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Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
|Length: 168 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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In particular, the author promotes a very specific theory of consciousness, without giving readers of what is supposed to be a starter or introductory book, a proper view of the alternatives. The idea offered here is 'delusionism', the proposition that consciousness is a delusion. Many consciousness researchers consider that evolution would not have selected for consciousness if it had no purpose, but rather than properly discussing the reasons for rejecting this view, the author uses what is no more than a play on the word 'zombie' (important in some versions of consciousness studies), to avoid discussing this crucial topic. Lacking this, the 'delusional' project looks to fail, without offering readers much development of the alternatives.
On the whole, the writing style is engaging, enthusiastic and informal, and does not resort to excessive jargon. Only on a few occasions are concepts introduced (particularly regarding the different areas of the brain, and what they do) where no elaboration is given. I also felt that some of the figures, while added character to the book, were not particularly useful, and did not help shed light onto the more challenging ideas that were discussed.
The author discusses, and challenges, our notion that there is an `experiencer' who experiences, and that such experiences occur as a stream that are either in or out of consciousness, by drawing from findings of a variety of experiments. Particularly interesting were the discussions regarding patients where the right and left hemispheres of the brain have been divided, and those patients which have multiple personalities. Such case-studies challenge our usual, and highly cherished and seemingly concrete, notions of `self' and our relationship with our surroundings. Indeed, such seemingly `real' feelings as these may be an illusion, exemplified by the fact that we are on `auto-pilot' while driving along an oft-travelled route; an act that requires very little consciousness.
Needless to say, none of the experiments reveal anything conclusive about the nature of consciousness, and many interpretations exist to explain their findings, which the author clearly acknowledges. Which is why it is all the more surprising that, towards the end of the book, the author takes the firm stance that we must accept that consciousness is an illusion and that we are `deluded'. Indeed, the author argues that consciousness is the result of a memeplex; the interaction between ideas and habits within the brain, which reinforce our illusion of `self' every time `I' is used. However, the author forgets what initiates this sense of `I' in the first place. Furthermore, the idea of memes is introduced using the example of how religion propogates, but instead this reads as a rant against religion, which I found inappropriate. All-in-all, this made for a very unsatisfying end.
To summarise, the book is a reasonable, interesting introduction to consciousness, which serves as a useful spring-board to other topics and books. Just be aware of the author's bias in the meantime.
It's spread out into the "conversations" and it's a very good-night read - but don't expect any real depth from it. Each conversation gets about 10-15 pages (if I remember correctly) - so it's hard to be anything but superficial.
Where it REALLY wins me over is in the way it creates a map of the different ideas and thoughts within the field of consciousness. It does this REALLY well, so if you want to get a grasp of the different ideas and paths there are to explore - this would be a great place to start.
It puts focus on free will and what consciousness really "is" - and how it is formed.
If you buy this book, please remember to look at the little dictionary in the back, it's got all the terms described in a way that almost everyone can understand it.
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Very interesting, refreshingly honest in its assessments of the challenge of studying consciousness a phenomenon, and the neuroscience was very...Read more
I loved every word I