Missives from a fly bottle
barang dot sg
Last revised 31 August 2017
Books on consciousness

A list of books relating to the hard problem of consciousness. Regularly updated cos I keep finding new stuff all the time.


Search (Author or title)


1970s

Richard Rorty
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
(Princeton 1979)

Rorty argues that, beginning in the 17th century, philosophers developed an unhealthy obsession with the notion of representation: comparing the mind to a mirror that reflects reality. This book is a powerful critique of this imagery and the tradition of thought that it spawned. After publication, Princeton University Press was barely able to keep up with demand and the book has since gone on to become one of its all-time best-sellers in philosophy. See Google

Daniel C. Dennett
Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology
(Bradford Books 1978)

This collection of 17 of Dennett’s essays offers a comprehensive theory of mind, encompassing traditional issues of consciousness and free will. Using careful arguments and ingenious thought-experiments, Dennett exposes familiar preconceptions and hobbling institutions. The essays are grouped into four sections: Intentional Explanation and Attributions of Mentality, The Nature of Theory in Psychology, Objects of Consciousness and the Nature of Experience, and Free Will and Personhood. See MIT (1981 edition) | Amazon | Google

Ludwig Wittgenstein
Remarks on Colour
(Univ. California Press 1978)

Written in the last eighteen months of his life, this is one of the few documents which shows Wittgenstein concentratedly at work on a single philosophical issue. The principal theme is the features of different colours, of different kinds of colour (metallic colour, the colours of flames, etc.) and of luminosity – a theme which Wittgenstein treats in such a way as to destroy the traditional idea that colour is a simple and logically uniform kind of thing. See UC Press | Google | Amazon

Karl Popper & John Eccles
The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Interactionism
(Springer-Verlag 1977)

The relation between body and mind has puzzled mankind for ages. When we are writing a difficult letter, our mind acts upon our body and, through a chain of physical events, upon the mind of the recipient of the letter. We know very little about this ‘interaction’ and while the authors of this book stress that they cannot solve the body-mind problem, they hope to be able to shed new light on it. See Amazon | Google

Michael J. Morgan
Molyneux’s Question: Vision, Touch and the Philosophy of Perception
(Cambridge 1977)

If a man born blind were to gain his sight would he be able to identify the objects he saw around him? Would he recognise a cube and a globe on the basis of his earlier tactile experiences alone? This was William Molyneux’s famous question to John Locke and it was much discussed by English and French empiricists in the eighteenth century as part of the controversy over innatism and abstract ideas. Morgan examines the history of this debate and considers why the original question is effectively still unanswered. See Cambridge | Amazon | Google

Frank Jackson
Perception
(Cambridge 1977)


Wallace I. Matson
Sentience
(Univ. California Press 1976)

My aim in this book is to persuade you that [body and mind] are indeed “really the same thing” – to return us, so to speak, to archaic innocence in our view of man, but without jettisoning whatever sophistication we may have picked up along the way. That is, I want to present a conceptualized identity theory of mind and body. See Univ. Calif. Press | Google


David C. Lindberg
Theories of Vision from Al-Kindi to Kepler
(Univ. Chicago Press 1976)

Kepler’s solution to the problem of vision early in the seventeenth century can be fully grasped only when viewed against the background of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance visual theory. See Univ. Chicago Press | Amazon | Google Books


Julian Jaynes
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
(Houghton Mifflin 1976)


J. M. Hinton
Experiences
(Oxford 1973)


G. J. Whitrow
What is Time?
(Thames & Hudson 1972)

A good-humored and wide-ranging tour of the thing that clocks keep (more or less). Whitrow discusses how our ideas of time originated, how far they are inborn in plants and animals, how time has been measured and whether it possesses a beginning, a direction, and an end. He contemplates the differences between cyclic, linear, biological, cosmic, and space-time, and provides frequent diversions into topics such as the Mayan calendar, the dances of bees, precognition, and mu-mesons. See Oxford 2003 reprint | Amazon | Google


George Pitcher
A Theory of Perception
(Princeton 1971)


Keith Campbell
Body and Mind
(Anchor 1970)