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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 Cric 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.


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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 Cric 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.

30 review for The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory

  1. 5 out of 5

    C.T. Phipps

    Consciousness is the last refuge of the non-religious dualistic thinker. A person who believes reality is more than matter. As Death in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather put it, "TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED." D Consciousness is the last refuge of the non-religious dualistic thinker. A person who believes reality is more than matter. As Death in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather put it, "TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED." David Chalmers is something of a personal favorite among philosophers and scientific thinkers for pointing out while we understand the brain is related to consciousness, it actually doesn't make a damn bit of sense for explaining the how's of electrical impulses in an organic computer turn into "me." This "hard problem of consciousness" is a question which doesn't exist in all scientists' view but remains a vexing issue for many. It also has strong importance for questions regarding things like A.I. and interaction with the rest of reality around us. This book discusses the implications of the fact we actually don't know how it works and does a semi-decent job of explaining it. I say semi-decent job because David gets himself confused and wrapped up in a lot of his metaphors as well as some of his conclusions along the way. He also is somewhat overly enamored of his panpsychism and zombies ideas. I, personally, am a Sir Roger Penrose follower who believe the hard problem of consciousness is the fact information is traveling through our brains versus something that is generated within it. The "universe is the Cloud, brain is the hardware" idea. I tend to also take the view of higher dimensions ala supersymetry which we simply can't perceive the interactions of our reality from as they're non-physical. Chalmers, by contrast, prefers the idea that awareness is in each and every electron of the universe and while that's a natural idea it gives rise to the idea every video game Nazi I mow down is an actual living feeling person. I also think Chalmers' metaphor of zombies is one which should be retired as we have better analogs now. The philosophical zombie is a being which simulates being a human being but is not actually capable of inner thought or reflection. The better metaphor nowadays would be the video game character. I can play a game of Dragon Age and talk to Leliana about her feelings, ambitions, hopes, and dreams but unless I'm an enormous dork--I am aware she doesn't have any of these. There's not a "Wreck it Ralph" style universe where I am in a human-AI relationship. Indeed, I'm inclined to believe A.I. are impossible now because the "inner life" Chalmers speaks of is something that comes from another layer of reality. I think part of the irony there is we've become somewhat bogged down in science that we've forgotten thoughts have a reality of themselves. Chalmers felt the need to create the term Qualia because he felt there needed to be a word for feelings and experiences since we've gotten to the point of confusing neurons firing for the effect it generates (receives?). Plato's The Cave and the Realm of True Forms may have no literal existence (or do they) but they certainly reflect that we need a discussion of the human minds constructs on its own terms. Chalmers creates dualism where the material and thought break off from the physical and while I disagree with that, I am generally confused how it's even an argument. It's like the Weak Anthropic Principle in its obviousness where you'd think even the most die hard materialists would not argue "thought is different from matter." Nevertheless, I have to give this book mad props for the fact it does question the elephant in the corner of consciousness. We can talk about the whys of life and the universe but consciousness is a far harder beast. I disagree with Chalmers that we're never going to crack it but whether panpsychicism, information via microtubles in the neurons, or the immortal soul--we needed to ask the question first. 8/10

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    I enjoy challenging my beliefs, especially the calcified ones. I knew before starting this book that Chalmers would challenge my philosophic materialism, and in a slightly self-punishing way I wish he would have done a better job. He is a brilliant man, and plays in a fucking panpsychic-themed band, and is one of the people I wish were in my circle of friends, but my margin notes became increasingly hostile before abandoning this book altogether. This quote (from a recent Atlantic article wherein I enjoy challenging my beliefs, especially the calcified ones. I knew before starting this book that Chalmers would challenge my philosophic materialism, and in a slightly self-punishing way I wish he would have done a better job. He is a brilliant man, and plays in a fucking panpsychic-themed band, and is one of the people I wish were in my circle of friends, but my margin notes became increasingly hostile before abandoning this book altogether. This quote (from a recent Atlantic article wherein Steve Paulson interviews neuroscientist Christof Koch) encapsulates why I did not finish the book: Interviewer: "There are plenty of very smart scientists and philosophers who say we will never crack the fundamental mystery of how matter turns into mental experience. For instance, the philosopher David Chalmers has talked about the "hard problem of consciousness." He says subjective experience is fundamentally different from what biology and physics can tell us. And he believes that science will never be able to bridge this divide between mind and matter. Do you disagree? Koch: Well, if you look at the historical record of philosophers, it's pretty disastrous. This is little acknowledged. Lots of people from 150 years ago said the same thing about life: "You shall never understand what life is. It requires a special force, élan vital." It didn't turn out to be true. The laws of physics describe life. Roughly 200 years ago, famous philosophers said we'll never know what stars are made of. That was 20 years before they discovered spectroscopy, and of course they realized you can analyze the elements out of which stars are made. So I'm profoundly skeptical when philosophers tell us, once again, what we'll never know. Science has a spectacular record of understanding the universe. Yes, right now it's a hard problem. For its size, the brain is by far the most complex system in the known universe. There's no guarantee that we'll understand it. Our cognitive apparatus just might not be up to it, but in principle I don't see any reason why we should be unable to understand it. Just because some philosopher doesn't get it doesn't mean we shall never know this. It's ridiculous. But a lot of people are very happy about that message because, for various reasons, they don't really want to understand things in the way science does."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    This book can be separated into two parts: 1) A criticism of a materialistic view of consciousness and 2) David Chalmers' foundations for a fundamental theory of mind. The first part is clear, powerful and very convincing. He is organized and thorough, answering the reader's every question. DC covers all of the major arguments against a materialistic view of consciousness, with his conclusion being that mental facts do not logically supervene on physical facts. In other words, it is logically pos This book can be separated into two parts: 1) A criticism of a materialistic view of consciousness and 2) David Chalmers' foundations for a fundamental theory of mind. The first part is clear, powerful and very convincing. He is organized and thorough, answering the reader's every question. DC covers all of the major arguments against a materialistic view of consciousness, with his conclusion being that mental facts do not logically supervene on physical facts. In other words, it is logically possible for all of the physical facts to be the same while the subjective, conscious states are different (his 'zombie argument'). Thus, a reductive physical explanation is always going to fail. DC makes repeated use of the intuitive question: How could physical facts explain the FEELING of this or the LOOK of that? DC's conclusion is to accept that there are non-physical mental facts about the world. Thus, he is a property-dualist (looking a lot like epiphenomenalism). In the second part of the book, Chalmers goes a little crazy. Given the fact that he believes "we are pretty much in the dark" as far as a theory of mind goes, he takes a few stabs in the dark. He starts from the point of the view that although the mental does not supervene on the physical logically, it does supervene on the physical naturally. So in this world, there is a perfect correlation between physical states and mental states. He takes a functionalist line here. In response to critique of functionalism from Block and Searle, Chalmers argues tentatively for strong AI and panpsychism. Everything with a functional organization is conscious, he says! Although I do not agree with his later theses, one cannot fault Chalmers for being creative, especially given the fact that he seems less burdened with preconceived notions and prejudices than other philosophers of mind are. Ultimately, I think the major fault in Chalmers' theory is that he does not go far enough. He offers a convincing critique of materialism, accepts property dualism, but in order to avoid problems of interaction and other stigmas (such as a non-naturalistic worldview), he rejects substance dualism. The problems he is left with are more daunting than the problems of regular interactionism. But in the end, I loved this book!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jana Light

    I go back and forth on this one. I'll need to take a bit to let what I really think about the work bubble to the surface. Review to come. I go back and forth on this one. I'll need to take a bit to let what I really think about the work bubble to the surface. Review to come.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    For a complete laywoman in philosophy and consciousness, this was an enjoyable, interesting read that I could also comprehend.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Griffin Deutsch

    Full disclosure: I did not finish this book, and went into it with a clear physicalist disposition, trying to challenge my own beliefs. For the first third of the book, Chalmers gives a rigorous exposition on notions of different forms of supervenience as well as possible world semantics. He's quite thorough and there was nothing too objectionable, until he got to p-zombies. This is where it went off the rails quick for me. Essentially, Chalmers' whole argument for his brand of property dualism hi Full disclosure: I did not finish this book, and went into it with a clear physicalist disposition, trying to challenge my own beliefs. For the first third of the book, Chalmers gives a rigorous exposition on notions of different forms of supervenience as well as possible world semantics. He's quite thorough and there was nothing too objectionable, until he got to p-zombies. This is where it went off the rails quick for me. Essentially, Chalmers' whole argument for his brand of property dualism hinges on a main inference (p.232): "Conscious experience is not logically supervenient on the physical". To 'prove' this, Chalmers points to the conceivability of p-zombies, saying candidly that he is inclined to take such conceivability as something near obvious or self-evident. Not so much for me. The problem: what does it mean to conceive of a physically identical world in which there are people without conscious experience? It seems that the answer to this, at best, is that we cannot make a clear epistemological claim on whether there is or is not conscious experience. It seems that in this situation under our current neurobiological paradigm this would just be an unknowable situation with any knowledge claim being mere conjecture. The problem being, Chalmers goes the opposite route, as it seems somewhat obvious to him that we *could* know that there is no conscious experience in a "physically identical world". But how could we say this? We'd have to assume that conscious experience is not physical in the first place, or at least does not always arise from physical stuff, which would allow us to conceive of p-zombies in the first place. Seems like a bad assumption to make when arguing against physicalism.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Nomen-Mutatio

    I just returned it to the library. Someday I will finish it. I'm just currently and strongly persuaded by the physicalist and eliminativist end of the spectrum so much so that I simply lost interest. I know of Chalmers reputation as having made great contributions to the subject of consciousness. I think where I most differ with property dualism (anomalous monism being the most persuasive version for me so far) is with regards to the problematic notion of epiphenomenal mental states (which Chalm I just returned it to the library. Someday I will finish it. I'm just currently and strongly persuaded by the physicalist and eliminativist end of the spectrum so much so that I simply lost interest. I know of Chalmers reputation as having made great contributions to the subject of consciousness. I think where I most differ with property dualism (anomalous monism being the most persuasive version for me so far) is with regards to the problematic notion of epiphenomenal mental states (which Chalmers admits is a rather large problem for property dualism, functionalist or not) and the overall attitude towards the ability for neurophenomenology and other collaborations between neuroscience, philosophy, cognitive and/or experimental psychology and other fields in developing better understanding of consciousness. I think that pessimism on this front is pretty much unjustified or at best not up to date on what's taking place research wise. Basically, I think that the mapping of the neural correlates of consciousness and analyzing the data through multiple collaborating fields and then forming theories which may bear out new data which form more theories or refine old ones and continue onward hopefully illuminating new things and giving useful and interesting insights. More later...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ricardo Acuña

    Consciousness is still not completely understood, and many of the great minds in the history have tried to search for a theory to completely explain it but it remains difficult to achieve, up to now. David J. Chalmers makes a remarkable try in this book that is worth to read it. Chalmers recognize that the problem of consciousness lies uneasily at the border of science and philosophy, and is extraordinary difficult, if not impossible, to study using the scientific methods. This is a key fact that Consciousness is still not completely understood, and many of the great minds in the history have tried to search for a theory to completely explain it but it remains difficult to achieve, up to now. David J. Chalmers makes a remarkable try in this book that is worth to read it. Chalmers recognize that the problem of consciousness lies uneasily at the border of science and philosophy, and is extraordinary difficult, if not impossible, to study using the scientific methods. This is a key fact that permeates the rest of the book. Chalmers recognize that the problem of consciousness may be a scientific problem but uses philosophical methods to understand it. For me, neither of both is completely true, and can not be asserted. As matter of fact, no one really knows if consciousness is something to be studied using scientific methods or philosophical methods, or even, some still-unknown method. The first chapters (1-4) use philosophical methods to explain Consciousness, explaining “supervenience” as key concept to define the relationship of mental states with the physical states. It was extraordinary difficult for me to read it and follow it (I´m not a philosopher), so I just skim through most of it (as suggested by Chalmers). A large part of this section is devoted to defining what is consciousness, the conscious experience, the cognitive process, functionalism, physical vs psychical states, and so on. But no final definition of consciousness is fully achieved. Also, the mind-body argument is strongly argued against many of the arguments of other authors (Rosenthal, Dennett among others). Then Chalmers analyze the consciousness problem using a cognitive psychology model and process approach but without really going anywhere. Then interestingly Chalmers switches to quantum mechanics theory as a possible explanation of consciousness being the “observer” entity required for quantum mechanics to work. Then later Chalmers discuss the Information Theory, as another alternative explanation of consciousness which inadvertently bring us to a “panpsychism” realm. This book at heart is really about an epistemic problem. For me this is an important corollary. As Chalmers himself admits: “Given the actual epistemological assumptions. We need to find a new paradigm”. I completely agree with this statement. Chalmers proposes a final theory, as a set of psychophysical laws analogous to fundamental laws in physics, but do not go into the details or the foundations of it. At the end Chalmers seems to agree with the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics: “the Everett interpretation seems in many ways the most attractive, but at the same time it is the hardest to accept.”. There is a lot to say about this book, but it is not my purpose and I´m not able to do a comprehensive review. This book is very technical, I´m not a philosopher, but although it takes me more time than usual to read it, it was worthwhile. I really like to read and know about the consciousness problem, and this book give me valuable answers: Consciousness is out of the scope of science method and philosophy, and we need a new epistemic approach; This book is an evocative journey to understand consciousness from quite different views, perspectives, models, methods, and though not conclusive, it is worthwhile.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paige McLoughlin

    If you are a consciousness or qualia freak then you will really enjoy David Chalmers as he dissects the hard problem of consciousness. Written close to the analytic philosophy tradition of philosophy which has a preoccupation with the mind, brain, AI, Linguistics, Consciousness then this book my friend written in the 1990s will keep you busy for a long long time. David Chalmers is down to earth and fun but he goes deep. Recommended. Chalmers TED talk short form. (2014) https://www.youtube.com/watc If you are a consciousness or qualia freak then you will really enjoy David Chalmers as he dissects the hard problem of consciousness. Written close to the analytic philosophy tradition of philosophy which has a preoccupation with the mind, brain, AI, Linguistics, Consciousness then this book my friend written in the 1990s will keep you busy for a long long time. David Chalmers is down to earth and fun but he goes deep. Recommended. Chalmers TED talk short form. (2014) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhRht... A very metal Chalmers from the 1990s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTIk9...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Lets be clear here. David Chalmers offers the view of "Property Dualism", which rejects strict materialism with the idea that though consciousness is produced by the brain, it is not strictly reducible to the brain. This is informed by the idea that materialist theories of consciousness and neuroscience are "leaving something out" when it comes to consciousness, and I must say that the more philosophy of mind I read, the more I'm convinced this is the case. Now, I'd also like to make it clear t Lets be clear here. David Chalmers offers the view of "Property Dualism", which rejects strict materialism with the idea that though consciousness is produced by the brain, it is not strictly reducible to the brain. This is informed by the idea that materialist theories of consciousness and neuroscience are "leaving something out" when it comes to consciousness, and I must say that the more philosophy of mind I read, the more I'm convinced this is the case. Now, I'd also like to make it clear that I think Chalmers has proposed a theory of mind that has at least as many problems with it as any other theory. However, I think he has made a persuasive argument, that in terms of addressing consciousness, the current paradigm is failing us. That means that there has to be a new paradigm that explains the "hard problem" of consciousness, in a materialist vein, or as Chalmers suggests a dualist vein, or something else entirely. Some philosophers, such as Richard Rorty, have suggested there is no real problem and people like Chalmers are confused by language. He suggests a thought experiment where an alien race instead of saying they feel pain says "My c-fibers are being stimulated." Rorty even gives up the game when he says that if an alien was to say that he feels the sensation of his c-fibers being stimulated but they were not he would say, "Well, it certainly feels like my c-fibers are being stimulated." What Rorty has done, and what Daniel Dennett to a lesser extent does, is deny that subjective experiences are in fact real. This is where the conflict lies. People like Chalmers insist that they will not give up their subjective experience in order to make materialist theories work. Materialists refuse to give up the scientific assumption of materialism than give up subjective experience instead. I'm going to be honest, materialism seems a lot easier to give up on than the fact that when I feel pain, see colors or experience emotions, there is something more going on subjectively than can be accounted for by the objective physical facts. I used to be convinced by David Lewis and his functionalist account, and his response to Frank Jackson about the Mary's Room thought experiment, but I now realize something is missing from this account as well and I was biased due to my ideas of what is properly scientific, that being that materialism must be held onto at all costs. Most of the reviews I have read on Goodreads, especially the extremely negative ones, seem to have been written by people who did not finish the book. Because of this, the reviews have two common straw men. The first straw man is that Chalmers is saying science cannot solve the problem of consciousness. This is not true. In fact, I believe if it can be solved only science can, and certainly not philosophy. Chalmers states that he thinks science can solve it in the introduction, he merely thinks science is currently on the wrong track. Many of these people might have skipped the introduction, I skip introductions to fictional works but never nonfiction works, but a lot of people just skip introductions in general. However, Chalmers addresses this point in great detail more than halfway through the book. I actually disagree with Chalmers a lot on his basic assumptions about science in this book, but we agree that it is a problem that could only be potentially solved by science. The irony is, the more of a realist you are about science then the stronger Chalmers argument about the lack of logical supervenience of the physical facts on phenomenal consciousness becomes. This is why the tactic is to assume there is no problem or that it has already been solved. The second straw man is to misrepresent Chalmers zombie argument. I actually think the zombie argument is unnecessarily confusing. Lets try a different thought experiment. A brilliant scientist creates an android, lets call him Data. This scientist then dies before Data is activated. Data awakens with a psychological and functionally equivalent system to human consciousness but lacks the phenomenal consciousness of humans, including emotions. He travels to earth, and has a full physical knowledge about all the facts of human beings. However, when humans try to explain the phenomenal experience of their consciousness he doesn't believe this exists, because it cannot be logically obtained from the physical facts. This is all the zombie thought experiment states just framed differently, that the physical facts do not supervene on the phenomenal state of consciousness. Data is "functionally" human but is missing something to make him truly and fully human, but because he cannot obtain what his is from physical facts he thinks it does not exist. Chalmers does a good job of addressing every objection a person might have of his view. He doesn't refute all of them but he does address them. Critics of his view could at least be equally as diligent. There are some structural issues I have with this book, mainly that the way things are divided up in the book contributes to boring the reader because they aren't sure what Chalmers is getting at until fifty pages later, and answers to certain objections should be closer to where the idea was originally proposed in the first place. That said, it is a solid and challenging entry on this subject.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elliott Bignell

    The middling star-rating indicates that I was faced with a real dilemma in reviewing this book. Chalmers' conclusions towards the latter half are unobjectionable and would seem a coherent contribution to the problem of consciousness taken on their own. The problem is that the route he takes to get to them is one extended exercise in question-begging, and ultimately self-defeating. Subtly or not so subtly, Chalmers again and again builds arguments based on the assumption of what he seeks to demon The middling star-rating indicates that I was faced with a real dilemma in reviewing this book. Chalmers' conclusions towards the latter half are unobjectionable and would seem a coherent contribution to the problem of consciousness taken on their own. The problem is that the route he takes to get to them is one extended exercise in question-begging, and ultimately self-defeating. Subtly or not so subtly, Chalmers again and again builds arguments based on the assumption of what he seeks to demonstrate. It comes down to "supervenience", and the authors' assertion that subjective consciousness cannot be logically supervenient on physical facts. His arguments to this effect invariably beg exactly that question, for instance in the "arguments from conceivability" which postulate that it is "conceivable" that a zombie could exist without phenomenal consciousness while being atom-for-atom physically identical with a conscious person. Well, yes - conceivable if you can conceive that phenomenal consciousness obtains independent of the physical brain: if, in other words, you assume what Chalmers is setting out to prove. Arguments from conceivability are always suspect, and if Chalmers has really achieved anything with this book it is to show why. Ironically, he returns to this issue later in the book and uses a series of "slippery slope" thought experiments to show that the phenomenal cannot be independent of the physical, showing that fading and dancing qualia lead to inconsistency in a way reminiscent of Douglas Hofstadter. Another argument from conceivability seems to be downright incoherent; Chalmers returns repeatedly to the idea of "inverted" qualia - what if my red is your blue or yellow? Chalmers is obviously familiar with Nagel's paper on the problem of mapping the subjective experiences of others. (Using bats, to be precise.) What he appears to have missed is that Nagel's work shows that the qualia of different individuals are in fact outright incommensurable - there is no sense in which they can be said to occupy a space in which one can be inverted vis-a-vis another. At other junctures, Chalmers pursues Mary, who sees red for the first time and apparently gains new information. But since when did the new information in a new relationship between subject and object require a radical new theory? It seems obvious, blindingly obvious if one wants to be facetious, that the phenomenal "facts" of consciousness arise out of the mapping between the perceiver and the perceived, and someone who sees red for the first time has established a new link in the mapping. I am almost staggered that a philosopher could have missed this. In the end, Chalmers effectively concedes defeat, saying that qualia "just" arise as a fundamental law of his naturalistic dualism in exactly the same way that we could have said all along that they "just" arise out of computational self-reference or introspection. I wanted to shout in rage and frustration at this point. I have been harsh, and could based on my notes have droned on in this vein for longer than the book itself, but I have to say that the latter half tends to make up for it. The blurb suggests rather ridiculously that Chalmers has been courageous in publishing a book that criticises materialism, when evolution-denial and what-the-bleepism in fact suggest that the culture is straining at the bit for ways to shove dualism back onto the agenda. However, Chalmers rejects a "materialistic" and reductive model of consciousness only to promote a naturalistic one based in brain organisation and information theory. And this I can wholeheartedly endorse, while wondering if it was worth the effort of doing it this way. As far as the political environment outside of neuroscience is concerned, naturalistic is presumably no gain over materialistic, so one has to wonder at the fuss! At any rate, Chalmers writes clearly and establishes his terms in a way that one can follow. For this he deserves praise, even if some of his foundations seem to rest on simple fallacies. And I am sure that his conclusions are close to the mark - at some stage we will start to be able to repair the brain with prostheses, and we are already seeing odd translations of the sense of self in telepresence technology. Somewhere down there, the self arises out of what is going on in the brain, and can arise if the same thing goes on in something else. Thus far, I have to agree.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Neal

    Both a great window into the world and questions of philosophy of mind and consciousness and a very detailed and thought-out picture of one philosopher's answers to those questions. Probably not the best book to read first if you haven't delved into the area much before, but it is well written, often funny, and argued with clarity. Chalmers tells you what he's going to argue for, argues for it, then reminds you what he just argued for. He is very systematic, and there is no question that he beli Both a great window into the world and questions of philosophy of mind and consciousness and a very detailed and thought-out picture of one philosopher's answers to those questions. Probably not the best book to read first if you haven't delved into the area much before, but it is well written, often funny, and argued with clarity. Chalmers tells you what he's going to argue for, argues for it, then reminds you what he just argued for. He is very systematic, and there is no question that he believes what he has written to be the truth (or at least something very much approximating the truth of the matter). While well argued, however, his reasoning often depends on one or more appeals to intuition, which while sometimes strong, may not resonate with all readers. He argues against certain intuitions simply because they are intuitions, but he seems to miss that his own arguments are very regularly based on intuitions as well. (Daniel Dennett, among others, has argued that this is exactly the case in his book "Sweet Dreams.") Chalmers does not miss much, but if there are any criticisms of the book, they lie in his aforementioned appeals to intuition and his overuse of Ockham's razor. Simplicity is certainly a goal in explaining the universe, but it doesn't necessarily equate with correctness. Chalmers almost certainly does not believe in this equality of simplicity and veracity, but he does imply it repeatedly throughout the book. All this being said, the book is quite good and very enjoyable. It is a thought-provoking and at times difficult treatise on the Hard Problem of Consciousness by an incredibly intelligent person seeking the truth wherever it may lead, however paradoxical and uncertain. If you are interested in these and related issues, I highly recommend this book. But get your bandages out, because that razor cuts quickly, and often.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bilgewater

    A really fun read. Complex and mentally demanding, this book is sort of like living in the author's mind or listening to him as he thinks out loud. There's a whole lot to think about here, and if you're serious about trying to understand, organize, and digest the ideas presented within, then this book is a very long meal indeed. Split each chapter up as necessary and take it slow; this book does not disappoint. A really fun read. Complex and mentally demanding, this book is sort of like living in the author's mind or listening to him as he thinks out loud. There's a whole lot to think about here, and if you're serious about trying to understand, organize, and digest the ideas presented within, then this book is a very long meal indeed. Split each chapter up as necessary and take it slow; this book does not disappoint.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jafar

    He rejects materialism and subscribes to property dualism. A great book by a mathematician turned philosopher.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Probably the most important philosophy book of the 1990s.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This book is a book about what the conscious mind is, how we use it, and is basically a philosiphy book of sorts.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Arno Mosikyan

    QUOTES In this book I reach conclusions that some people may think of as “antiscientific”: I argue that reductive explanation of consciousness is impossible, and I even argue for a form of dualism. Materialism is a beautiful and compelling view of the world, but to account for consciousness, we have to go beyond the resources it provides. At the root of all this lie two quite distinct concepts of mind. The first is the phenomenal concept of mind. This is the concept of mind as conscious experience, QUOTES In this book I reach conclusions that some people may think of as “antiscientific”: I argue that reductive explanation of consciousness is impossible, and I even argue for a form of dualism. Materialism is a beautiful and compelling view of the world, but to account for consciousness, we have to go beyond the resources it provides. At the root of all this lie two quite distinct concepts of mind. The first is the phenomenal concept of mind. This is the concept of mind as conscious experience, and of a mental state as a consciously experienced mental state. This is the most perplexing aspect of mind and the aspect on which I will concentrate, but it does not exhaust the mental. The second is the psychological concept of mind. This is the concept of mind as the causal or explanatory basis for behavior. On the phenomenal concept, mind is characterized by the way it feels; on the psychological concept, mind is characterized by what it does. The moral of this discussion is that both the psychological and the phenomenal are real and distinct aspects of mind. At a first approximation, phenomenal concepts deal with the first-person aspects of mind, and psychological concepts deal with the third-person aspects. The hardest part of the mind–body problem is the question: how could a physical system give rise to conscious experience? Consciousness is always accompanied by awareness, but awareness as I have described it need not be accompanied by consciousness. The notion of supervenience formalizes the intuitive idea that one set of facts can fully determine another set of facts. The paradigm of reductive explanation via functional analysis works beautifully in most areas of cognitive science, at least in principle. We need not always descend to the neurophysiological level, however. We can frequently explain some aspect of mentality by exhibiting an appropriate cognitive model—that is, by exhibiting the details of the abstract causal organization of a system whose mechanisms are sufficient to perform the relevant functions, without specifying the physiochemical substrate in which this causal organization is implemented. If conscious experience is required for belief or learning, for example, we may not have a fully reductive explanation for belief or learning. But we at least have reason to believe that the psychological aspects of these mental features—which are arguably at the core of the relevant concepts—will be susceptible to reductive explanation in principle. On some accounts, mental properties such as love and belief, although not themselves phenomenal properties, have a conceptual dependence on the existence of conscious experience. If so, then in a world without consciousness, such properties would not be exemplified. Almost everything in the world can be explained in physical terms; it is natural to hope that consciousness might be explained this way, too. In this chapter, however, I will argue that consciousness escapes the net of reductive explanation. No explanation given wholly in physical terms can ever account for the emergence of conscious experience. This may seem to be a negative conclusion, but it leads to some strong positive consequences that I will bring out in later chapters. 1. In our world, there are conscious experiences. 2. There is a logically possible world physically identical to ours, in which the positive facts about consciousness in our world do not hold. 3. Therefore, facts about consciousness are further facts about our world, over and above the physical facts. 4. So materialism is false. In his book Dreams of a Final Theory (1992), physicist Steven Weinberg notes that what makes a fundamental theory in physics special is that it leads to an explanatory chain all the way up, ultimately explaining everything. But he is forced to concede that such a theory may not explain consciousness. There need be nothing especially transcendental about consciousness; it is just another natural phenomenon. All that has happened is that our picture of nature has expanded. Sometimes “naturalism” is taken to be synonymous with “materialism,” but it seems to me that a commitment to a naturalistic understanding of the world can survive the failure of materialism. All I claim is that if one takes consciousness seriously, then property dualism is the only reasonable option. Physics tells us nothing about what mass is, or what charge is: it simply tells us the range of different values that these features can take on, and it tells us their effects on other features.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Duff

    When an argument pulls me kicking and screaming from a doctrinaire mindset, it deserves five stars! Chalmers argues carefully and meticulously for a dualist theory of consciousness, abandoning the materialist assumptions of most academicians. While it was difficult to imagine a non-materialistic, physical account of natural dualism, I now realize the strength and importance of such a theory in all discussions of mind and science in general. It’s a complex read for non-academics, but well worth t When an argument pulls me kicking and screaming from a doctrinaire mindset, it deserves five stars! Chalmers argues carefully and meticulously for a dualist theory of consciousness, abandoning the materialist assumptions of most academicians. While it was difficult to imagine a non-materialistic, physical account of natural dualism, I now realize the strength and importance of such a theory in all discussions of mind and science in general. It’s a complex read for non-academics, but well worth the time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anthony O'Connor

    Thorough and detailed. Definitely worth a read. But as never openly admits he views consciousness as an epiphenomenon. No causal role. And eventually drops into a kind of dualism. Old wine dressed up in fancy jargon. Nothing really new here. Except a solid refutation of Searle’s silly Chinese room nonsense. He even seems to think that the mind-bogglingly stupid idea that consciousness collapses the wave function is a plausible interpretation of ‘measurement’ in quantum mechanics. It was still onl Thorough and detailed. Definitely worth a read. But as never openly admits he views consciousness as an epiphenomenon. No causal role. And eventually drops into a kind of dualism. Old wine dressed up in fancy jargon. Nothing really new here. Except a solid refutation of Searle’s silly Chinese room nonsense. He even seems to think that the mind-bogglingly stupid idea that consciousness collapses the wave function is a plausible interpretation of ‘measurement’ in quantum mechanics. It was still only the 90s!! So an A for effort but keep searching dude.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sam Funderburk

    David Chalmers’ The Conscious Mind is an interesting turn in the search for a fundamental theory of mind. It may come as a surprise that a fundamentally dualist approach underlies a current, academic theory. That said, this book, as has been noted elsewhere, can be divided into two more or less self-contained sections. The first section offers a firm refutation of the reductive materialistic approach that seems to dominate the field. The second section represents Chalmers’ attempt to propose his David Chalmers’ The Conscious Mind is an interesting turn in the search for a fundamental theory of mind. It may come as a surprise that a fundamentally dualist approach underlies a current, academic theory. That said, this book, as has been noted elsewhere, can be divided into two more or less self-contained sections. The first section offers a firm refutation of the reductive materialistic approach that seems to dominate the field. The second section represents Chalmers’ attempt to propose his own foundations for a new theory that does not rely on the false assumptions of reductive materialism. The first section relies on five key arguments, two of which I will comment on here. The first of these is the (in)famous argument from philosophical zombies. This argument is based on a thought-experiment in which one conceives of an identical copy of a human being, except that this copy does not actually experience anything. That is, there is nothing that it is like to be this copy. From the outside, it certainly appears conscious, and would even say that it is conscious upon inquiry; nonetheless, it would lack anything that would recognizably be a conscious mind from the first-person. The point about this argument, that is often overlooked, I believe, is that it only seeks to refute logical supervenience, not the more familiar natural supervenience. Logical supervienence suggests that a higher-level property is fully entailed by lower-level properties. Natural supervenience suggests merely a lawful connection between lower-level properties and higher-level properties. In another way, logical supervenience implies that, given the lower-level facts, the higher-level facts could not have been any other way, in any possible world. Natural supervenience, on the other hand, leaves this possibility open. For example, it is perfectly reasonable to assert that the law of gravity could have been different from what it is. In another possible world, with all the same physical facts, an object on an equivalent earth might accelerate in free fall at 15 meters per second squared, instead of 9.8 meters per second squared, as it would on our earth. The full force of this argument, then, only says that the physical facts alone do not explain conscious experience, there are further fundamental laws that we need to call upon (laws that Chalmers later calls “psychophysical”). This argument alone can be seen as a sufficient refutation of reductive materialism, since the latter does not assert any further fundamental laws. The second argument, which I personally find more indicative of the problem, comes from asymmetric epistemology, which I have previously remarked on in altered form. At its most simple, this argument relies on the fundamental difference between physical and phenomenal explanation: that the former is done in the third-person, while the latter is done in the first-person. Even if we knew all the physical facts about the universe, we would not be in a position to postulate experiences being associated with any objects. We could certainly claim that some organisms claimed to be conscious, but this would be indirect evidence at best. This, I think, is the most fundamental argument against reductive materialism because, as I’ve asked before, given this asymmetry, why would we ever expect a materialistic account to reveal consciousness to us? Now, on to the second part. This part concerns itself with the construction of a theory of consciousness that is free of the influence of materialism. At its heart, this theory differs insofar that it postulates phenomenal experience as a fundamental concept, much as mass-energy and space-time are fundamental in the physical sciences. However, Chalmers tries to distance this view from panpsychism, which states that everything is conscious (however, he later admits that this possibility is not too unreasonable, or even unlikely). The most individuating idea presented is his principle of organizational invariance, which states that any copy of a conscious being, with the same abstract causal structure, will have qualitatively identical phenomenal experiences. In short, his theory could be seen as a sort of non-reductive functionalism that relies on experience as a fundamental. Experience is ubiquitous, then, but only as long as the appropriate causal relations are in place. What counts as appropriate causal relations remains to be seen. The remainder of the second part is less convincing, but is useful nonetheless as an intellectual enterprise. That said, his treatment of the interpretation of quantum physics leaves much to be desired. All in all, this book was more than worth the time I invested in it. Even if his theories turn out to be false, they will be no less pivotal in our quest for understanding one of the most puzzling, mysterious, and all around frustrating aspects of life. As Chalmers himself states from the outset, “If some ideas in this book are useful to others in constructing a better theory, the attempt will have been worthwhile.” As for me, I think that his sentiment has been affirmed. Five out of five stars, recommended to any and all who seek a better understanding of their conscious experiences.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Skylar Miklus

    An admirable proposition for a theory that takes consciousness seriously, but doesn't stray into the Cartesian trap of trusting faith over science. An essential text. Chalmers has changed the way that cognitive scientists will think about consciousness. An admirable proposition for a theory that takes consciousness seriously, but doesn't stray into the Cartesian trap of trusting faith over science. An essential text. Chalmers has changed the way that cognitive scientists will think about consciousness.

  22. 5 out of 5

    John Meech

    Important to read as part of the conversation but I don't think Chalmer's work will stand up. Important to read as part of the conversation but I don't think Chalmer's work will stand up.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Susana

    Chalmers argues interesting points concerning consciousness, but the investigations of Champagne are better suited to a semiotic theory of consciousness.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lulu

    Mind

  25. 4 out of 5

    Wessel

    Don't have that many current philosophers that really inspire me, but this book and Chalmers (including the way he lived his life thusfar) is really inspiring and thought-provoking. Don't have that many current philosophers that really inspire me, but this book and Chalmers (including the way he lived his life thusfar) is really inspiring and thought-provoking.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Timothy

    Not speaking of Henry Bergsons holographic principle of mind is an incredible failing for what is otherwise an excellent book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brian Powell

    Chalmers is a thoughtful practitioner well-acquainted with this field. He's by all accounts a grounded, critically-thinking person. Sadly, to paraphrase Rick James, "consciousness is one hell of a drug." It makes reasonable, well-meaning people go tragically off the rails. Chalmers opens his salvo by claiming that consciousness "does not logically supervene on the physical world". By this he means that once one has fixed all the physical facts about the world, one must add something extra to get Chalmers is a thoughtful practitioner well-acquainted with this field. He's by all accounts a grounded, critically-thinking person. Sadly, to paraphrase Rick James, "consciousness is one hell of a drug." It makes reasonable, well-meaning people go tragically off the rails. Chalmers opens his salvo by claiming that consciousness "does not logically supervene on the physical world". By this he means that once one has fixed all the physical facts about the world, one must add something extra to get consciousness; that is, it is not entailed by the physical facts. There can thus be no reductive explanation of consciousness, and materialism is dead. The basis for this claim comes in the form of four arguments, one of which is the logical possibility of zombies. A zombie is an entity physically identical to a real human but entirely lacking consciousness. The logical existence of such an entity implies that consciousness cannot be logically supervenient on the physical. The trouble with this argument is that it appears badly circular: Why is it obvious that one can simply cleave consciousness from the physical in this way? It can only be done if one presupposes that it can be done. Another argument is given the fancy name "epistemic asymmetry" but after much hand-wringing essentially amounts to the observation that facts about consciousness are subjective. This is indeed true, and presents a significant challenge to the scientific assessment of consciousness; however, falling outside the purview of science (if that's the case) is hardly grounds for concluding that consciousness is not entailed by physical facts. This is related to the fourth argument about Mary, the neuroscientist who has never seen the color red: no amount of reasoning about the physical facts of neurology will allow her to describe the conscious experience of seeing the color red. But again, this is just what it means for a phenomenon to be subjective: a crisis in scientific inquiry or explication, perhaps; but simply being subjective doesn't condemn the phenomenon to the dustbin of dualism. It wasn't until I got to Chalmers' interesting concept of "fading qualia" that I realized what it is that Chalmers might be missing. He proposes this idea to support the concept of "functional invariance" which essentially says that the material form of the mind shouldn't affect its ability to be conscious, so, for example, a brain made out of silicon chips that function like neurons should be just as conscious as one with actual neurons. He argues that if this weren't true, then by starting with a brain made of real neurons and slowly replacing these neurons one-by-one with silicon neurons, eventually consciousness would need to "wink out" as the silicon brain became fully formed. Chalmers claims the only reasonable way for this to happen is for the consciousness (the qualia) the fade gradually, since an abrupt shutting off of consciousness is "almost certainly" a crazy idea. And this is where I wonder: is Chalmers acquainted with the concept of emergence in complex systems? There are several emergent phenomena that arise spontaneously from complex systems at critical moments: water freezing and self-organized firewalls in forests quickly come to mind. So why not consciousness? This might be wrong, but Chalmers seems to miss this possibility entirely. The idea that consciousness arises from the vast complexity of interconnected information processors seems like a very reasonable hypothesis, and it's not even given a breath in this book. Without this explanation, indeed the pickings are slim and philosophers are forced into proposing things like a suite "psycho-physical" laws that sit next to fundamental physics to explain consciousness, as Chalmers does. Strange, as-yet inconceived ideas that bridge the physical and mental, are still wholly physical, yet still non-reductive. There's not much room, if at any at all, to maneuver. Chalmers doesn't succeed in advancing a theory of consciousness based on psycho-physical laws, which is understandable given the challenge. Most of this text is fleshing out what this kind of theory would look like. Often, he aspires to future empirical confirmation of predictions of this theory that would put it on more solid footing, but, alas, we know that consciousness simply cannot be tested in this way because of Mary and her annoying subjective experiences. Overall this book was a slog: not especially difficult but not particularly engaging. Chalmers has an almost clinical writing style, and there are *lots* of extraneous offshoots from the main development that incline you to occasionally lose site of the big picture. And, the dude, at least momentarily, considers the possibility that rocks are conscious. Which is either the most intellectually brave and honest thing I've ever read, or it's a sure sign that Chalmers is irredeemably off the rails.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Stein

    So, there's a lot to be said about The Conscious Mind. The most important thing is that it is stylistically and structurally very strange. Chalmers argues for his version of property dualism from an angle that is not well represented or well appreciated in philosophy of mind: theoretical metaphysics. There is something wonderfully (in my opinion) anti-metaphysical about most of the literature in philosophy of mind; most of the folks in this field (Block, Damasio, Paul Churchland, Dennett, etc.) So, there's a lot to be said about The Conscious Mind. The most important thing is that it is stylistically and structurally very strange. Chalmers argues for his version of property dualism from an angle that is not well represented or well appreciated in philosophy of mind: theoretical metaphysics. There is something wonderfully (in my opinion) anti-metaphysical about most of the literature in philosophy of mind; most of the folks in this field (Block, Damasio, Paul Churchland, Dennett, etc.) really think that these are questions ultimately adjudicated empirically. They're about the matters of fact of how brains and minds work, and how the two relate. It is Chalmers, a lonely soldier with an unrelenting enemy, who is arguing that we ought to seriously consider some metaphysical issues. O.K. I'm exaggerating a bit; Chalmers has a few allies, but they aren't allies who should be comfortable. It's an odd way to attack a hard problem, and Chalmers' book was attempting to break ground on a new potential approach, with a rearticulation of the problem. The book delves into Chalmers' articulation of the problem in the first few sections, and while it has some interesting observations about the metaphysics of mind and the philosophy of science, it makes some claims that are clearly going to be a problem for views later, claims about what sorts of relations we can genuinely attribute to mental states and brain states, and how they relate in terms of their general causal structure. Those who have read a lot of philosophy will see some serious speedbumps in Chalmers' future as he coasts through the middle chapters of the book. They really come back to bite him when he gets into saying some interesting things about the empirical issues, about information and about the relation of accessible information to phenomenal consciousness. There are some really sensible and interesting things going on in Chalmers' discussion of information in Chapter 8, but it gets undercut by some weird entailments of his broader metaphysical view, and it is easy to see why deflationist theorists since Wittgenstein have been running from these grand sorts of metaphysical ideas. I recommend the book for those who are interested in metaphysics and interested in philosophy of mind as a historical venture, but I have to admit, I'm unconvinced that this book matters to contemporary conversations in philosophy of mind. I don't think that Chalmers says anything that a philosopher of mind who believes strongly in the empirical program that works through most of the contemporary study should feel obligated to accept. Some of the observations in the later chapters are interesting, but the amount of material you have to wade through in order to get there is a non-negligible price. The book is well written and interestingly argued; it has some cool ideas about how to do metaphysics in relationship to philosophy of science, but I think that it is also a good study in why exactly we should take seriously a bottom-up or mathematically oriented approach to metaphysics, rather than sort of a general conceptual methodology as we've seen in some areas in 19th and 20th century philosophy of science. There are parts towards the end where it looks like Chalmers is working to reductio himself (especially his discussion of panpsychism) and I can hear the groans of American philosophers of mind reading that material, wondering why these are conclusions that Chalmers is mentioning in the body of the book, rather than burying in the footnotes. Anyway, Chalmers is a terrific philosopher and a terrific writer; for all of my grievances and serious programmatic differences, I can see why there are many philosophers with a peripheral interest in mind who utilize him when talking about particular issues (like epiphenomenalism) in the subfield.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rachael

    Chalmers make a strong and accessible case for the view in the philosophy of mind known as dualism, specifically, property dualism. Whereas many want to retain their metaphysical materialism Chalmers argues that given the nature of experience as qualitatively different this is impossible and we are forced into accepting some kind of dualism- either substance (physical and mental substances which instantiate properties) or property (one substance which instantiates two different kinds of properti Chalmers make a strong and accessible case for the view in the philosophy of mind known as dualism, specifically, property dualism. Whereas many want to retain their metaphysical materialism Chalmers argues that given the nature of experience as qualitatively different this is impossible and we are forced into accepting some kind of dualism- either substance (physical and mental substances which instantiate properties) or property (one substance which instantiates two different kinds of properties). The latter is the simplest and most coherent. His famous argument for the case is the Zombie Argument in which if it is possible to conceive of a possible world on which there are exact physical replicas of all of the people on earth but without conscious experience then conscious experience (phenomenal experience) is not simply identical to physical interactions or an emergent property from physical interactions. We cannot hope to argue the problem away by reducing it as we can with other complex phenomena, like life, because unlike in the life example with conscious experience the appearance IS the reality. Unless a theory deals directly with phenomena itself it isn't addressing the real problem (as eliminativism attempts to do). More fundamentally Chalmers argues that phenomenal experience is not logically supervenient on the physical, that is, given all the basic physical rules of the world conscious experience is not entailed by them in the same way that the laws of chemistry and biology are. While clearly naturally supervenient, that is, we observe consciousness arising from complex biological entities, it is necessary to argue that there is a non physical property to explain the relationship. He goes onto argue that we ought to search for basic psycho-physical laws which would naturally govern how and when phenomenal experience arises and its structure. He argues that the structure of consciousness mirrors or is invariant with awareness, awareness being a psychology property describing how information is retrievable by the system. Chalmers ends the book on a speculative note exploring how information might give rise to elementary kinds of consciousness, wherever information might be found and goes onto apply his insights into arguing for the possibility of strong AI (and in the process answers Searle's Chinese Room Argument) and an exploration of Quantum Mechanics. I highly recommend this book to anybody interested in the philosophy of mind because not only does he give a powerful case for his own view but gives a clear and concise review of the major positions in the field. For anyone attracted to the notion that consciousness is somehow identical to the physical processes in the brain or is simply an emergent, physical property of complex neuronal activity, this book will be a major challenge.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pavel

    Masochistic experience. The book seriously shattered with my illusions about advances of philosophizing mankind. What is more disturbing – the fact that someone feels necessary to scientifically defend existence of consciousness or the intellectual milieu from which this feeling grows and where ignoring consciousness is standard? From this point of view, I could be sympathetic with author’s effort, for he defends the sound intuition. However, the intuition alone could be expected from a thoughtfu Masochistic experience. The book seriously shattered with my illusions about advances of philosophizing mankind. What is more disturbing – the fact that someone feels necessary to scientifically defend existence of consciousness or the intellectual milieu from which this feeling grows and where ignoring consciousness is standard? From this point of view, I could be sympathetic with author’s effort, for he defends the sound intuition. However, the intuition alone could be expected from a thoughtful elementary school child and from philosopher’s work you expect something more and take into account primarily the way of his exposition of the problem. And it felt like sand between my teeth. Let me outline the basic situation: Skip the millennial tradition of thinking where consciousness was always the central point, start from a bizarre, unquestioned view of the world, where such nonsense as awareness, learning or memory without consciousness can be taken seriously and try to take seriously also consciousness. But although it does not fit easily into this raveled image of the world, never consider questioning your presumptions, rather take huge effort developing artificial formal apparatus and meditating fictitious, but seemingly popular and "traditional" problems as zombie worlds or inverted spectrums. But instead of meditating possible worlds, it could be most beneficial to consider at first what the real world is like. In this respect, ignoring philosophical tradition that at least since Socrates struggled with the problem of subjectivity in the world bears fatal consequences of relapse into almost pre-Socratic era. Is there some objective, material, causally closed world and beside this world some isolated conscious subjects experiencing mysterious "qualia", which are something we can never find in the world, nevertheless it seems possible to think about them and compare them as if they were just like other things, only outside the world? Is it possible to take them and compare Joe’s qualia isolated in his consciousness with some other qualia isolated in my consciousness? And can we dissociate these qualia with behavior happening in the world? Well, to me the whole structure seems ridiculous.

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