memphis "Consciousness is the challenge to the physicalist orthodoxy in current cognitive science and philosophy of mind. This book is a brilliant presentation of that challenge. In addition, it is a major essay in the philosophy of mind that has much to teach us whatever our allegiances."--Frank Jackson, Australian National University "In my view, The Conscious Mind will likely be considered the best of the many books that have appeared on the topic of consciousness in the past several years. Unlike many recent writers, Chalmers does not evade the problem of consciousness by redefining the problem away; he faces the problem squarely and is prepared to take the consequences. The book is written with admirable and refreshing clarity, and brims with enthusiasm and a sense of excitement."--Jaegwon Kim, Brown University "In theorizing about the 'hard' problem of consciousness, Chalmers adopts the most sensible approach among contemporary philosophers. Unlike most of his colleagues, he embraces the phenomenal reality of consciousness as given and attempts to explain it within a scientific framework. His book goes a long way towards establishing the seemingly obvious: consciousness is a real phenomenon of the natural world that cries out for a rational, naturalistic explanation."--Christof Koch, California Institute of Technology "The most comprehensive book to date on consciousness. It presents an exciting new theory that expands our conception of the natural world without being reductive or non-naturalistic."--Owen Flanagan, Duke University "Eloquent, fiendishly clever....One of the best science books of the year."--John Cornwell,The Sunday Times "David Chalmers is a superb writer. He is able to make the subjectof consciousness interesting, even to the nonphilosopher, because of his talent to address the topic in a style that is admirably clear."--Frederick Gregory, International Journal of Quantum Chemistry "The Australian philosopher David Chalmers presents a formidable theory of consciousness. What Chalmers is saying is, quite simply, that the physical sciences can explain everything except consciousness, and he uses his several variants of supervenience to prove it mathematically. The book includes two chapters on popular subjects, just for the heck of it: one on Artificial Intelligence and one on Quantum Mechanics. The latter is another reason to buy the book. Chalmers' arguments are adorned with lots of subtleties for philosophers, but Chalmers is certainly aware that those philosophical subtleties tend to annoy readers from other disciplines (and tend to age badly). The bottom line is that Chalmers believes consciousness can be explained by studying nonphysical properties of matter, and that the mind-body problem is truly a cognition-consciousness problem. This is a view that researchers from several scientific disciplines may be keen to share."-- Piero Scaruffi, Thymos.com

Introduction: Taking Consciousness Seriously
Two Concepts of Mindp. 3
Supervenience and Explanationp. 32
Can Consciousness Be Reductively Explained?p. 93
Naturalistic Dualismp. 123
The Paradox of Phenomenal Judgmentp. 172
The Coherence Between Consciousness and Cognitionp. 213
Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualiap. 247
Consciousness and Information: Some Speculationp. 276
Strong Artificial Intelligencep. 309
The Interpretation of Quantum Mechanicsp. 333
Notesp. 359
Bibliographyp. 391
Indexp. 405
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195117899
ISBN-10: 0195117891
Series: Philosophy of Mind Series
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 432
Published: 1st December 1997
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 26.62 x 11.86  x 2.9
Weight (kg): 0.7

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