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

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  555 ratings  ·  45 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 2005)
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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
Leon M
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
...more
Ted
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.
Joshua Stein
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
...more
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
Misha
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
...more
Rama
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
...more
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
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
...more
Emre
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
Steve
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
...more
Lise
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
Edward
How does the brain work, anyway? That's the central question asked by this intriguing short introduction to brain studies. The answers are inconclusive and illusive, but some firm assertions can be made on the grounds of experimental research. One is that nothing is centralized in the human brain. There are a lot of different functions (a sense of time, body movement control, memory, etc.) each controlled by separate parts of the brain.
If this is true, then a couple of commonly believed metaph
...more
Ryan Scicluna
What a topic to discus! A very interesting introduction about consciousness and all that we mean by it. To be honest you will end up with more questions then answers by the end of the book but that's the advantages of introduction books. So that you can explore the topic in more details if you are interested.

Suggested Further Reading:

Consciousness: An Introduction S.J. Blackmore
Consciousness Explained D.C. Dennett
The Conscious Mind D. Chalmers
The Mystery of Consciousness J. Searle
The Astonishing
...more
Robin-Hood
Cinque stelle, si. Anche se è un libro che mi ha fatto inca#@*%e fino all'inverosimile...un libro pieno di orecchie ed angolini mangiucchiati, sottolineature e commenti pieni di punti interrogativi, esclamativi e parolacce...ebbene si, sono stata anche scurrile con l'autrice e non me ne pento per nulla. Ecco.
Perché non si possono affrontare simili temi così, dando solo delle punzecchiature all'intelligenza e poi lasciandoti in acqua da solo senza nemmeno stare a guardare se affoghi o riesci a s
...more
Sher
This book introduces readers to past and present theories on consciousness. What does it mean to be conscious? Blackmore explores how things seem versus how things are. So, "is consciousness an extra ingredient that we humans have in addition to our abilities of perceiving, thinking, and feeling, or is it an intrinsic and inseparable part of being a creature that can perceive and think and feel?" (8).

And how would you answer this?

Other questions -- Does consciousness do anything --Can consciousn
...more
Breck
I thought the author did an excellent job of explaining what is otherwise a complex, difficult topic. We often forget that our brain is the "most complex object in the known universe". And it's amazing how much the brain does outside of our conscious control. Continuously it's receiving sensory information, which it processes and then uses to form patterns and influence action--much of which takes place intuitively. Think of how often you do things without consciously telling yourself to? How ma ...more
David Chess
Most people who write about consciousness or free will manage to sweep the hard part of the problem under the rug in one way or another, without really saying anything new. This book clearly and plainly presents the problem, lays out why it is so hard, examines and identifies the flaws in the usual ways of making it go away, and then suggests, modestly and tentatively, another way out. I'm not convinced that the theory outlined at the end of the book is actually correct, but at least it is not o ...more
Steve
A mostly thought-provoking treatment of one of life's most profound mysteries. Concise and accessible, it raises questions and topics that are thoroughly intriguing but does so without ever really requiring familiarity with the subject. Not as objective/unbiased as I'd have liked it to be, this is nevertheless a stimulating read, and the author successfully conveys a sense of just why the mystery around that persistent feeling of an "I" is so deeply challenging. There were several points where I ...more
Björn
Great at what it does: Introducing the reader to some of the major themes in contemporary consciousness philosophy and science. Simple, clear - and very interesting.
Ugh
I've been meaning to read some of these Short Intros To... for a while, but this is the first time I actually have. Much of the content was already familiar to me, and there was little that made me stop and think or question, but it did provide a nice, easy-to-read little recap. I did only borrow it from a friend though, and I'm not sure it would have been worth me buying it because of the lack of novelty, but then it also hasn't put me off buying some Short Intros to topics I know less about. I ...more
Jonathan Triffitt
This could easily have been rewritten as a "very very short introduction" by just writing "it's a mystery" on the first, and only, page.
Ikhlas
Not recommend for someone like beginners like me, totally written by writer's view. Not fit for Introduction Books.
Jeroen Stapper
Plenty of food for thought in this little book. Fun illustrations and accesible writing style, along with some ideas and interpretations by Blackmore herself which seemed honest and intriguing to me. It made me very curious to see what else she has written. Admittedly I am partial to those who envision the possibility of converging disciplines like science and (eastern) philosophy, meditation and especially those who don't dismiss the idea of using psychoactive chemicals to study the mind outrig ...more
Debjeet Bhattacharjee
A lucid interpretation of a content too difficult to illustrate.
Miranda Ro
Very Interesting.
Sueper
I'm looking forward to now reading the "non-abridged" version, which I believe is a textbook. What really surprised me about my experience with this book, is that it wasn't until the second to last page that I really understood her over-riding argument, and felt as if I had been converted. If you can approach it without fear, you will have a better chance of understanding the concepts. I must now go back and review my final paper for my AI class, arguing for or against strong AI, or conscious ma ...more
Matt
As recommended by R Scott Bakker in Neuropath.

Well presented and argued introduction to modern thinking on what consciousness is, where it comes from and what (if anything) it might be "for".

Covers a lot of theories and ideas in enough detail for you to get the basic idea of them and contains detailed references for follow up.

The conclusions are disturbing; especially given how "convincing" our personal experience is and how often experiments show that our assumptions are plain wrong.
Sina Mahmoodi
As the writer says at the end of the book "The confusion we have reached is deep and serious"! She suggests throwing out the previous ideas about consciousness, and adopting the idea that it is all a grand delusion but it surely is a difficult to do and I'm not totally convinced, yet.
But the good thing about it is that you'll get to know different paths and is a great starting point.
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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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