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)


Dan Falk
In Search of Time
(Macmillan 2008)

Time is the very foundation of conscious experience. Yet as familiar as it is, time is also deeply mysterious. We cannot see, hear, smell, taste, or touch it. Yet we do feel it—or at least we think we feel it. No wonder poets, writers, philosophers, and scientists have grappled with time for centuries. Falk chronicles the story of how humans have come to understand time over the millennia, and by drawing from the latest research in physics, psychology, and other fields, shows how that understanding continues to evolve. See Macmillan | Amazon | Google

L. Nathan Oaklander (ed.)
The Philosophy of Time
(Routledge 2008)

A fresh title in the Routledge series Critical Concepts in Philosophy, this 4-volume set is an authoritative reference to the subject’s vast literature and continuing explosion in research output. Edited by L. Nathan Oaklander, a leading scholar in the philosophy of time, this work provides a synoptic view of the current debates at the cutting-edge of the subject. See Routledge | Amazon | Google | See this flyer

Barry Dainton
The Phenomenal Self
(Oxford 2008)

Dainton presents a fascinating new account of the self, the key to which is experiential or phenomenal continuity. Provided our mental life continues we can easily imagine ourselves surviving the most dramatic physical alterations. But mental continuity comes in different forms. Dainton argues that a good account can be framed in terms of the sort of continuity we find in our streams of consciousness from moment to moment. Phenomenal continuity seems to provide a more reliable guide to our persistence than any other form of mental continuity. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

John Foster
A World for Us: The Case for Phenomenalistic Idealism
(Oxford 2008)

Foster argues that the world is ultimately constituted by facts about human sensory experience, or some richer complex of non-physical facts in which such experience centrally features. The basic idea is that, given other constitutively relevant factors, this sensory organization creates the physical world by disposing things to appear systematically world-wise at the human empirical viewpoint. Chief among these other factors is the role of God as the one responsible for the sensory organization in question. See Oxford | Google | B. J. Garrett review

Matthew Ratcliffe
Feelings of Being: Phenomenology, Psychiatry and the Sense of Reality
(Oxford 2008)

A philosophical account of the nature, role and variety of existential feelings in psychiatric illness and everyday life. Ratcliffe proposes that existential feelings form a distinctive group by virtue of three characteristics: they are bodily feelings, they constitute ways of relating to the world as a whole, and they are responsible for our sense of reality. He explains, among other things, how something can be a bodily feeling but also a sense of reality and belonging. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Raymond Tallis
The Kingdom of Infinite Space: A Portrait of Your Head
(Yale 2008)

Blending science, philosophy, and humor, Tallis examines the head, what happens in it, and how it is and is not connected to our sense of identity and consciousness. His aim, as he says, “is to turn readers into astonished tourists of the piece of the world closest to them, so they never again take for granted the head that looks at them from the mirror.” Readers will delight that this is precisely what he accomplishes. See Yale | Amazon | Google

Edmond Leo Wright (ed.)
The Case for Qualia
(MIT 2008)

Many philosophers dismiss the notion of qualia – sensory experiences that are internal to the brain. Qualiaphiles face the difficulty of establishing contact with the real when their access to it is seen by qualiaphobes to be second-hand and, worse, hidden behind a “veil of sensation.” In this collection, proponents of qualia defend the indirect realist position and mount detailed counterarguments against opposing views. See MIT | Google

Merle B. Turner
The Mind-Body Problem: Knot or Not?
(Xlibris 2008)

Written over a period of 15 years, this is the latest word on the identity theory – that mind and body are one. The ontological problem – reality of mind and body; the epistemic problem – interaction of body and mind; and the methodological problem – relation of knowledge of the mind to the brain are thoroughly explained. A lucid examination of consciousness and of how the divide between mind and brain can be bridged. See Xlibris | Google

Greg Janzen
The Reflexive Nature of Consciousness
(John Benjamins 2008)

Drawing on Brentano, Sartre and recent work by analytic philosophers, Janzen argues that conscious states are reflexive, and necessarily so, i.e., they have a built-in, “implicit” awareness of their own occurrence. He also explores the relationship between reflexivity and the phenomenal dimension of conscious experience, defending the innovative thesis that phenomenal character is constituted by the implicit self-awareness built into every conscious state. See John Benjamins | Google

Andy Clark
Supersizing the Mind
(Oxford 2008)

Clark argues that thinking doesn’t happen only in our heads but that “certain forms of human cognizing include inextricable tangles of feedback, feed-forward and feed-around loops: loops that promiscuously criss-cross the boundaries of brain, body and world.” This is a tour of the emerging cognitive landscape and a sustained argument in favor of a conception of mind that is extended rather than “brain-bound.” See Oxford | Google

Simon Ings
A Natural History of Seeing
(W. W. Norton 2008)

We spend about one-tenth of our waking hours completely blind. Only one percent of what we see is in focus at any one time. There is no direct fossil evidence for the evolution of the eye. In graceful, accessible prose, novelist and science writer Simon Ings sets out to solve these and other mysteries of seeing, reaching back to ancient beliefs that vision is the product of mysterious optic rays and forward to the promise of making robots that see. See W. W. Norton | Google | Amazon

Torin Alter & Robert J. Howell
A Dialogue on Consciousness
(Oxford 2008)

Many philosophers regard consciousness as an entirely physical phenomenon yet it seems to elude scientific explanation. On the other hand, viewing consciousness as a nonphysical phenomenon brings up even larger issues. If consciousness is not physical, how can it be explained? This book features two main characters, Tollens and Ponens – unemployed graduate students who secretly live in a university library – who bring the debate alive. See Oxford | Google | Amazon

Galen Strawson
Real Materialism and Other Essays
(Oxford 2008)

A collection of papers written over twenty years by Galen Strawson in philosophy of mind and metaphysics. Strawson focuses on five main areas: [1] the nature of the physical, consciousness, the ‘mind-body problem,’ and the prospects for panpsychism; [2] the self, the subject of experience, self-consciousness, and the ‘narrative’ self; [3] free will and moral responsibility; [4] the nature of thought and intentionality and their connection with consciousness; [5] the problem of causation with particular reference to the philosophy of David Hume. See Oxford | Google | Amazon | Andrew Melnyk review

L. Weiskrantz & Martin Davies (eds.)
Frontiers of Consciousness
(Oxford 2008)

An exploration of consciousness stemming from the Chichele lectures held at All Souls College in Oxford. Features contributions from a “who’s who” of authorities from both philosophy and psychology. See Oxford | Google | Amazon

A. Haddock & F. Macpherson (eds.)
Disjunctivism: Perception, Action, Knowledge
(Oxford 2008)

Adrian Haddock and Fiona Macpherson present seventeen specially written essays, which examine different forms of disjunctivism and the connections between them. See Oxford | Google | Amazon | Tim Crane review (pdf)

S. Laureys & G. Tononi (eds.)
The Neurology of Consciousness: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropathology
(Academic Press 2008)

The first major book on the neurology of consciousness, i.e. on the study of brain damages and disease states that lead to varying levels of disturbances in human consciousness (vegetative, coma, minimally conscious states, etc). See Amazon | Google Books

Katalin Farkas
The Subject’s Point of View
(Oxford 2008)

Discarding certain elements of the Cartesian conception is more difficult than critics seem to allow, since it is tied to our understanding of basic notions, including the criteria for what makes someone a person, or one of us. See Oxford University Press | Amazon

S. Knuuttila & P. Kärkkäinen (eds.)
Theories of Perception in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy
(Springer 2008 – Studies in the history of philosophy of mind, vol. 6)

The aim of this collection is to shed light on the developments in the theories of sense-perception in medieval Arabic and Latin philosophy, their ancient background and traditional and new themes in early modern thought. See Springer | Amazon | Google Books