The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, 1996 - Medical - 414 pages
21 Reviews
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.
  

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
8
4 stars
6
3 stars
6
2 stars
0
1 star
1

Review: The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory

User Review  - Joseph Sverker - Goodreads

Well, this was a long read. I was suppose to read it in a much shorter period of time, but it got sidelined a bit by other reading projects. The slow reading pace meant that it was difficult to follow ... Read full review

Review: The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory

User Review  - Pablo Stafforini - Goodreads

Only the cognitive mind can be explained reductively; phenomenal consciousness is a non-physical feature of the natural world. Read full review

Contents

Two Concepts of Mind
3
2 The phenomenal and the psychological concepts of mind
11
3 The double life of mental terms
16
4 The two mindbody problems
24
5 Two concepts of consciousness
25
Supervenience and Explanation
32
2 Reductive explanation
42
3 Logical supervenience and reductive explanation
47
2 Principles of coherence
218
3 More on the notion of awareness
225
4 The explanatory role of coherence principles
233
5 Coherence as a psychophysical law
242
Absent Qualia Fading Qualia Dancing Qualia
247
2 Absent qualia
251
3 Fading qualia
253
4 Inverted qualia
263

4 Conceptual truth and necessary truth
52
5 Almost everything is logically supervenient on the physical
71
Can Consciousness Reductively Explained?
93
2 The failure of reductive explanation
106
3 Cognitive modeling
111
4 Neurobiological explanation
115
5 The appeal to new physics
118
6 Evolutionary explanation
120
7 Whither reductive explanation?
121
Naturalistic Dualism
123
2 Objections from a posteriori necessity
131
3 Other arguments for dualism
140
4 Is this epiphenomenalism?
150
5 The logical geography of the issues
161
6 Reflections on naturalistic dualism
168
The Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment
172
2 The paradox of phenomenal judgment
177
3 On explaining phenomenal judgments
184
4 Arguments against explanatory irrelevance
191
5 The Argument from selfknowledge
192
6 The argument from memory
200
7 The argument from reference
201
8 The content of phenomenal beliefs
203
The Coherence Between Consciousness and Cognition
213
5 Dancing qualia
266
6 Nonreductive functionalism
274
Consciousness and Information Some Speculation
276
2 Aspects of information
277
3 Some supporting arguments
287
4 Is experience ubiquitous?
293
5 The metaphysics of information
301
6 Open questions
308
Strong Artificial Intelligence
313
2 On implementing a computation
315
3 In defense of strong AI
320
4 The Chinese room and other objections
322
5 External objections
328
6 Conclusion
331
The Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics
333
2 The framework of quantum mechanics
334
3 Interpreting quantum mechanics
337
4 The Everett interpretation
346
5 Objections to the Everett interpretation
351
6 Conclusion
356
Notes
359
Bibliography
391
Index
405
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (1996)


David J. Chalmers is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His article "The Puzzle of Conscious Experience" appeared in the December 1995 issue of Scientific American.

Bibliographic information