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The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  2,211 ratings  ·  80 reviews
What is consciousness? How do physical processes in the brain give rise to the self-aware mind and to feelings as profoundly varied as love or hate, aesthetic pleasure or spiritual yearning? These questions today are among the most hotly debated issues among scientists and philosophers, and we have seen in recent years superb volumes by such eminent figures as Francis Cric ...more
Paperback, 1st edition Philosophy of Mind Series, 432 pages
Published September 25th 1997 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 1996)
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Peter Ells Definitely YES. This is THE book that rekindled widespread and intense interest in the mind-body problem. He writes about the "Hard Problem" of consci…moreDefinitely YES. This is THE book that rekindled widespread and intense interest in the mind-body problem. He writes about the "Hard Problem" of consciousness - that of qualities, such as the experience of experiencing the blueness of the sky. He contrasts this with the "Easy Problems" of explaining appropriate physical responses, such as uttering the words "What a beautiful blue sky!"
David writes prolifically and clearly on this issue, so you have a wonderful choice of follow-up reading. But this is the one to study first.(less)

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C.T. Phipps
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Consciousness is the last refuge of the non-religious dualistic thinker. A person who believes reality is more than matter. As Death in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather put it, "TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED."

I enjoy challenging my beliefs, especially the calcified ones. I knew before starting this book that Chalmers would challenge my philosophic materialism, and in a slightly self-punishing way I wish he would have done a better job. He is a brilliant man, and plays in a fucking panpsychic-themed band, and is one of the people I wish were in my circle of friends, but my margin notes became increasingly hostile before abandoning this book altogether.

This quote (from a recent Atlantic article wherein
Apr 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book can be separated into two parts: 1) A criticism of a materialistic view of consciousness and 2) David Chalmers' foundations for a fundamental theory of mind.

The first part is clear, powerful and very convincing. He is organized and thorough, answering the reader's every question. DC covers all of the major arguments against a materialistic view of consciousness, with his conclusion being that mental facts do not logically supervene on physical facts. In other words, it is logically pos
Griffin Deutsch
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
Full disclosure: I did not finish this book, and went into it with a clear physicalist disposition, trying to challenge my own beliefs.

For the first third of the book, Chalmers gives a rigorous exposition on notions of different forms of supervenience as well as possible world semantics. He's quite thorough and there was nothing too objectionable, until he got to p-zombies. This is where it went off the rails quick for me.

Essentially, Chalmers' whole argument for his brand of property dualism hi
Daniel Hageman
1. Conscious experience exists.
2. Conscious experience is not logically supervenient on the physical.
3. If there are phenomena that are not logically supervenient on the physical facts, then materialism is false.
4. The physical domain is causally closed.

These core premises, which Chalmers rigorously yet eloquently argues for (and responds to counterarguments against), are what gets his theory of mind off the ground. This book was an intellectual joy to read, and it's difficult for me not to be
Kunal Sen
Jul 01, 2022 rated it really liked it
Before I go into any detailed discussion of this book, I must admit that even though I could not agree with many of the claims made by the author, I was still deeply impressed by his arguments and his willingness to accept that his conclusions could be wrong. That is the only way, at this point, we can hope to tackle the most difficult intellectual problem ever faced by humankind. Consciousness is so hard because we all believe we are conscious, and our inner perception is the only fact in the w ...more
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, science
Lets be clear here. David Chalmers offers the view of "Property Dualism", which rejects strict materialism with the idea that though consciousness is produced by the brain, it is not strictly reducible to the brain. This is informed by the idea that materialist theories of consciousness and neuroscience are "leaving something out" when it comes to consciousness, and I must say that the more philosophy of mind I read, the more I'm convinced this is the case.

Now, I'd also like to make it clear t
Jana Light
Oct 07, 2016 rated it liked it
I go back and forth on this one. I'll need to take a bit to let what I really think about the work bubble to the surface. Review to come. ...more
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For a complete laywoman in philosophy and consciousness, this was an enjoyable, interesting read that I could also comprehend.
Liedzeit Liedzeit
Mar 20, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
For a long time I have avoided reading this book because I knew I would strongly disagree with the main theses. But it is sort of requiered reading if you are interested in consciousness. And also it is hard not to like Chalmers. For one thing he looked (until recently) more like an AC/DC roadie than a Professor of Philosophy and also he presents a huge collection of philosopher’s jokes on his home page.

And, of course, not to read a book because you will dislike the arguments is silly. So I did
Zarathustra Goertzel
Apr 25, 2022 rated it it was ok
The Conscious Mind is difficult to review.

Wikipedia cites Chalmers as maintaining that the book is "far from perfect" as it was mostly written as part of his PhD dissertation. Thus despite the work's broad influence, harsh critique would be undue and unfair.

Moreover, examining https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/co..., it appears that Chalmers played an important role in shifting to clearly articulating a Neural Correlates of Consciousness itself and that people spoke rather unclearly in these re
Brian Powell
Chalmers is a thoughtful practitioner well-acquainted with this field. He's by all accounts a grounded, critically-thinking person. Sadly, to paraphrase Rick James, "consciousness is one hell of a drug." It makes reasonable, well-meaning people go tragically off the rails.

Chalmers opens his salvo by claiming that consciousness "does not logically supervene on the physical world". By this he means that once one has fixed all the physical facts about the world, one must add something extra to get
Ricardo Acuña
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Consciousness is still not completely understood, and many of the great minds in the history have tried to search for a theory to completely explain it but it remains difficult to achieve, up to now. David J. Chalmers makes a remarkable try in this book that is worth to read it.

Chalmers recognize that the problem of consciousness lies uneasily at the border of science and philosophy, and is extraordinary difficult, if not impossible, to study using the scientific methods. This is a key fact that
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Sep 11, 2008 marked it as started-but-stalled-for-now
I just returned it to the library. Someday I will finish it. I'm just currently and strongly persuaded by the physicalist and eliminativist end of the spectrum so much so that I simply lost interest. I know of Chalmers reputation as having made great contributions to the subject of consciousness. I think where I most differ with property dualism (anomalous monism being the most persuasive version for me so far) is with regards to the problematic notion of epiphenomenal mental states (which Chalm ...more
Mar 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
He rejects materialism and subscribes to property dualism. A great book by a mathematician turned philosopher.
Elliott Bignell
Apr 12, 2015 rated it liked it
The middling star-rating indicates that I was faced with a real dilemma in reviewing this book. Chalmers' conclusions towards the latter half are unobjectionable and would seem a coherent contribution to the problem of consciousness taken on their own. The problem is that the route he takes to get to them is one extended exercise in question-begging, and ultimately self-defeating. Subtly or not so subtly, Chalmers again and again builds arguments based on the assumption of what he seeks to demon ...more
Joshua Stein
Jul 24, 2013 rated it liked it
So, there's a lot to be said about The Conscious Mind. The most important thing is that it is stylistically and structurally very strange. Chalmers argues for his version of property dualism from an angle that is not well represented or well appreciated in philosophy of mind: theoretical metaphysics. There is something wonderfully (in my opinion) anti-metaphysical about most of the literature in philosophy of mind; most of the folks in this field (Block, Damasio, Paul Churchland, Dennett, etc.) ...more
Infinite Jen
Sep 12, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imago dei was the original anthropological metaphor, the answer to the question “What is the mineral Cummingtonite?" (eg. a magnesium-iron silicate hydroxide metamorphic amphibole that was first discovered in Cummington, Massachusetts in 1824, (It is actually quite a beautiful mineral and worthy of inclusion in any self-respecting geological display, and not at all the calcified remains of a failed bovine conception.) Excuse me, I meant to say: Answer to the question: "WTF is it like to be a hum ...more
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Both a great window into the world and questions of philosophy of mind and consciousness and a very detailed and thought-out picture of one philosopher's answers to those questions. Probably not the best book to read first if you haven't delved into the area much before, but it is well written, often funny, and argued with clarity. Chalmers tells you what he's going to argue for, argues for it, then reminds you what he just argued for. He is very systematic, and there is no question that he beli ...more
Cesar Gil
Dec 16, 2021 rated it it was ok
I didn't like this book. He treats conscience with a very formatted, Boolean, Cartesian thinking where everything is either true or not. With hundreds of rationalities of the either/or type. But cognition is not like that. It is a biological, chaotic process. It has no commitment to the precise boxes we try to fit it in. That doesn't mean it doesn't have a process, but we should look for something more organic.

It's also hard to understand what he proposes. He says in several different places wha
Paige McLoughlin
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you are a consciousness or qualia freak then you will really enjoy David Chalmers as he dissects the hard problem of consciousness. Written close to the analytic philosophy tradition of philosophy which has a preoccupation with the mind, brain, AI, Linguistics, Consciousness then this book my friend written in the 1990s will keep you busy for a long long time. David Chalmers is down to earth and fun but he goes deep. Recommended.

Chalmers TED talk short form. (2014)
Oct 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
A really fun read. Complex and mentally demanding, this book is sort of like living in the author's mind or listening to him as he thinks out loud. There's a whole lot to think about here, and if you're serious about trying to understand, organize, and digest the ideas presented within, then this book is a very long meal indeed. Split each chapter up as necessary and take it slow; this book does not disappoint. ...more
Probably the most important philosophy book of the 1990s.
Feb 11, 2008 rated it liked it
This book is a book about what the conscious mind is, how we use it, and is basically a philosiphy book of sorts.
Arno Mosikyan
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy

In this book I reach conclusions that some people may think of as “antiscientific”: I argue that reductive explanation of consciousness is impossible, and I even argue for a form of dualism.

Materialism is a beautiful and compelling view of the world, but to account for consciousness, we have to go beyond the resources it provides.

At the root of all this lie two quite distinct concepts of mind. The first is the phenomenal concept of mind. This is the concept of mind as conscious experience,
Dec 05, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
the HARD PROBLEM. i had this exact debate years ago and recurrently over pitchers of beer at logans pub with my good friend alex mylo. chalmers has my corner. i compare this book to dennett's on conciousness, which i also recently read. dennett, in some ways, puts forward more satisfying arguments, but he also doesn't push things as far as chalmers. chalmers for his part takes things to their metaphysical nub. dennett is clever about being boneheaded and unclever. his pseudoreductionist views ar ...more
Paige McLoughlin
Corner me in a party and I will go on and on about specific topics (multiverse, the foundational crisis of mathematics, mathematical platonism, left-politics, my neurodiversity, the nature of consciousness, lately on being trans, and other chit chat). My book tastes reflect my topics. David Chalmers on the topic of consciousness is one of my faves. I have read his first major work on "hard problem" and "philosophical zombies" and whether AI could be conscious. I am very sympathetic to his viewp ...more
Apr 29, 2022 rated it liked it
This book was a struggle to read but had a good major premise. Most of the book was justifying this premise against counter arguments however. It contends that what actually is going on in consciousness really hasn't been studied. The physiological aspects, the science of detection of brain function has gotten way better but no one is actually tackling what it means to be conscious. This is much harder to study as there are currently no ways to explore this beyond the physical. He suggests some ...more
John Duff
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When an argument pulls me kicking and screaming from a doctrinaire mindset, it deserves five stars! Chalmers argues carefully and meticulously for a dualist theory of consciousness, abandoning the materialist assumptions of most academicians. While it was difficult to imagine a non-materialistic, physical account of natural dualism, I now realize the strength and importance of such a theory in all discussions of mind and science in general. It’s a complex read for non-academics, but well worth t ...more
Anthony O'Connor
Thorough and detailed. Definitely worth a read.

But as never openly admits he views consciousness as an epiphenomenon. No causal role. And eventually drops into a kind of dualism. Old wine dressed up in fancy jargon. Nothing really new here. Except a solid refutation of Searle’s silly Chinese room nonsense. He even seems to think that the mind-bogglingly stupid idea that consciousness collapses the wave function is a plausible interpretation of ‘measurement’ in quantum mechanics. It was still onl
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David Chalmers is University Professor of Philosophy and Neural Science and codirector of the Center for Mind, Brain and Consciousness at New York University. He is the author of The Conscious Mind, The Character of Consciousness, and Constructing the World. He has given the John Locke Lectures and has been awarded the Jean Nicod Prize. He is known for formulating the “hard problem” of consciousne ...more

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52 likes · 5 comments
“Materialism is a beautiful and compelling view of the world, but to account for consciousness, we have to go beyond the resources it provides.” 10 likes
“Why should there be conscious experience at all? It is central to a subjective viewpoint, but from an objective viewpoint it is utterly unexpected. Taking the objective view, we can tell a story about how fields, waves, and particles in the spatiotemporal manifold interact in subtle ways, leading to the development of complex systems such as brains. In principle, there is no deep philosophical mystery in the fact that these systems can process information in complex ways, react to stimuli with sophisticated behavior, and even exhibit such complex capacities as learning, memory, and language. All this is impressive, but it is not metaphysically baffling. In contrast, the existence of conscious experience seems to be a new feature from this viewpoint. It is not something that one would have predicted from the other features alone. That is, consciousness is surprising. If all we knew about were the facts of physics, and even the facts about dynamics and information processing in complex systems, there would be no compelling reason to postulate the existence of conscious experience. If it were not for our direct evidence in the first-person case, the hypothesis would seem unwarranted; almost mystical, perhaps. Yet we know, directly, that there is conscious experience. The question is, how do we reconcile it with everything else we know?” 5 likes
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