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Record Type: Review   ID: 22

The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates

Block, Ned, Flanagan, Owen, & Güzeldere, Güven. (Eds.).

 This is one of the most all-encompassing handbooks on consciousness. It is a collection of writings by various experts of almost all approaches to the subject. It is not for those who do not have an academic interest in consciousness. For those who do, it is a treasure trove. The "Preface and Acknowledgments" sounds very unprepossessing, but not so. It presents paragraph-length abstracts of each of the 49 chapters in the book. The Introduction by Güven Güzeldere is equally valuable. It is subtitled "The Many Faces of Consciousness: A Field Guide," and it presents a tripartite overview of the history and current status of various philosophical positions in consciousness studies. The first is a philosophical overview that discusses the difficulties involved in the concept of consciousness. The second covers the approach to consciousness of modern psychology. The last sets forth the puzzles of consciousness and their interrelations. Part One consists of three essays on the stream of consciousness by William James, Daniel Dennett, and Owen Flanagan. The second, "Consciousness, Science, and Methodology," has 6 contributions by Flanagan, Alvin Goldman, Patricia Churchland, Dennett and Marcel Kinsbourne, Ned Block, and Robert Van Gulick. The third part, "The Psychology and Neuropsychology of Consciousness," has five essays dealing with empirical aspects by Bernard Baars, Martha Farah, Edoardo Bisiach, Tim Shallice, and Francis Crick/Christof Koch. Section IV, on Consciousness and Content, the essay contributors are Colin McGinn, Martin Davies, Michael Tye, and Christopher Peacocke. The fifth section is on the function of consciousness (Flanagan, Block, Dennett, David Chalmers, Jennifer Church, Tyler Burge, and Van Gulick). The next section is on the metaphysics of consciousness, with six essays by Saul Kripke, John R. Searle (2), Georges Rey, Frank Jackson, and Sydney Shoemaker. "Subjectivity and Explanatory Gap" is the title of Section 7, with three essays by Thomas Nagel, Colin McGinn, and Joseph Levine. Van Gulick, Jackson, Churchland, David Lewis and Brian Loar are the contributors. Qualia are covered in section 9, with five essays by Dennett, Shoemaker, Gilbert Harman, Block, and Stephen L. White. The final section is on Higher-Order Monitoring Conceptions of Consciousness. The authors are David Armstrong, David M. Rosenthal, William G. Lycan, Fred Dretske, and Güzeldere. The latter also contributed "Suggested Readings." Unfortunately there is not space within an abstract to describe the individual essays, but we hope simply listing the authors will be meaningful to those people who are in the best position to appreciate this monumental volume.
Publisher Information:Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997. xxix + 843p. Bibl. by Chap; 38 figs; 1 illus; Ind: 825-843; 1 map; Refs to Intro: 807-816; Sugg. Rdg: 817-824; 2 tables
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