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The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (Philosophy of Mind Series) [Kindle Edition]

David J. Chalmers
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

What is consciousness? How do physical processes in the brain give rise to the self-aware mind and to feelings as profoundly varied as love or hate, aesthetic pleasure or spiritual yearning? These questions today are among the most hotly debated issues among scientists and philosophers, and we have seen in recent years superb volumes by such eminent figures as Francis Crick, Daniel C. Dennett, Gerald Edelman, and Roger Penrose, all firing volleys in what has come to be called the consciousness wars. Now, in The Conscious Mind, philosopher David J. Chalmers offers a cogent analysis of this heated debate as he unveils a major new theory of consciousness, one that rejects the prevailing reductionist trend of science, while offering provocative insights into the relationship between mind and brain.
Writing in a rigorous, thought-provoking style, the author takes us on a far-reaching tour through the philosophical ramifications of consciousness. Chalmers convincingly reveals how contemporary cognitive science and neurobiology have failed to explain how and why mental events emerge from physiological occurrences in the brain. He proposes instead that conscious experience must be understood in an entirely new light--as an irreducible entity (similar to such physical properties as time, mass, and space) that exists at a fundamental level and cannot be understood as the sum of its parts. And after suggesting some intriguing possibilities about the structure and laws of conscious experience, he details how his unique reinterpretation of the mind could be the focus of a new science. Throughout the book, Chalmers provides fascinating thought experiments that trenchantly illustrate his ideas. For example, in exploring the notion that consciousness could be experienced by machines as well as humans, Chalmers asks us to imagine a thinking brain in which neurons are slowly replaced by silicon chips that precisely duplicate their functions--as the neurons are replaced, will consciousness gradually fade away? The book also features thoughtful discussions of how the author's theories might be practically applied to subjects as diverse as artificial intelligence and the interpretation of quantum mechanics.
All of us have pondered the nature and meaning of consciousness. Engaging and penetrating, The Conscious Mind adds a fresh new perspective to the subject that is sure to spark debate about our understanding of the mind for years to come.

Product Description


Eloquent, fiendishly clever ... One of the best science books of the year. (Sunday Times)

an outstanding contribution to our understanding of consciousness (Steven Pinker)

a startling first book

Steven Pinker

"an outstanding contribution to our understanding of consciousness"

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1087 KB
  • Print Length: 433 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0195105532
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1st edition (30 Mar. 1996)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004SL4KI0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #149,003 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 65 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The basic problem with any materialist theory of consciousness is that there is no room for consciousness to *do* anything -- it is caused by certain material processes but does not itself cause anything. The firing of a neuron can always be explained in terms of the firing of other neurons, the impingement of a photon on a photoreceptor, or some other objectively observable cause. At no point is it necessary to say that "this neuron fired because the brain it was part of had such-and-such a subjective experience". Thus consciousness is not logically necessary in our objective description of the material world, so we can at least conceive of a world where David Chalmers' zombie twin writes papers and books about the mind-body problem without ever having any subjective experience itself. This seems absurd but the absurdity is inherent in all the various flavors of functionalism or property dualism. And "new physics" won't change the picture at all -- string theory, quantum gravity, quantum multiverses, and any as yet unconcieved of physical theory are all simply more of the same kind of "ontological stuff" that we already have -- objective procedures for predicting the behavior of objectively measurable things.
Some functionalists attempt to make the problem go away simply by declaring conscious states a matter of definition -- "pain" is some set of states of an information processing system, "pleasure" is some other, etc. Thus whether a robot that makes a convincing whine when you hit it actually experiences pain is a matter of definition.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a philosophy student already interested in the philosophy of Mind when I began this fantastic work, I can only say that I have been bowled over by the lucid exposition of its arguments, its wide-ranging scope, and its wit.

There is something useful to be found in this work for many people, from the interested general reader to the academic. The arguments are persuasive, clear, and so helpfully laid out - at no point was I lost, or seeking extra clarification. Chalmers is an extremely gifted writer, and the cohesion and exposition of his views are astounding. Here is a brief synopsis of the book:

- CHAPTERS 1 AND 2 - Chalmers introduces the mind as having, simply put, two aspects - the psychological (desires, beliefs), and the phenomenal ('feels', and the 'what it is like' element). The two categories may overlap, with the latter including some of the former. The phenomenal aspect of mind is what poses the hard questions about consciousness. Chalmers cashes out his notion of 'supervenience', which he uses to define physicalism and dualism. The reductive physicalist position is that the mental (inc. the phenomenal aspects) logically supervene on the physical.

- CHAPTERS 3, 4 AND 5 - Chalmers argues, persuasively, that the logical supervenience required for reductive physicalism fails. The arguments presented are a mix of new and previously existing ones, all presented clearly and forcefully. Chalmers proposes his view - naturalistic property dualism - using primarily the argument from the logical possibility of zombies: physically identical beings to us that nevertheless lack qualia. The possibility of such entities is hard to rule out, and that is all Chalmers needs for his argument to go through.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Philosopher and author David J. Chalmers makes an ambitious, daring attempt to expand the understanding of consciousness. Although he admits that his sympathies are with materialism, he concludes that materialist (physical) explanations cannot account for the existence of consciousness. His theory of consciousness is based in the natural world, but he proposes that consciousness has both physical and nonphysical properties. He suggests that a set of psychophysical laws are needed to explain the how and why of consciousness. Although parts of this book are densely technical and call for readers with a thorough background in mathematics, physics and philosophy, Chalmers has taken pains to make his material as accessible as possible to the average well-educated person. He even puts asterisks beside sections that lay readers are likely to find too daunting, and notes those sections general readers might most productively read, skim or ignore. We suggest this book to well-schooled readers who are interested in the philosophy of the mind, cognition or psychology.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of David Chalmers' 'The Conscious Mind' 20 Dec. 2003
By "hhm21"
Along with Erwin Schrodinger's 'Mind and Matter', this ranks as one of the best writings about consciousness I have read. Chalmers does not evade the problem of subjective experience, but faces it directly and acknowledges that materialistic science cannot explain the subjective phenomenon of consciousness. It is rare to find a work that faces up to the problem so honestly, without having to resort to accounts of structure and dynamics that do not bear any meaning when explaining the nature of subjective experience. I would thoroughly recommend this book to those who are interested in consciousness, and are dissatisfied with contemporary writings on it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally someone who addresses phenomenality
Chalmers does not ignore sentience and subjective experience like most people who claim that subjectivity is unscientific, on the contrary, objectivity has no meaning if it has... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Connor Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
Chalmers is first rate in this area of philosophy: willing to stick his neck out with some improbable conclusions, but these are his genuine deductions from awkward facts about... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jonathan Whitaker
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Came on time, (which is great because i needed this for a deadline) and good content though I knew what to expect as I had already read extracts.
Published on 19 Dec. 2012 by D. Perquel
5.0 out of 5 stars The definite treatment
This is the definite treatment of the physicalism vs dualism question, in which David Chalmers develops his famous Zombie argument against physicalism. Read more
Published on 10 April 2012 by David
3.0 out of 5 stars Old arguments dressed up as new
The book starts off very well; the first section on fundamentals is very well explained and is useful to anyone studying philosophy. Read more
Published on 26 Feb. 2002 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting take on the mind/body problem
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the philosophy of mind or even for anyone who has ever puzzled over the phenomenon of consciousness. Read more
Published on 15 Sept. 1997
5.0 out of 5 stars If the book is correct you are more than a bunch of atoms!
David Chalmers has put forth a very interesting philosophical framework
for a consistent analises of the brain-mind problem. Read more
Published on 26 July 1996
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