Top critical review
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on 24 May 2013
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 between consciousness and decision making, which does not do justice to what recent neuroscience has to say about the brain's reward circuit. Her claim that only the dorsolateral prefrontal area, which is involved in executive planning and reasoning, has any impact on decision making looks questionable in the light of this research. Lengthy chapters in the middle of the book deal with the brain's processing of temporal sequences and lack of attention to much of the visual field, but ultimately this amounts to nothing more than saying that the brain provides a model or representation of the external world that is adaptive rather than particularly accurate or comprehensive. As such it says nothing about the origin or function of consciousness itself.
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.