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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.


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2016

Godehard Brüntrup & Ludwig Jaskolla (eds.)
Panpsychism: Contemporary Perspectives
(Oxford 2016)

Recent debates in philosophy of mind have reached an impasse. Reductive physicalism cannot account for the phenomenal mind, and non-reductive physicalism cannot safeguard a causal role for the mental. Dualism was formerly considered to be the only viable alternative, but it is hard to square with a naturalist evolutionary framework. This book features panpsychism as a genuine alternative. Different varieties are represented and systematically related to each other in 16 essays, which feature not only proponents of panpsychism but also its prominent critics. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Stephan Blatti & Paul F. Snowdon (eds.)
Animalism: New Essays on Persons, Animals, and Identity
(Oxford 2016)

What are we? What is the nature of the human person? Animalism has a straightforward answer: we are animals. Ignored for a long time in philosophical discussion, this idea has recently gained considerable support in metaphysics and philosophy of mind. It has also occasioned strong opposition, even though it might be said to be the view assumed by much of the scientific community. This is the first volume to be devoted to this important topic and promises to set the agenda for the next stage in the debate. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Scott Sehon
Free Will and Action Explanation: A Non-Causal, Compatibilist Account
(Oxford 2016)

When a person acts, we explain the behavior by citing the agent’s reasons. The dominant view has been to construe such explanations as a species of causal explanation. Sehon defends a non-causal account of action and agency, according to which explanation of human behavior is irreducibly teleological rather than causal. He then applies this account to free will and responsibility, arguing that the free actions—the ones for which we are directly responsible—are the goal-directed ones, the ones teleologically explicable in terms of our reasons. This account undermines the appeal of the view that free will is not compatible with determinism. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

R.D. Ingthorsson
McTaggart’s Paradox
(Routledge 2016)

McTaggart’s argument for the unreality of time, first published in 1908, set the agenda for 20th-century philosophy of time. This book presents the first critical overview of the last century of debate. Scholars have long assumed that McTaggart’s argument stands alone and does not rely on any contentious ontological principles. The author demonstrates that these assumptions are incorrect—McTaggart himself explicitly claimed his argument to be dependent on the ontological principles that form the basis of his idealist metaphysics. See Routledge | Amazon | Google

Simon Prosser
Experiencing Time
(Oxford 2016)

We are aware of time on many scales, from the briefest flicker of change to the way our lives unfold over many years. But to what extent does this encounter reveal the true nature of temporal reality? To the extent that temporal reality is as it seems, how do we come to be aware of it? And to the extent that temporal reality is not as it seems, why does it seem that way? See Oxford | Amazon | Google | Ian Phillips review

Yuval Dolev & Michael Roubach (eds.)
Cosmological and Psychological Time
(Springer 2016)

This book examines the many faces of philosophy of time, including its metaphysical aspects, natural science issues, and the consciousness of time. It does so in a way that counters the existing cleavage between analytic and continental traditions in the philosophy of time. It helps clarify the presuppositions underpinning both of these traditions and offers ways in which their differences can be bridged. See Springer | Amazon | Google

Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk (ed.)
Conceptualizations of Time
(John Benjamins 2016)

As time cannot be observed directly, it must be analyzed in terms of mental categories, which manifest themselves on various linguistic levels. In this interdisciplinary volume, novel approaches to time are proposed that consider temporality without time, on the one hand, and the coding of time in language, including sign language, and gestures, on the other. The contributions demonstrate that time is conceptualized not only in terms of space but in terms of other domains of human experience as well. See John Benjamins | Amazon | Google

Michaelian, Klein & Szpunar (eds.)
Seeing the Future: Theoretical Perspectives on Future-Oriented Mental Time Travel
(Oxford 2016)

Episodic memory is a major area of research in psychology, understood today as a form of mental “time travel” into the personal past. Recent research has revealed striking similarities between episodic memory and future-oriented mental time travel. This edited volume brings together leading contributors in both empirical and theoretical disciplines to present the first interdisciplinary look at the human ability to imagine future scenarios. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Michael Madary
Visual Phenomenology
(MIT 2016)

Madary examines visual experience, drawing on both phenomenological and empirical methods of investigation. He finds that these two approaches—careful, philosophical description of experience and the science of vision—independently converge on the same result: visual perception is an ongoing process of anticipation and fulfillment. See MIT | Amazon | Google

Bence Nanay (ed.)
Current Controversies in Philosophy of Perception
(Routledge 2016)

An up-to-date and accessible overview of the hottest contemporary debates in philosophy of perception, written especially for this volume by many of the most important philosophers of the field. Can perception be unconscious? What is the relation between perception and attention? What properties can we perceive? Are perceptual states representations? How is vision different from the other sense modalities (like hearing or smell)? How do these sense modalities interact with one another? See Routledge | Amazon | Google

Peter Godfrey-Smith
Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2016)

Although mammals and birds are widely regarded as the smartest creatures on earth, it has lately become clear that a very distant branch of the tree of life has also sprouted higher intelligence: the cephalopods, consisting of the squid, the cuttlefish, and above all the octopus. Godfrey-Smith tells a bold new story of how subjective experience crept into being — how nature became aware of itself. It is a story that largely occurs in the ocean, where animals first appeared. See Amazon | Google

Joel Smith
Experiencing Phenomenology: An Introduction
(Routledge 2016)

An outstanding introduction to phenomenology. Approaching fundamental phenomenological questions from a critical, systematic perspective whilst paying careful attention to classic phenomenological texts, the book possesses a clarity and breadth that will be welcomed by students coming to the subject for the first time. See Routledge | Amazon | Google

J. T. Ismael
How Physics Makes Us Free
(Oxford 2016)

The first book to truly examine the question of what physics tells us about whether or not we are free to act. Ismael provides a deeply informed account of what physics tells us about ourselves. The result is a vision that is abstract, alien, illuminating, and—Ismael argues—affirmative of most of what we all believe about our own freedom. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Michael R. Kelly
Phenomenology and the Problem of Time
(Palgrave Macmillan 2016)

This book explores the problem of time and immanence for phenomenology in the work of Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Derrida. Detailed readings of immanence in light of the more familiar problems of time-consciousness and temporality provide the framework for evaluating both Husserl’s efforts to break free of modern philosophy’s notions of immanence, and the influence Heidegger’s criticism of Husserl exercised over Merleau-Ponty’s and Derrida’s alternatives to Husserl’s phenomenology. See Palgrave | Amazon | Google

Mark Rowlands
Memory and the Self: Phenomenology, Science and Autobiography
(Oxford 2016)

Our memories, in some sense, make us who we are. But most of what we have experienced has been forgotten. There is also considerable evidence that, even when we think we remember, our memories are likely to be distorted, sometimes beyond recognition. Imagine writing your autobiography, only to find that that most of it has been redacted, and much of the rest substantially rewritten. What would hold this book together? What would make it the unified and coherent account of a life? The answer, Rowlands argues, lies, partially hidden, in a largely unrecognized form of memory - Rilkean memory. See Oxford | Amazon | Google | The Brains Blog

Kevin Timpe, Meghan Griffith, Neil Levy (eds.)
The Routledge Companion to Free Will
(Routledge 2016)

This book is the first to draw together leading experts on every aspect of free will, from those who are central to the current philosophical debates, to non-western perspectives, to scientific contributions and to those who know the rich history of the subject. Its 61 chapters are framed by a General Introduction and briefer introductions for each of the six sections. See Routledge | Amazon | Google

William Jaworski
Structure and the Metaphysics of Mind: How Hylomorphism Solves the Mind-Body Problem
(Oxford 2016)

The first book to show how hylomorphism can be used to solve mind-body problems. From a hylomorphic perspective, such problems are byproducts of a worldview that rejects structure. Such a worldview lacks a basic principle which distinguishes the parts of the physical universe that can think, feel, and perceive from those that can't. Without such a principle, the existence of those powers in the physical world can start to look inexplicable and mysterious. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

David Gelernter
The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness
(Liveright 2016)

Gelernter marshals evidence from psychological and scientific research as well as the works of Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Ernest Hemingway, J.M. Coetzee and many others to advance a new paradigm for the study of human consciousness. See Liveright | Amazon | Google | Chicago Tribune review

Chris Nunn
New Directions in Consciousness Studies: SoS Theory and the Nature of Time
(Routledge 2016)

A range of fresh ideas which promise to significantly advance scientific understanding of human nature. Early chapters deal with our nature and suggest that mind can usefully be viewed as a type of dynamic landscape. Later chapters develop a theory of the basis of consciousness (SoS theory). Using the physical concept of ‘broken symmetry,’ Nunn shows how conscious mind may be rooted in temporality: a view that is supported by the occurrence of a wide range of anomalous phenomena. See Routledge | Amazon | Google

Jonathan Westphal
The Mind-Body Problem
(MIT 2016)

Westphal examines the mind-body problem in detail, laying out the reasoning behind the solutions that have been offered in the past. He then examines the largely forgotten neutral monist theories of mind and body and proposes his own version. This version is unique among neutral monist theories in offering an account of mind-body interaction. See MIT | Amazon | Google

Anthony J. Lisska
Aquinas’s Theory of Perception: An Analytic Reconstruction
(Oxford 2016)

A new analysis of Aquinas’s theory of perception. While much work has been undertaken on Aquinas’s texts, little has been devoted principally to his theory of perception and less still on a discussion of inner sense. The thesis of intentionality serves as the backdrop of Lisska’s analysis and the principal thrust is on the importance of inner sense, a much-overlooked area of Aquinas’s philosophy of mind, with special reference to the vis cogitativa. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Shelley Weinberg
Consciousness in Locke
(Oxford 2016)

Weinberg argues that the idea of consciousness as a form of non-evaluative self-awareness runs through Locke’s philosophy. Central to her account is that perceptions of ideas are complex mental states wherein consciousness is a constituent. Such an interpretation answers charges of inconsistency in Locke’s model of the mind and lends coherence to a puzzling aspect of Locke’s theory of knowledge: how we know individual things when knowledge is defined as the perception of an agreement, or relation, of ideas. See Oxford | Amazon | Google

Kourken Michaelian
Mental Time Travel: Episodic Memory and Our Knowledge of the Personal Past
(MIT 2016)

Current philosophical approaches to memory rest on assumptions that are incompatible with the rich body of theory and data coming from psychology. Michaelian argues that abandoning those assumptions will result in a radically new philosophical understanding of memory. His novel, integrated account of episodic memory, memory knowledge, and their evolution makes a significant step in that direction. See MIT | Amazon | Google | The Brains Blog

Jonathan Balcombe
What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins
(Macmillan 2016)

There are more than thirty thousand species of fish—more than all mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians combined—but we rarely consider how individual fishes think, feel, and behave. Balcombe upends our assumptions about fishes, portraying them not as unfeeling, dead-eyed feeding machines but as sentient, aware, social, and even Machiavellian—in other words, much like us. See Macmillan | Amazon | Google

Todd E. Feinberg & Jon M. Mallatt
The Ancient Origins of Consciousness: How the Brain Created Experience
(MIT 2016)

By considering the biological and neurobiological features that seem responsible for consciousness and the fossil record of evolution, Feinberg and Mallatt argue that consciousness appeared much earlier in evolutionary history than is commonly assumed. About 520 to 560 million years ago, they explain, the great “Cambrian explosion” of animal diversity produced the first complex brains, which were accompanied by the first appearance of consciousness. See MIT | Amazon | Google