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Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #121)

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  854 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
Is there a theory that explains the essence of consciousness? Or is consciousness itself just an illusion? The "last great mystery of science," consciousness was excluded from serious research for most of the last century, but is now a rapidly expanding area of study for students of psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience. Designed for upper-level undergraduate courses on ...more
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Published (first published May 30th 2003)
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Nandakishore Varma
The Self is illusion – so says the Buddha; and Susan Blackmore agrees, albeit with more scientific evidence as backup.


The Hard Problem

We are sure that there is a world outside, filled with inanimate and live things. However, we can experience this world only through our senses: the colours, the smells and the feels. They are all we have, to form our idea about our environment. However, they are dependent upon the experiences of our brain, therefore by nature subjective - and when we come to a
Heba Nouraldeen
...ليس هناك تعريف مُتفق عليه للوعي وعلى ما يبدو لا توجد آلية يُمكنها اكتشاف الوعي

الكتاب طرح العديد من النظريات العلمية والفلسفية حول مفهوم الوعي ولكن استمرت الأسئلة دون اجابة .. فالكاتبة تفضلت بقولها اذا كان هناك سؤال لا يمكن الاجابة عنه فربما من الأفضل أن نتوقف عن طرحه ...
ولكن الأمر يبدو على قدر من الأهمية مما يستوجب المزيد من البحث والقراءة ولعل ما استطعت ان اتوصل اليه هو ان لابد وان العلم الناجح يناقش ويُفسر محتويات تيار الوعي واستمراريته والذات التي توصف إنها واعية
كما إنه لم يتم التوصل الى
Found this a fascinating book insofar as some of the ideas suggested in it were things I had never thought of. See for example the sections Theories of consciousness (p. 43), The nature of illusion (p. 50), The timing of conscious acts (p. 86), Memes (p. 127) and The future of consciousness (p. 128) She mentions Daniel Dennett frequently, citing in particular his Consciousness Explained (1991) and seems to agree which many of his ideas.

By the way, see this review
Hrishabh Chaudhary
The Book and Me

The book deals with a very hard problem, which Blackmore puts forward in the very first line of the very first chapter: What is consciousness? A question you might have ruminated in past, in some way, at some point in time, but then you let it go in favor of attending to worldly obligations. My version goes like this:

Seventh grade, Biology class

Me and my friend were giving a re-read to our favorite chapter ;-) when these words fell upon my ears.
Teacher : a cell is the smallest uni
Ahmad Sharabiani
Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #121), Susan J. Blackmore
عنوان: آگاهی؛ نویسنده: سوزان جی. بلکمور؛ مترجم: رضا رضایی؛ تهران، فرهنگ معاصر، 1387؛ در 196 ص؛ شابک: 9789648637595؛ چاپ دیگر: 1388؛ چاپ چهارم 1393؛ موضوع: خودآگاهی قرن 21 م
How can a physical brain create our experience of the world? What creates our identity? Do we really have free will? Could consciousness itself be an illusion?
Andrew Langridge
This is a very clear, well-written exposition on a difficult subject, but it is by no means a neutral review of the field as one might expect from a 'very short introduction'. Instead, Susan Blackmore promotes her own thesis, sympathetic to the work of Daniel Dennett, in which a single inner self with subjective experience, holding opinions and acting on decisions is a useful fiction or benign illusion created by the brain. Our ordinary intuition that there is a center to conscious experience is ...more
Nov 20, 2015 Clif rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes, I am stuck on these wonderful "very short introduction" (VSI) books from Oxford University. This one is the perfect follow-up to the one on free will that I recently reviewed.

While the free will book is about logic; how do we think about our consciousness and how can we eliminate false ideas about it through reasoning, this book is all about science and the physical brain. The actual parts of the brain are only mentioned a few times but many studies of brain function and the theories of a f
Mohammed Hussam
أفهم المقدمة أن تكون مدخل مبسط للمادة، إن كان فهمي صحيحاً فهذا الكتاب ليس مقدمة..
مجموعة من النظريات العلمية والفلسفية مع عدد كبير من التجارب تحاول الاجابة عن اسئلة من قبيل ما هو الوعي؟ هل يمكن الإحساس بهِ؟ هل هو مرتبط بجهازنا العصبي؟ هل الإنسان هو الكائن الواعي الوحيد؟
والنتيجة كانت لا شيء، سوى الفائدة من بعض المعلومات والتجارب..
بشكل عام أرى أن هذا الكتاب يجع القارئ أكثر حيرة بعد قراءته..
Tariq Alferis
أنت لاتعرف أنك محظوظ
لأنك قرد
الوعي لعنة فظيعة.
كريغ شوارتز يتحدث إلى قرده...

الكتاب يناقش الوعي بشكل موضوعي حيادي , ذكرت الكاتبة رأي الفلسفة و الأديان, علماء الأعصاب , والطب نفسي كتخصص, هل الوعي لعنة ؟, هل هو وهم؟ هل هو شيء منفصل؟
كلها أسئلة لكن دون إجابات, ممكن تفهم خلفية الموضوع وبعض نظريات لتشكل نظريتك الخاصة , لكن لم يعرف أحد إلى الان ماقبل الوعي, من أين جاء كل شيء,
أين كانت ذاتنا الواعية قبل أن نولد, هل يمكنك أن تحدد ذكرياتك الاولى؟
حتى وان اختلفت المفاهيم شنو يضمن أن عقلك الواعي لم يوجد من قبل
Oct 28, 2015 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I debated between giving this book two or three stars. On the plus side, it is well written, an easy read, and it has a clear and concise description of a lot of what has been done and the state of the art in understanding consciousness. In the end, I went with two stars because I felt this book is fundamentally dishonest, a fatal flaw in an introduction. My problem with this book is that rather than being a review, what the title promises, it considers other theories of consciousness only to di ...more
Leon M
Apr 03, 2011 Leon M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In "Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction", Susan Blackmore gives the reader just that - a very short introduction to a highly complicated interdisciplinary topic. Considering the sheer impossibility of doing that in a fully satisfying way, Blackmore did quite a good job at it.

The book starts of with the basic dichotomy between dualists and monists (mainly materialists these days) and explains why none of these sides have a convincing argument to offer for why their side is true and the other
Mikael Lind
This book starts off very promisingly. It asks all the interesting questions and presents loads of interesting research and studies on the topics. However, the final chapter is so utterly disappointing that I can't give this book more than three stars. Blackmore presents her own "solution" to the problem of consciousness, but in such an unsatisfying way that all the questions she herself presented in the beginning remain unanswered. If our talk of consciousness and subconsciousness are nothing b ...more
Kyle van Oosterum
Feb 22, 2016 Kyle van Oosterum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Brilliant introduction to a concept I don't understand at all. The best way to think about consciousness is like trying to see when a fridge's light turns off. It always appears to be on, so in a certain way we always appear to be conscious and we cannot ever not be conscious. The existence of marijuana refutes this idea however...
Jan 03, 2016 Caroline rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Bought online. Font too small. Couldn't even bring myself to struggle to read the first page. Just one glance and it was ejected from my consciousness like a rocket :O(
Feb 10, 2013 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Blackmore summarizes the current understanding of what consciousness is in this short book. She is never less than very clear, although at times it slips into philosophy rather than science, which perhaps says more about the current state of knowledge than anything else.

Blackmore is not an adherent of the Cartesian theatre, instead suggesting that consciousness is an illusion - there is no 'centre' which is me. This seems to be supported by current knowledge in neuroscience and helpfully side-st
Jun 10, 2009 Lise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brain-psych
I was somewhat disappointed in this book. Although it does seem to be a good introduction to the problem, and contains a nice overview of the main lines of thinking, the author takes a somewhat tautological approach and makes far too many assumptions and too few careful definitions (such as her casual assertion that computers can make decisions, or that imagining a being which can think and feel and perceive and decide and not be conscious is easy, even given her precise definition of consciousn ...more
Joshua Stein
May 22, 2011 Joshua Stein rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, mind
I really enjoy Susan Blackmore. She's a terrific mind and a really great person when it comes to consciousness and philosophy of mind, in particular. I received a free copy of her new introduction (not short, in the least) in the mail, and so I'll probably read that at some point over the summer.

As much as I like the Oxford series, this one fell a little short for me. Maybe having a background in a field undermines the purpose of the "Very Short Introduction" series, but it doesn't seem to me th
Ammar Mnla Hasan
May 10, 2016 Ammar Mnla Hasan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
كتاب مشوش جداً، كما يفترض أن يكون، لكنه في طرحه لمسألة الوعي بين الفلسفة والعلم يميل نحو العلم بشدة أكبر، ورغم اعترافه في أكثر من مناسبة أن معرفتنا غير مكتملة بعلوم الأعصاب والتشريح الكهربائي للدماغ، إلا أنه يميل لنفي بعض المفاهيم عن الوعي بناءً على كونها غير مكتشفة بعد علمياً. هناك مفاهيم شديدة الأهمية تم طرحها بسرعة شديدة لدرجة محبطة، كعلاقة الوعي والحتميات بحرية الإرادة، وجانب النفسي لمفهوم اللاوعي. وفي أكثر من مكان من الكتاب يتم مسألة استمرارية أو تجدد الوعي من منطلق ثنائي محدود، إما أن الوع ...more
ცნობიერების საინტერესო და მოკლე შესავალი, რომელიც მართალია კითხვებს უფრო გაგიჩენთ ვიდრე რაიმეს უპასუხებს, მაგრამ ასეთ რთულ ფუნდამენტურ თემაზე და მითუმეტეს "შესავალში" მეტს არც უნდა ელოდეთ.
წიგნში ბევრი საინტერესო მასალა და საკითხია მოკლედ წარმოდგენილი, რა არის ცნობიერება? ვარ კი ცნობიერი? რა არის ყურადღება? არის შინაგანი "მე" მთლიანი თუ სხვადასხვა ცალკეული პროცესებისგან შემდგარი ილუზია? რა არის "დიდი ილუზია"? გვაქვს თავისუფალი ნება? შეკითხვები უამრავია და სულ ერთი მეორეზე უფრო ფუნდამენტური და სიღ
آگاهی چیست و دقیقا چه میکند؟ آیا آگاهی نوعی توهم نیست؟
کتاب شامل 8 فصله زبان ساده ای داره. بلکمور سوالی رو مطرح میکنه و بعد درباره تصورات نادرستی که وجود داره توضیح میده
خوندنش مفید و جالب بود

قسمتی از کتاب
چطور از شر افکار مزاحم راحت شویم؟ بهترین توصیه این است که با این افکار نجنگیم بلکه فقط بگذاریم بروند
ص 147
Mark Isaak
Jun 28, 2015 Mark Isaak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book delivers just what the title promises. It reviews both the philosophy and psychology, and does so as clearly as is possible for a subject which can be so ineffable. I cannot think of anything on the subject of consciousness which Blackmore does not at least touch upon. Zombies, qualia, Cartesian theaters, blindsight, gap-filling, attention, hypnotism, dreaming, meditation, the mirror test, and more are all in there. Blackmore makes her arguments well, but the book is indeed very short, ...more
And with this, my 2014 20 book challenge is finally complete
Jul 09, 2015 Benjamin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Blackmore were a jazz trumpeter, she'd be blowin' right up Dennett's butt. Still, considering she is far less obnoxious than he is and that this is one of those slim "very short introductions," it's a much easier task than his Consciousness Explained. I appreciate that Blackmore is clearly experienced in the Jimi Hendrix sense of the word but I question whether the conclusion that 'consciousness is a delusion' really should automatically lead to the conclusion that we should try to accept tha ...more
Feb 20, 2014 Rama rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Understanding consciousness: A brief review

What is consciousness? How do a set of electrical responses of millions of brain cells produce private, subjective conscious experience? Several theories have been proposed, and they include, grand unifying theories, quantum mechanical theories, biophysical/neurochemical mechanisms, philosophical, and spiritual theories. None of these completely explain the relationship between mind and brain (body), or subjective and objective thoughts. That is, the wa
Aaron Steers
A good survey on the topic. Nothing too provocative versus the other books I've read on this topic recently, including her other book I'm reading re: memes which is much more ambitious. As self-described, this is a "very short introduction". I did get annoyed at her presentation of straw-mans with terms/vocabulary that I don't think are productive or helpful for the discussion. For example, to say that the mental stage is an "illusion" is a self-defeating argument in my opinion because even the ...more
Chris Leo
Jan 20, 2014 Chris Leo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very short introduction to arguably the most mysterious property of existence: consciousness. Consciousness is one of those vague concepts you intuitively know but paradoxically find ineffable – much like love, truth, and beauty…pretty much all the important stuff that puzzles us.

Consciousness does a great job in summarising how understanding of the subject has evolved over time and how we have reached our state of contemporary thinking. The beginning chapters in particular do a wonderful job
Emre Bolcakan
The mind is an incomprehensible fountain of knowledge. Even the greatest of scientists have yet to uncover the secrets of consciousness. This book delivers a fine explanation of the prominent information about the mind. While it does not give a firm grasp of the topic it conveys enough to be perfectly concise. As a cognitive science student who couldn't even define the word consciousness I can say I have a general understanding of the phenomenal mind. While the book did not delve into any subjec ...more
Chris Naylor
Most of this book is about brain science. This material is thought-provoking and worth reading, because Susan Blackmore is a psychologist, and she knows this stuff backwards.

However, some bits of this book are philosophy, and Susan Blackmore is not a philosopher. At the end of the book she tells us:

Consciousness, then, is a grand delusion. It arises through asking such questions as 'Am I conscious now?' or 'What am I conscious of now?' In the moment of questioning, an answer is concocted: a now,
Teo 2050
(view spoiler)
Poco più di ciò che il titolo annuncia: un’introduzione agli studi della coscienza, attraverso una veloce carrellata delle principali teorie filosofiche e scientifiche. Opera perlopiù compilativa, quindi, ma non priva di interesse. È evidente un bias di favore verso le tesi di Dennett (cosa che personalmente posso anche approvare), ma anche una certa sottovalutazione degli studi più promettenti delle neuroscienze (in primis quelli di Tononi, pur giudicati potenzialmente fecondi) nel nome di una ...more
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Susan Jane Blackmore is a freelance writer, lecturer and broadcaster, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth. She has a degree in psychology and physiology from Oxford University (1973) and a PhD in parapsychology from the University of Surrey (1980). Her research interests include memes, evolutionary theory, consciousness, and meditation. She practices Zen and campaigns for drug l ...more
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