The Conscious Brain

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OUP USA, Sep 27, 2012 - Philosophy - 397 pages
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Synthesizing decades of research, The Conscious Brain advances a theory of the psychological and neurophysiological correlates of conscious experience. In the first part of the book, Prinz argues that consciousness always arises at a particular stage of perceptual processing, the intermediate level, and that consciousness depends on attention. Attention changes the flow of information and that gives rise to experience. The resulting account is called the AIR Theory, for attended intermediate-level representations. Objections to the theory are addressed. In the second part of the book, Prinz argues that all consciousness is perceptual: there is no cognitive phenomenology, no experience of motor commands, and no experience of a conscious self. This conclusions challenge popular theories in consciousness studies: the view that we can directly experience our thoughts, the view that consciousness essentially involves action, and the view that every experience includes awareness of the subject having that experience. In the third part of the book, Prinz explores the neural correlates of consciousness. He argues attention-hence consciousness-arises when populations of neurons fire in synchrony, and he responds to those who deny that consciousness could be a process in the brain. Along the way, Prinz also advances novel theories of qualia, the function of consciousness, the unity of consciousness, and the mind-body relation, defending a view called neurofunctionism. Each chapter in The Conscious Brain brings neuroscientific evidence to bear on enduring philosophical questions. Major philosophical and scientific theories of consciousness are surveyed, challenged, and extended.

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About the author (2012)

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

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