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Hardcover | $37.00 Short | £30.95 | 244 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | July 2011 | ISBN: 9780262015851
eBook | $26.00 Short | July 2011 | ISBN: 9780262299329
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The Wonder of Consciousness

Understanding the Mind through Philosophical Reflection


Consciousness is a wonderful thing. But if we are fully to appreciate the wonder of consciousness, we need to articulate what it is about consciousness that makes it such an interesting and important phenomenon to us. In this book, Harold Langsam argues that consciousness is intelligible—that there are substantive facts about consciousness that can be known a priori—and that it is the intelligibility of consciousness that is the source of its wonder.

Langsam first examines the way certain features of some of our conscious states intelligibly relate us to features of the world of which we are conscious. Consciousness is radically different from everything else in the world, and yet it brings us into intimate connection with the things of the world. Langsam then examines the causal powers of some of our conscious states. Some of these causal powers are determined in an intelligible way by the categorical natures of their conscious states: if you know what consciousness is, then you can also know (by the mere exercise of your intelligence) some of what consciousness does.

Langsam's intent is to get the philosophy of mind away from the endless and distracting debates about whether consciousness is physical or not. He shows that there are substantive things that we can discover about consciousness merely through philosophical reflection. The philosopher who takes this approach is not ignoring the empirical facts; he is reflecting on these facts to discover further, nonempirical facts.

About the Author

Harold Langsam is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia.


“What makes this an important book is precisely that it is a case for something that is—for no good reason—out of fashion.... I think [Langsam] does succeed in his aims of showing that there is more to philosophy of mind than the mind-body problem.... For that reason, and because of his welcome defiance of fashion, I commend this book.”—Peter Forrest, Mind
“Engaging.... Langsam inspires wonder in the midst of philosophical rigor.... In a world increasingly ruled by reductive physicalism, where mystery and wonder have been replaced by process and data, The Wonder of Consciousness is a welcomed addition to the current literature.... refreshingly readable and inspiring.”—Ethics and Medicine: An International Journal of Bioethics


“This book is packed full of insights into conscious experience. Langsam sets out to describe the role of consciousness in perception, knowledge, inductive inference, practical reasoning, and pleasure and pain. He addresses a wealth of topics in compact prose that has a pleasing momentum as it brings us from one elegant piece of philosophy to the next.”
Susanna Siegel, Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University
The Wonder of Consciousness is a wonderful book. Langsam approaches consciousness from the first-person point of view, and argues that a variety of substantial facts about consciousness can be known a priori. Full of original and provocative ideas, the book has an air of excitement that is rare in philosophical writing.”
Alex Byrne, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT