Missives from a fly bottle
barang dot sg
Last revised 18 October 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)


2014

M. Sprevak & J. Kallestrup (eds.)
New Waves in Philosophy of Mind
(Palgrave Macmillan 2014)

Philosophy of mind is one of the core disciplines in philosophy. The questions that it deals with are profound, vexed and intriguing. This volume of 15 new cutting-edge essays gives young researchers a chance to stir up new ideas. The topics covered include the nature of consciousness, cognition, and action. See Palgrave | Amazon | Google

Lambert Wieising, trans. Nancy Ann Roth
The Philosophy of Perception: Phenomenology and Image Theory
(Bloomsbury 2014)

Wiesing’s work challenges current theories of perception. Instead of attempting to understand how a subject perceives the world, he starts by taking perception to be real and asks what this means for a subject. In his original approach, the question of how human perception is possible is displaced by questions about what perception obliges us to be and do. He argues that perception requires us to be embodied, to be visible, and to continually participate in the public and physical world we perceive. Originally published in German as Das Mich der Wahrnehmung: Eine Autopsie (2009). See Bloomsbury | Amazon | Google | Nico Orlandi review

J. F. Silva & M. Yrjönsuuri (eds.)
Active Perception in the History of Philosophy: From Plato to Modern Philosophy
(Springer 2014)

Perception has often been conceived as a process in which the passive aspects - such as the reception of sensory stimuli - were stressed and the active ones overlooked. Recent research has emphasized the activity of the subject in the process of sense perception, often relating this to the notions of attention and intentionality. Although it is recognized that there are ancient roots to the view that perception is fundamentally active, the history remains largely unexplored. The aim of this work is to show the roots of the conception of perception as an active process, tracing the history of its development from Plato to modern philosophy. See Springer | Amazon | Google

Nico Orlandi
The Innocent Eye: Why Vision Is Not a Cognitive Process
(Oxford 2014)

Why does the world look to us as it does? Generally speaking, this question has received two types of answers in the cognitive sciences in the past fifty or so years. According to the first, the world looks to us the way it does because we construct it to look as it does. According to the second, the world looks as it does primarily because of how the world is. Orlandi defends a position that aligns with this second, world-centered tradition, but that also respects some of the insights of constructivism. He develops an embedded understanding of visual processing according to which, while visual percepts are representational states, the states and structures that precede the production of percepts are not representations. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Anderson, Biggam, Hough & Kay (eds.)
Colour Studies: A Broad Spectrum
(John Benjamins 2014)

This volume presents some of the latest research in colour studies by specialists across a wide range of academic disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, the fine arts, linguistics, onomastics, philosophy, psychology and vision science. The chapters have been developed from papers and posters presented at the Progress in Colour Studies (PICS12) conference held at the University of Glasgow. The opening chapter stems from the conference keynote talk on prehistoric colour semantics by Carole P. Biggam. The remaining chapters are grouped into three sections: colour and linguistics; colour categorization, naming and preference; and colour and the world. See John Benjamins | Amazon | Google

Berit Brogaard (ed.)
Does Perception Have Content?
(Oxford 2014)

The question of whether perception has content has recently become a focus of discussion. The most common view is that it does, but a number of philosophers have questioned this claim. What does it mean to say that perception has content? Does perception have more than one kind of content? Does perceptual content derive from the content of beliefs or judgments? Should perceptual content be understood in terms of accuracy conditions? Is naive realism compatible with holding that perception has content? This volume brings together philosophers representing diverse perspectives to address these and other central questions in the philosophy of perception. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Stokes, Matthen & Biggs (eds.)
Perception and Its Modalities
(Oxford 2014)

In nineteen new essays, philosophers and cognitive scientists explore the individual senses, how and what they tell us about the world, and how they interrelate. They consider how the senses extract perceptual content from receptoral information, what kinds of objects we perceive, and whether multiple senses ever perceive a single event. Questions pertaining to how many senses we have, what makes one sense distinct from another, and whether and why distinguishing senses may be useful feature prominently. Contributors examine the extent to which the senses act in concert, rather than as discrete modalities, and whether this influence is epistemically pernicious, neutral, or beneficial. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Anna Marmodoro
Aristotle on Perceiving Objects
(Oxford 2014)

How can we explain the structure of perceptual experience? What is it that we perceive? Why do we perceive objects and not disjoint arrays of properties? By which sense or senses do we perceive objects? Aristotle investigated these questions through metaphysical models of the unity of the perceptual faculty and the unity of experiential content. This book offers a reconstruction of the six metaphysical models Aristotle offered to address these and related questions, focusing on their metaphysical underpinning in his theory of causal powers. By doing so, the book brings out what is especially valuable and even surprising about the topic: the core principles of Aristotle’s metaphysics of perception are fundamentally different from those of his metaphysics of substance. See Oxford | Amazon | Google | Christopher Frey review

A. Mark Smith
From Sight to Light: The Passage from Ancient to Modern Optics
(U. Chicago Press 2014)

From its inception in Greek antiquity, the science of optics was aimed primarily at explaining sight and accounting for why things look as they do. By the end of the seventeenth century, however, the focus had shifted to light: its fundamental properties and such physical behaviors as reflection, refraction, and diffraction. This dramatic shift, which Smith characterizes as the “Keplerian turn,” lies at the heart of this fascinating and pioneering study. See U. Chicago Press | Amazon | Google | Christopher Dainty review (pdf)

Eric C. Banks
The Realistic Empiricism of Mach, James, and Russell: Neutral Monism Reconceived
(Cambridge 2014)

In the early twentieth century, Ernst Mach, William James, and Bertrand Russell founded a movement known as ‘neutral monism,’ based on the view that minds and physical objects are constructed out of elements or events which are neither mental nor physical, but neutral between the two. This movement offers a unified scientific outlook which includes sensations in human experience and events in the world of physics under one roof. In this book, Banks discusses this important movement as a whole for the first time. See Cambridge | Amazon | Google

Dan Zahavi
Self and Other: Exploring Subjectivity, Empathy, and Shame
(Oxford 2014)

Can you be a self on your own or only together with others? Does a strong emphasis on the first-personal character of consciousness prohibit a satisfactory account of intersubjectivity or is the former rather a necessary requirement for the latter? Zahavi argues that, while the most fundamental level of selfhood is not socially constructed and not constitutively dependent upon others, there are dimensions of the self that are other-mediated. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Evan Thompson
Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy
(Columbia 2014)

A renowned philosopher of the mind, also known for his groundbreaking work on Buddhism and cognitive science, Evan Thompson combines the latest neuroscience research on sleep, dreaming, and meditation with Indian and Western philosophy of the mind, casting new light on the self and its relation to the brain. See Columbia | Amazon | Google

Josh Weisberg
Consciousness
(Polity 2014)

A fine introduction to one of the most exciting areas in philosophy and science today. Each of us, right now, is having a unique conscious experience. Nothing is more basic to our lives as thinking beings. But the ever-expanding reach of natural science suggests that everything in our world is ultimately physical. The challenge of fitting consciousness into our modern scientific worldview is among the most intriguing explanatory problems of our times. See Polity | Amazon | Google

Zoltan Torey
The Conscious Mind
(MIT 2014)

Drawing on evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and linguistics, Torey proposes that once life began, consciousness had to emerge – because consciousness is the informational source of the brain’s behavioral response. Consciousness, he argues, is not a newly acquired “quality,” “cosmic principle,” “circuitry arrangement” or “epiphenomenon,” as others have argued, but an indispensable working component of the living system’s manner of functioning. See MIT | Amazon | Google

Valtteri Arstila & Dan Lloyd (eds.)
Subjective Time: The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience of Temporality
(MIT 2014)

Our awareness of time and temporal properties is a constant feature of conscious life. Subjective temporality structures and guides every aspect of behavior and cognition, distinguishing memory, perception, and anticipation. This milestone volume brings together research on temporality from leading scholars in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, defining a new field of interdisciplinary research. See MIT | Amazon | Google

John Campbell & Qassim Cassam
Berkeley’s Puzzle: What Does Experience Teach Us?
(Oxford 2014)

Our conception and knowledge of mind-independent things seems to be based on sensory experience. But Berkeley argued that sensory experience can only provide us with the conception of mind-dependent things. In a lively debate, Campbell and Cassam propose very different solutions (‘relationalist’ and ‘representationalist’) to Berkeley’s puzzle. See Oxford | Amazon | Google | Christopher Frey review

Stanislas Dehaene
Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts
(Viking 2014)

How does our brain generate a conscious thought? And why does so much of our knowledge remain unconscious? Thanks to clever psychological and brain-imaging experiments, scientists are closer to cracking this mystery than ever before. Dehaene describes the pioneering work his lab and the labs of other cognitive neuroscientists have accomplished in understanding the brain events behind a conscious state. The emerging theory enables a test of consciousness in animals, babies, and those with severe brain injuries. See Viking | Amazon | Google | BookLab review (podcast)

Georg Northoff
Unlocking the Brain, Volume 1: Coding
(Oxford 2014)

Northoff argues that the brain must code the relationship between its resting state activity and stimulus-induced activity in order to enable and predispose mental states and consciousness. He presents a unique and novel picture of the brain that will have a major and lasting impact on neuroscientists working in neuroscience, psychiatry, and related fields. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Georg Northoff
Unlocking the Brain, Volume 2: Consciousness
(Oxford 2014)

In this volume, Northoff addresses consciousness by hypothesizing about the relationship between particular neuronal mechanisms and the various phenomenal features of consciousness. He puts consciousness in the context of the resting state of the brain thereby delivering a new point of view to the debate that permits very interesting insights into the nature of consciousness. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Ted Honderich
Actual Consciousness
(Oxford 2014)

What is it for you to be conscious? There is no agreement whatever in philosophy or science: it has remained a hard problem, a mystery. Is this partly or mainly owed to the existing theories not even having the same subject, not answering the same question? Honderich sets out to supersede dualisms, objective physicalisms, abstract functionalism, general externalisms, and other positions in the debate, with the “theory of Actualism.” See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Christopher Peacocke
The Mirror of the World: Subjects, Consciousness, and Self-Consciousness
(Oxford 2014)

A philosophical theory of subjects of consciousness and the nature of first-person representation. Peacocke develops a new treatment, distinct from previous theories, under which subjects were regarded either as constructs from mental events, or fundamentally embodied, or Cartesian egos. He relates his position to the recent literature in the philosophy of mind and distinguishes three varieties of self-consciousness. See Oxford | Amazon | Google