Dynamics of Consciousness and Experience
- Honorable Mention, 2007 Book Prize competition sponsored by the Canadian Philosophical Association.
Understanding consciousness by taking the stream of consciousness seriously; a general characterization of experience and a detailed description of experience from within, drawing on theories of William James, Alfred North Whitehead, John Searle, and Gerald Edelman.
In Onflow, Ralph Pred supplies an account of the nature of consciousness that grapples with "the raw unverbalized stream of experience." Unlike other recent philosophical accounts of consciousness, Pred's analysis deals with the elusive and commonly neglected continuities in the stream of consciousness. Pred offers a general characterization and analysis of experience as well as a highly detailed interpretation of experience from within. Determined to make "conceptual contact" with the immediacy of actual experience, Pred carries forward the radical empiricism pioneered by William James (who coined the term "stream of consciousness") and draws on the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.
To help readers apprehend the formation of conscious thoughts, the intertwining of perception and action, and the working of consciousness in onflowing experience, Pred applies methods of analysis developed in John Searle's theory of intentionality to James's views, thereby showing how intentional states are embedded in the stream of consciousness. Then, calling on Whitehead's treatment of lived moments as acts of experience, Pred provides an account of consciousness that at once deals with conscious thoughts as they emerge from and function in embodied, socialized experience and illustrates how language distorts our understanding of experience and subjectivity. Finally, he details striking parallels between this account and Gerald Edelman's biological theory of consciousness, and, in contrasting the two, argues for a revitalized version of the experiental monism originally formulated by James.
Bradford Books imprint
Ralph Pred has written a brilliant book. He synthesizes the work of James and Whitehead with contemporary work in philosophy and neurobiology to produce a powerful and original account of conscious experience.
John Searle, Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language, University of California
Onflow brings a refreshing perspective to the age-old problem of our experience of causation. Pred has critically reviewed current and historical accounts of issues such as intention and intentionality, and has brought his own Whiteheadian approach to what Aristotle discussed under the headings of final and formal causation. Onflow is a much-needed compendium in these days when cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, and philosophers of science of a materialist stripe are apt to deny that anything other than efficient causation can pass as science. A most worthwhile reference to have beside one's desk.
Karl Pribram, Georgetown University
Onflow opens up a new vista in the philosophy of mind. Drawing on the thought of James and Whitehead, Pred provides a processual analysis of consciousness and intentionality that is scientifically plausible, philosophically compelling, and phenomenologically rich enough to grasp experience from within. His is a view of lived experience that does justice to the complexity of mental phenomena and one that presents a persuasive, engaged alternative to contemporary positions in the philosophy of mind and action.
Anatole Anton, Department of Philosophy, San Francisco State University