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Product details

  • Paperback: 626 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (1 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195311116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195311112
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 3.8 x 15.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 316,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

the papers collected here exemplify all the virtues that we have come to expect from Chalmerss work ... Throughout, he is strikingly resourceful in articulating and defending his views. (Stephan Leuenberger, Australasian Journal of Philosophy)

About the Author

is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University. He is the author of THE CONSCIOUS MIND (OUP 1996), PHILOSOPHY OF MIND: Classic and Contemporary Readings (OUP 2002), and editor of the OUP series PHILOSOPHY OF MIND

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I always enjoy listening to Chalmers discussing the "Hard Problem" - though I admit he frequntly leaves me exhausted!
This valuable book lays out much of his work on the subject over the past thirty years. From its first pages Chalmers accepts that this book (of nearly 600 pages) might appear "a fragmented read" and, in a score of introductory pages, he gives detailed, helpful advice to readers on how they might selectively choose their way through the contents. Thus, as he suggests, I dip into the contents, as and when I please, enjoying much and hearing his voice as I do so. Not always so, however, some chapters are tough!
Perhaps one day my Mind will comprehend it all. Meanwhile the book remains on my desk, close at hand, not on my book-shelves. Thank you Mr. Chalmers.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Ross on 31 Aug 2011
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David Chalmers is perhaps the greatest living philosopher of consciousness. The essays collected in this anthology of his best short writings for professionals are definitively classic. But many of them are hard work to read through. An introduction to the field this is not. Written over a period of a decade or so and published in a variety of outlets, the essays add up to a fascinating portrait of genius at work in a field where the final truth is still decades, if not centuries, away. By a curious coincidence, in 2009 I published a similar collection of my writings in consciousness over a decade or so - Mindworlds: A Decade of Consciousness Studies - and in effect dedicated it to David. Perhaps his new book, in concept if not in content, is his way of responding. Whatever the truth, his book is an absolute must for any dedicated consciousness buff. More serious appraisal must await peer reviews in professional journals.
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Henri Bergson on 23 Mar 2011
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The 'Type-F Monism' Chalmers advocates is very similar to Schopenhauer's Idealism. He has not read Schopenhauer, he admitted, and so it is interesting that very similar conclusions were arrived at.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
73 of 74 people found the following review helpful
More on the Mind 3 Nov 2010
By Paul L. Nunez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Chalmers' earlier book The Conscious Mind. In Search of a Fundamental Theory (1996) was widely reviewed and praised. This new book may be viewed partly as a sequel; however, much of it consists of essays published earlier but updated to incorporate changes in Chalmers' ideas over the years, as well as providing smoother transitions between the 14 chapters. Some readers may be put off by this duplication, but I was happy to have everything easily available in one place and to hear of Chalmers' latest thoughts. I awarded five stars based on his excellent in-depth treatments of several areas of central interest to me even though other parts of the book may be read only by professional philosophers. Warning: If you are new to consciousness studies, this book is probably not the place to start.

Neuroscientist Christof Koch suggests that scientists should pay close attention to questions posed by philosophers, but not take their answers too seriously. This may be good general advice, but for me, Chalmers does an excellent job of presenting a plausible spectrum of prevailing metaphysical views labeled Types A-C (reductionist) and D-F (non reductionist) with his strongest arguments favoring the latter. He suggests, for example, that information may play a critical role in a theory of consciousness in addition to its known importance in the physical sciences (more on this later). Related to this informational conjecture is a chapter employing the popular movie The Matrix to address issues concerning our knowledge of the external world. Several additional themes run throughout (in my words), consciousness seems to be a fundamental property of our universe, reductive theories don't seem to work, one should not confuse neural correlates of consciousness with consciousness itself, such correlations fail to even come close to "explaining" consciousness, and science is essentially correlative rather than reductive. As a scientist (brain physics), I especially welcomed this latter idea, which seems to be poorly understood by many, including some scientists.

Chalmers also provides a plausible argument supporting "the principle of organizational invariance" meaning that any two systems with the same fine grained functional organization will have qualitatively identical experiences, implying that a silicon isomorph (say a computer yielding a one-to-one functional correspondence of all parts at all spatial scales) of a human must be conscious. While I accept Chalmers' basic logical argument, its conclusion may be highly misleading. For example, some believe that connecting 10 billion or so neuron-like artificial elements following appropriate input-output rules can produce a conscious entity. The problem with this conjecture is that the construction of true artificial isomorphs may be fundamentally impossible. Even single neurons are incredibly complex systems involving fine grained interactions down to (at least) quantum scales, and cross scale interactions are a hallmark of complex systems. This idea is discussed in Al Scott's Stairway to the Mind: The Controversial New Science of Consciousness(1995) and my new book (2010), which also explores the conjecture that information (or a broader category, Ultra-Information) may underlie both the physical and mental worlds, an idea apparently consistent with Chalmers' suggestion.
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
A Defense of Non-Materialism, But Not An Introduction 31 Oct 2010
By Joe J. Kern - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
First of all, this book is not the place to start if you're just getting into the field. It's an expansion on and updating of Chalmers' first book, 1996's The Conscious Mind, which largely consisted of his PhD dissertation after only four years of studying philosophy, and was somewhat hastily rushed into publication after he accidentally attained celebrity for elucidating the difference between the "hard" and "easy" problems in consciousness at a conference in 1994. The Character Of Consciousness is a more definitive statement of his views as a mature philosopher, a compilation and updating of separate pieces he has published since the first book, often times delving much deeper into the arguments and answering specific criticisms.

So, while The Character Of Consciousness may make gains in clarity, breadth, organization, and soundness of argument, Chalmers has lost some of the fervor that made parts of the first book such a thrill to read, and much of his connection to the layman. The ideas were new to him back then, and he was excitedly explaining them to himself as much as he was hoping to share them. He hasn't altered his views radically since that time, and The Character Of Consciousness loses some energy in its careful planning and execution, and due to the disparate origins of many of the sections.

But if you are sufficiently interested in philosophy of mind that you are prepared to read several books to get a deep understanding of a variety of perspectives and arguments, then I'd say Chalmers should certainly be one of them, as he is still a (if not the) leading non-materialist, and his earlier book (The Conscious Mind) rather than this one would be the one to start with. That said, he does provide a reading guide in the introduction and as you go along in both books, helpfully letting you know which parts you should read and which parts you can skip, depending on your interest and previous exposure. (The most interesting addition in the new book for the newcomer would probably be his analysis of The Matrix.)

If it helps, I can give you a report of my own experiences of the two: Consciousness Explained was the first real book I read in the field, and following his instructions to skip certain parts, I had a blast reading it. In reading The Character Of Consciousness and trying to imagine what a first-time reader would think of it, I wasn't so sure the text would compel one along as strongly.

The 4 stars here isn't a criticism. I'd just like to fight against grade inflation and reserve 5 stars for things that blow my mind beyond what I could have reasonably expected. And it's also not a reflection of how much I agree with Chalmers' thesis; I am much more on Chalmers and the non-materialists side in this, for reasons similar to the logic Chalmers gives, but I also think Chalmers' chief adversary, the materialist Daniel Dennett, argues pretty persuasively that all us non-materialists don't really understand what he is saying, and Chalmers doesn't succeed in ridding me of that nagging feeling here. Chalmers focuses more on logical argumentation based on introspection to support his claims about what we can and cannot believe, and I find the arguments can get esoteric and tenuous, almost to the point of being word games rather than anything of import. In contrast, Dennett is more scientific, which seems more respectable, even if I tend to more often agree with Chalmers's introspection. So I'd give Dennett's Consciousness Explained 4 stars too, even though I remained cautiously confident of non-materialism after reading it.

Finally, I'll note that the field of consciousness studies is so fundamentally divided between materialists and non-materialists that any single book is only really good as an introduction to one view or the other, and you can't trust a writer's characterization of an opponent's view in this field. My best recommendation for a general introduction would be Susan Blackmore's 2006 book of interviews with leading figures in the field, Conversations On Consciousness, which gives most of the major players a brief space to explain and defend their views in a casual verbal style. Read the interview with Chalmers and the interview with Dennett, and then as many of the others as sustain your interest.

The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (Philosophy of Mind Series)
Conversations on Consciousness: What the Best Minds Think about the Brain, Free Will, and What It Means to Be Human
Consciousness Explained
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Just a collection of Chalmers' papers 30 Dec 2012
By Bryce - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The content of this book is great. Chalmers is one of the foremost philosophers of his time. But note: this book is merely a collection of his papers, which can already be found for free on his website and elsewhere. The essays may be modified a bit, but so far as I can tell they are basically the same.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Consciousness, The "Forbidden Subject". 21 April 2014
By David - Published on Amazon.com
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Chalmers is one of a very few scholarly writers who has devoted himself to the "philosophy" of consciousness, where most writers are more inclined to relate consciousness to "brain science." Chalmers, however, points to a qualitative gap between "the hard problem" and the "easy problem;" The "easy" problem, not really easy at all, has, to put it over-simply, is the task of tracing the neural networks that transmit thought, emotions and thought impulses, to the body, causing it to respond in this way or that. The "Hard" problem has to do with comprehending how these thoughts and impulses get translated into concrete action.

Chalmers writing is erudite and dense, especially as he gets into the depths of his subject matter. But it's a fascinating journey for anyone who wishes to make the trip.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Mind and its Place in Nature 13 July 2012
By dj - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Simply put, "The Character of Consciousness" is one of the most cogent, decisive, extant analyses of the mind and its place in nature.

I won't go into specific detail about the content of the book, as this information is available through Amazon.com's preview feature of the book's introduction. Here, it suffices to say that in "The Character of Consciousness", Chalmers both expands upon his previous work (i.e., "The Conscious Mind"), and goes far beyond it. The topics are elucidated and fleshed out, and various responses or criticisms are addressed in great depth. While this book is indeed dedicated to the philosophy of mind, much of the discussions therein also have broader implications/consequences for cognitive science, neuroscience, epistemology, and metaphysics.

True - as other reviewers have mentioned, much of this book is probably unsuitable for the layperson in philosophy or cognitive science. However, there are a handful of chapters that are much more accessible than others. Chalmers writes in a very straightforward manner that is easily understood (if, of course, you have a basic comprehension of the relevant topics/debates, and are familiar with some technical philosophical jargon). He is not at all verbose.

In sum, "The Character of Consciousness" is highly recommended - without a doubt essential reading in the philosophy of the mind.
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