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Consciousness

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A Novel Theory of Consciousness

Professor Grue is dead (or is he?). When graduate student/sleuth Miranda Sharpe discovers him slumped over his keyboard, she does the sensible thing—she grabs her dissertation and runs. Little does she suspect that soon she will be probing the heart of two mysteries, trying to discover what happened to Max Grue, and trying to solve the profound neurophilosophical problem of consciousness.

How did the human brain evolve so that consciousness of art could develop? In The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain, Robert Solso describes how a consciousness that evolved for other purposes perceives and creates art.

In What Is Thought? Eric Baum proposes a computational explanation of thought. Just as Erwin Schrodinger in his classic 1944 work What Is Life? argued ten years before the discovery of DNA that life must be explainable at a fundamental level by physics and chemistry, Baum contends that the present-day inability of computer science to explain thought and meaning is no reason to doubt there can be such an explanation.

Unity and Identity

In Consciousness and Persons: Unity and Identity, Michael Tye takes on the thorny issue of the unity of consciousness and answers these important questions: What exactly is the unity of consciousness? Can a single person have a divided consciousness? What is a single person? Tye argues that unity is a fundamental part of human consciousness—something so basic to everyday experience that it is easy to overlook.

Evolving a Reflexive Mind by Interpreting Others

Mental reflexivity, or metamentation—a mind thinking about its own thoughts—underpins reflexive consciousness, deliberation, self-evaluation, moral judgment, the ability to think ahead, and much more. Yet relatively little in philosophy or psychology has been written about what metamentation actually is, or about why and how it came about. In this book, Radu Bogdan proposes that humans think reflexively because they interpret each other's minds in social contexts of cooperation, communication, education, politics, and so forth.

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?

Semantic externalism is the thesis that the contents of some words and thoughts depend in part on properties external to the person who entertains them. In a departure from the widely held doctrine of internalism, externalists maintain that not all mental content is local to the mind. That view, however, seems to some philosophers to be at odds with our ordinary intuitions about self-knowledge.

Consciousness is at the very core of the human condition. Yet only in recent decades has it become a major focus in the brain and behavioral sciences. Scientists now know that consciousness involves many levels of brain functioning, from brainstem to cortex. The almost seventy articles in this book reflect the breadth and depth of this burgeoning field. The many topics covered include consciousness in vision and inner speech, immediate memory and attention, waking, dreaming, coma, the effects of brain damage, fringe consciousness, hypnosis, and dissociation.

The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity

According to Thomas Metzinger, no such things as selves exist in the world: nobody ever had or was a self. All that exists are phenomenal selves, as they appear in conscious experience. The phenomenal self, however, is not a thing but an ongoing process; it is the content of a "transparent self-model." In Being No One, Metzinger, a German philosopher, draws strongly on neuroscientific research to present a representationalist and functional analysis of what a consciously experienced first-person perspective actually is.

A Computer Model

The psychologist William James observed that "a native talent for perceiving analogies is ... the leading fact in genius of every order." The centrality and the ubiquity of analogy in creative thought have been noted again and again by scientists, artists, and writers, and understanding and modeling analogical thought have emerged as two of the most important challenges for cognitive science.

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