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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Rather Skewed Introduction
Considering that this is a Very Short Introduction, this book is odd and I am ambivalent towards it.

On the one hand, it is well-written, persuasive and thought-provoking. On the other, it is openly biased and inappropriate for a short introduction to a new subject.

My misgivings about it mainly concern the style of presentation of the subject rather...
Published on 30 Jun. 2009 by G. Hunt

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Delusion unveiled
Blackmore has admirable clarity in explaining complex ideas, and this gives this book merit in providing an intelligible summary of many of the concepts and arguments that have arisen in modern consciousness studies. However, there are shortcomings in her coverage of some important areas. Near the beginning of the book, she assumes a dismissive attitude to any connection...
Published on 24 May 2013 by S. G. Raggett


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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect introduction to a complex and profound subject, 6 July 2008
By 
Bruno - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
The relationship between mind and body, and the tremendous difficulty of explaining that relationship, has been a central theme in modern philosophy since Descartes' famous 'cogito ergo sum'. In the subsequent centuries the entire heavy artillary of analytical philosophy has been brought to bear, categorical mistakes have been claimed, behavourist theories championed, yet the awkard I stubbornly remains, peering out at the world. A bundle of neurons and synapses themselves composed of randomly spinning atoms and electrons, somehow able to ask questions 'why am I? who am I? What am I?'.

Recently however, the problem of mind has taken on a new academic guise - the study of consciousness. The ancient riddle has been reframed into a seemingly narrower and more fundamental question - the problem of how physical matter be self-aware, how can the brain think and feel? The central question may have become more focused, yet suddenly it is not just the philosophers who are discussing it. The study of consciousness is now truly a multi-disciplinary subject, drawing in experts in psychology and neuro-science amonst others. Suddenly a subject so old and profound appears to be one of the most exciting fields in academia. One that might even be on the verge of providing answers that would transform our very sense of self and identity.

Susan Blackmore does a remarkably good job here of introducing such a complex and wideranging subject. You really do get a sense of what the question is and just why it is so challenging. Not only that but you should get a feel of why the subject is particularly exciting at the moment and for those versed in the 'traditional' formulations of the philosophy of mind, this book stands as testamant to the fact that the study of consciousness is really a subject in its own right now.

Having said all that, this book (and others by Susan Blackmore) really should come with a government health warning. I've read David Hume's reflections on the illusory nature of the self, as well as some of those of Eastern Philosophy. Like Hume, I feel largely able to set aside such considerations as soon as I attend to other matters. Reading Blackmore, I really do feel a little shaken. I can give up the idea of a concrete self lurking behind my eyes controlling my fingers as I type this review, but when plausible argument after plausible argument chips away at the belief in consciousness itself, or at least our faith that there is a stream of consciousness, then the effect is rather more disturbing and profound.

Blackmore introduces all the main theories relating to consciousness here, in a very readable and succinct manner. You are fully made aware of her own viewpoint, but that is not a bad thing, as they are clearly put in contrast with the others and in a way that helps you come to your own conclusion, though as I just said, it may leave you a little unsettled.

Though the stream of consciousness mayby some kind of 'grand illusion' as Blackmore and of course Daniel Dennet quite persuasively argue for, its not clear that the problem of explaining consciousness is in anyway diminished. No matter how many insignificant little pieces you try to break conscious awareness into, the fundamental problem still remains : how does physical matter achieve any consciousness at all?

A must read introduction for those interested in the study of consciousness and the philosophy of mind. I'd also fully recomend her longer introduction (as a follow up) which has student exercises and chapter summaries etc. Just take care!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good!, 13 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
This is a great book to read if you are just beginning to learn about consciousness and different theories, I learned many different ideas from this book and it was a very good introduction for me.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The subjective experience is only a fleeting event that gives rise to a delusion.", 25 Sept. 2007
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This review is from: Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
And what's worse, "If you go on believing you are always conscious, and construct metaphors about streams and theatres, then you only dig yourself deeper and deeper into confusion."

First we're introduced to the influence of specific brain regions on consciousness. So the temporal cortex is responsible for our changing perceptions, whilst the visual cortex simply processes retinal input which is interpreted later. All this might suggest the temporal cortex is more `subjective', but as Blackmore points out, "correlations alone do not solve the mystery... how can some cells give rise to subjective experience and some not?"
Delving deeper into the brain only confuses the issue though. It turns out that much of what we think we're conscious of is in fact illusion. Chapters 3 & 4 concentrate on these illusions. Libet's `neuronal adequacy for consciousness', the cutaneous rabbit experiment, daydreaming and such are all pulled in to break up William James' good old-fashioned stream-of-consciousness theory. Some visual games emphasise how much of our sensory world is constructed; inattentional blindness and Ramachandran's `filling-in' are the main culprits.
With all these thrown at our sense of the world, Blackmore then proceeds towards our concept of the self. Most religions and common sense generally perceive a continuous I, a self, in relation to the world; this is ego-theory. Against this is Buddhism and the 18th century Scot, David Hume, who said that the self is more like a "bundle of sensations" threaded together by memory and relationships. The self then becomes a "centre of narrative gravity", "a useful fiction" for relating experiences to each other. But though Bundle theory is useful in relation to some strange neurophysiological effects, it soes remain deeply counter-intuitive.
Finally, even our sense of free-will is preceded by electrical stimuli, shown in Libet's `consciousness-timing' experiments, leading psychologists to produce true-order diagrams for thought processes along the lines of, 1) the brain begins planning an action, 2) the brain activity leads to thought about the action, 3) we assume the thoughts caused the action. She concedes by the end that Dennett's `multiple draft' theory may be the closest have to understanding all of what we don't know; the brain plays out parallel translations of the world of its own accord and not until it's asked to account for its experience does it bother at all with consciousness. In this way maintaining consciousness becomes (for Blackmore at least) a matter of application, of repeating Zen koan-style questions, like `Am I conscious now?', or `Who am I?', etc.

Overall, this is a good read. The visual games (like those of the VSI to the Brain) are a good, cheap laugh, and the sheer number of theories sketched show just how confused consciousness studies is at the moment. The only gripe is that the theories are spread about between the chapters rather than coherently stated and contrasted. Blackmore's priority is the brain and the faculties of consciousness it attends to, only sprinkling along the way parts of related theories which by the end became, for me, confused and nebulous. Anyway, good for prodding your bonce. Definitely recommended.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars ... this series I haven't really enjoying - most are excellent, but didn't feel this really went anywhere or ..., 22 Mar. 2015
By 
Dan (Hampshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
One of the few books in this series I haven't really enjoying - most are excellent, but didn't feel this really went anywhere or had any interesting opinions... Disappointing
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Consciousness.A very short introduction, 25 Feb. 2014
By 
Amazon Customer (birmingham, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Brilliant write about our mind .with such a wide approach .such an intellect description she wrote she
I loved every word I
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6 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great little primer on the subject, 18 Oct. 2007
By 
Karel Bata (London (a posh bit)) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
A terrific little book that should only have taken me a few hours to read, but instead took a week because I frequently stopped to ponder the philosophically challenging examples she uses. I thought I already knew the subject reasonably well, but there's plenty in this small volume that's new and challenging.

Well worth reading her other book too: Conversations on Consciousness in which she talks to several leading figures in the field, and where her own biases on the subject rub up against theirs.

Very easy to read, with illustrations and no jargon. Heartily recommended!
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6 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good layman's guide, 6 Aug. 2005
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This review is from: Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
The prevoius reviewer's minor criticisms accepted, it is important to exactly define consciousness, question easily held misconceptions and illusions, and this demands a philosophical approach, certainly in a brief guide.As a layman, ploughing through Dennett's 'C.Explained'was heavy going,and this book is an excellent precis, with ideas of her own, with more emphasis on altered states.Undoubtedly her '20 years of studying Zen'influences her arguments.An excellent short introduction that raised this reviewer's C.,whatever that means,and whoever he is!
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4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant brief overview, 4 April 2009
By 
D. Stephens - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Lucid and compelling introduction to a number of issues concerning consciousness and just how hard it is to get a grip on what seems to be obvious at first. Makes a quite academic and often difficult subject interesting and though-provoking.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A short introduction, 15 Mar. 2009
By 
W. Harris "Wendy" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
This book was recommended as a short introduction to the topic of consciousness on a psychology degree course I am studying and it is short enough not to be heavy going. Worth a read.
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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 6 Feb. 2010
By 
Ms. Emily K. Earnshaw (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
This does exactly what it suggests! Gave an excellent overview, would definitely buy other books in this range.
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Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Susan Blackmore (Paperback - 24 Mar. 2005)
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