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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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L. Nathan Oaklander & Quentin Smith (eds.)
The New Theory of Time
(Yale 1994)

The most important debate between 20th-century philosophers of time has been whether events that have happened, are happening, or will happen are equally real (the tenseless theory) or whether there is a fundamental distinction between past, present, and future, with only present events possessing full existence (the tensed theory). In the 1980s a new version of the tenseless theory emerged. While advocates still posit that all events are equally real, they depart from the old tenseless theory by conceding that tensed expressions cannot be translated into tenseless ones, and support their view using other arguments. This anthology offers the latest turns in the debate. See Yale | Amazon | Google

Leen Spruit
Species Intelligibilis: From Perception to Knowledge. Vol. 1. Classical Roots and Medieval Discussions
(Brill 1994)

This study examines the history of a fundamental problem in Aristotelian cognitive psychology, viz., the nature and function of the mechanisms that provide the human mind with data concerning physical reality. Spruit traces the classical and Arabic prehistory of the medieval doctrine of intelligible species and analyzes Aquinas’s views on mental representation in the context of the reception of Peripatetic psychology. He then examines the controversies about the necessity of intelligible species from Aquinas’s death to the 15th century. See Brill | Amazon | Google

John Campbell
Past, Space and Self
(MIT 1994)

Campbell shows that the general structural features of human thought can be seen as having their source in the distinctive ways in which we think about space and time. He discusses at length the relation between self-consciousness and the first person and how fundamental the first person is in ordinary thought. He also considers the metaphysical implications of this approach, in particular, how ordinary self-consciousness relies on a realist view of the past. See MIT Press | Google | Amazon

Robert Kirk
Raw Feeling
(Oxford 1994)

How can processes in the brain amount to conscious experiences? Kirk uses the notion of “raw feeling” to bridge the intelligibility gap between thinking of ourselves as physical organisms and as subjects of experience. The task is to understand how the truth about raw feeling could be strictly implied by narrowly physical truths. Kirk offers a penetrating analysis and suggests novel solutions. See Oxford | Google

Antonio Damasio
Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain
(Putnam 1994)

In the centuries since Descartes famously proclaimed, ‘I think, therefore I am,’ science has often overlooked emotions as the source of a person’s true being. In this wonderfully engaging book, Damasio takes us on a journey of scientific discovery through a series of case studies, demonstrating what many of us have long suspected: emotions are not a luxury, they are essential to rational thinking and to normal social behaviour. See Google (2008 revised edition)

Roger Penrose
Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness
(Oxford 1994)

Penrose mounts an even more powerful attack on artificial intelligence and points the way to a new science that may explain the physical basis of the human mind. Providing powerful arguments that the conscious brain transcends computation and cannot be explained by present-day science, Penrose introduces some new ideas that differ markedly from those advanced in his 1989 bestseller, The Emperor’s New Mind. With a remarkable excursion into microbiology, he contends that microtubules, and not neurons, may be the basic units of the conscious brain. See Oxford | Google

R. Steven Turner
In the Eye’s Mind: Vision and the Helmholtz-Hering Controversy
(Princeton 1994)

One of the most persistent controversies of modern science concerns human visual perception. It erupted in Germany during the 1860s as a dispute between physiologists Hermann von Helmholtz, Ewald Hering, and their schools. Well into the 20th century these groups warred over our capacity to perceive space, over the retinal mechanisms that mediate color sensations, and over the role of mind, experience, and inference in vision. Turner explores their impassioned exchanges both to illuminate the clash of theory and to explore the larger role of controversy in science. See Princeton | Google

Charles Landesman
The Eye and the Mind: Reflections on Perception and the Problem of Knowledge
(Springer 1994)

This book explains our common-sense understanding of perception and defends a representative theory of perception as being in accord with the results of science. It also argues against color realism and defends the view that nothing has color. This view is color skepticism. A chapter is devoted to defending color skepticism against a number of objections. The book ends with a discussion of our concept of knowledge and attempts to show that the representative theory of perception is not as vulnerable to skeptical arguments as has been assumed. See Springer | Google | Amazon

Galen Strawson
Mental Reality
(MIT 1994)

What is distinctive of the mental? Strawson argues that it is not intelligence, representational content, or intentionality broadly understood, but conscious experience. He argues that philosophy is still confused by positivism and its various offspring and gives undue primacy of place to non-mental phenomena in its account of the nature of mind. Strawson describes an alternative position, naturalized Cartesianism, that couples the materialist view that mind is entirely natural and wholly physical with respect for the idea that the only distinctively mental phenomena are those of conscious experience. See MIT Press | Google | Amazon

Howard Robinson
(Routledge 1994)

This controversial but highly accessible introduction re-examines the notorious sense-datum theory of perception. Robinson surveys the history of the arguments for and against the theory from Descartes to Husserl and argues that we should return to the theory in order to understand perception. In doing so he seeks to overturn a consensus that has dominated the philosophy of perception for nearly half a century. See Routledge | Google | Amazon

Francis Crick
The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul
(Scribner 1994)

Francis Crick turns his attention to human consciousness and maps out the neurobiology of vision. The result is a cogent, witty, and richly detailed analysis of how the brain “sees,” and a daring exploration of some of the most fundamental questions of human existence – Do we have free will? What makes us sentient beings and different from other animals? Is there such a thing as a soul, or are we nothing more than a complex collection of neurons? See Amazon | Google

A. Revonsuo & M. Kamppinen (eds.)
Consciousness in Philosophy and Cognitive Neuroscience
(Psychology Press 1994)

This volume presents the thoughts of some of the leading philosophers and cognitive scientists who participated in the discussion of the status of consciousness in science – International Symposium of Consciousness, University of Turku 1992. The focus of inquiry was the question, “Is it possible to incorporate consciousness into science?” See Psychology Press | Google