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Consciousness

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Proponent Meets Skeptic

Can conscious experience be described accurately? Can we give reliable accounts of our sensory experiences and pains, our inner speech and imagery, our felt emotions? The question is central not only to our humanistic understanding of who we are but also to the burgeoning scientific field of consciousness studies.

Collected Papers

This volume of Ned Block's writings collects his papers on consciousness, functionalism, and representationism. A number of these papers treat the significance of the multiple realizability of mental states for the mind-body problem—a theme that has concerned Block since the 1960s. One paper on this topic considers the upshot for the mind-body problem of the possibility of a robot that is functionally like us but physically different—as is Commander Data of Star Trek's second generation.

Our intuition tells us that we, our conscious selves, cause our own voluntary acts. Yet scientists have long questioned this; Thomas Huxley, for example, in 1874 compared mental events to a steam whistle that contributes nothing to the work of a locomotive. New experimental evidence (most notable, work by Benjamin Libet and Daniel Wegner) has brought the causal status of human behavior back to the forefront of intellectual discussion. This multidisciplinary collection advances the debate, approaching the question from a variety of perspectives.

Consciousness as a Biological Phenomenon

The question of consciousness is perhaps the most significant problem still unsolved by science. In Inner Presence, Antti Revonsuo proposes a novel approach to the study of consciousness that integrates findings from philosophy, psychology, and cognitive neuroscience into a coherent theoretical framework.

Do we consciously cause our actions, or do they happen to us? Philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, theologians, and lawyers have long debated the existence of free will versus determinism. In this book Daniel Wegner offers a novel understanding of the issue. Like actions, he argues, the feeling of conscious will is created by the mind and brain. Yet if psychological and neural mechanisms are responsible for all human behavior, how could we have conscious will?

Physicalism is the idea that if everything that goes on in the universe is physical, our consciousness and feelings must also be physical. Ever since Descartes formulated the mind-body problem, a long line of philosophers has found the physicalist view to be preposterous. According to John Perry, the history of the mind-body problem is, in part, the slow victory of physical monism over various forms of dualism. Each new version of dualism claims that surely something more is going on with us than the merely physical.

This book investigates the philosophical, empirical, and theoretical bases on which a cognitive neuroscience of consciousness can be founded. The research questions reviewed include: Does perception occur without awareness? Can the neural bases of perceptual awareness be visualized with brain-imaging methods? What do unilateral neglect and extinction tell us about conscious and unconscious processing? What is the contribution of brainstem nuclei to conscious states? How can we identify mental processes uniquely associated with consciousness?

In this book José Luis Bermúdez addresses two fundamental problems in the philosophy and psychology of self-consciousness: (1) Can we provide a noncircular account of full-fledged self-conscious thought and language in terms of more fundamental capacities? (2) Can we explain how full-fledged self-conscious thought and language can arise in the normal course of human development? Bermúdez argues that a paradox (the paradox of self-consciousness) arises from the apparent strict interdependence between self-conscious thought and linguistic self-reference.

The Third Tucson Discussions and Debates

Can there be a science of consciousness? This issue has been the focus of three landmark conferences sponsored by the University of Arizona in Tucson. The first two conferences and books have become touchstones for the field. This volume presents a selection of invited papers from the third conference. It showcases recent progress in this maturing field by researchers from philosophy, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, phenomenology, and physics.

The Hard Problem
Edited by Jonathan Shear

At the 1994 landmark conference "Toward a Scientific Basis for Consciousness," philosopher David Chalmers distinguished between the "easy" problems and the "hard" problem of consciousness research. According to Chalmers, the easy problems are to explain cognitive functions such as discrimination, integration, and the control of behavior; the hard problem is to explain why these functions should be associated with phenomenal experience. Why doesn't all this cognitive processing go on "in the dark," without any consciousness at all?

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