252 pp., 6 x 9 in,
- Published: October 16, 1992
- Published: December 10, 1993
Consciousness is neither miraculous nor ultimately mysterious. In this broad, entertaining, and persuasive account Owen Flanagan argues that we are on the way to understanding consciousness and its place in the natural order. No aspect of consciousness escapes Flanagan's probe. Qualia, self-consciousness, autobiographical memory, perceptions, sensations, the stream of consciousness, disorders such as blindsight, various kinds of amnesia, and multiple personality all find a place in a constructive theory that brings into reflective equilibrium insights from a wide array of disciplines to reveal the deep, rich, and complex hidden structure of consciousness.
Flanagan roams freely through a variety of scientific and philosophical domains, showing how it is possible to understand human consciousness in a way that gives its subjective, phenomenal aspects their full due while at the same time taking into account the neural bases of subjectivity. The result is a powerful synthetic theory of consciousness, a "constructive naturalism," according to which subjective consciousness is real, plays an important causal role, and resides in the brain.
Flanagan draws the reader into a world of exciting current debates among such philosophers as Thomas Nagel, Daniel Dennett, Paul Churchland, Patricia Churchland, and Colin McGinn, and he makes this world accessible. He masterfully weaves the latest insights from theory and research in cognitive neuroscience, neural darwinism, connectionist brain architecture, and PET scanners to reveal clear links between events that "seem a certain way" and underlying neural activity. William James's famous phenomenological analysis of consciousness and neurologically impaired characters from the writings of Oliver Sacks and A.R. Luria join the narrative, providing valuable insights into important current controversies on the relation of consciousness to self.
Bradford Books imprint
Owen Flanagan has truly given us a gem. With the language of a natural teacher, Flanagan draws on a wonderful variety of examples to make accessible to a wide audience his remarkable depth and breadth in all areas surrounding the questions of consciousness. A joy to read, this book is grounded in common sense and never loses sight of why consciousness is such a fascinating subject for study.
Edward M. Hundert, M.D. Harvard Medical School, author of Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Neuroscience: Three Approaches to the Mind
Generations of behaviorists have argued vociferously against a scientific effort to understand human consciousness. Owen Flanagan charts a clear path through the philosophical minefield and offers a fresh, cogent, and very readable exposition of the view that good scientific research can in fact cast light on the nature of conscious experience.
Bernard J. Baars, Author, The Cognitive Theory of Consciousness and Co-Editor, Consciousness and Cognition
This is a marvelous book. Its central claim is that within a broadly conceived naturalism there can be a coherent, probing, insightful theory of consciousness. Flanagan examines more problems and topics associated with consciousness than any other philosopher since William James!
George Graham, Professor of Philosophy, University of Alabama, Birmingham