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Galileo's Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  299 ratings  ·  53 reviews
From a leading philosopher of the mind comes this lucid, provocative argument that offers a radically new picture of human consciousness--panpsychism.

Understanding how brains produce consciousness is one of the great scientific challenges of our age. Some philosophers argue that consciousness is something "extra," beyond the physical workings of the brain. Others think
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published November 5th 2019 by Pantheon Books (first published 2019)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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Katia N
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: consciousness
Very enjoyable popular science book on the nature of consciousness. The author is a professional philosopher and a big supporter of panpsychism. Obscured by materialism for the last 100 years, this view is currently becoming more and more fashionable. And as the author puts it, now represents a considerable minority.

The book is very accessible, starts from zero knowledge of the problem and leads the reader through 3 main views on the nature of consciousness. The author is good storyteller and c
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Fairly introductory investigation of consciousness that argues against materialism or physicalism as commonly understood. It argues for panpsychism through the neutral monist route developed by Eddington and Russell in the 1920s. Now I want to read his academic work to get a more detailed argument.
Ryan Boissonneault
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Consciousness is one of the deepest and most perplexing unresolved mysteries of the universe and it would take a fool to believe that we already have a conclusive explanation or that we even know what an explanation would look like. If we’re honest, we can’t even be sure the problem is soluble at all, or whether it is best addressed through better neuroscience or through a conceptual reimagining of the universe.

So the place I start when rating books like this is in regard to whether or not the
Glenn Rowe
Starts off well with a good description of past and present theories of consciousness, but once panpsychism is introduced, things start to go downhill. Materialism is criticized because it cannot explain the qualitative aspects of consciousness, and dualism because there is no neurological evidence of a link between the brain and a disembodied mind. Fair enough. But what hard evidence is there that everything in the universe is conscious? Indeed, how could we ever determine this? If we're not al ...more
Maciej Sitko
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One would think that we are quite far off from getting to know consciousness, that we are in the dark. Nothing is further from the truth given the progress of neuroscience. Sure, we haven't cracked the code yet but there are promising approaches to tackle a unifying theory.

One of these approaches is panpsychism. Crazy as it sounds, there is strong neuroscientific backing within the IIT community. IIT stands for Integrated Information Theory and there, scientists predict how information integrati
Ramalakshmi shanmugavel
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Consciousness:Is this based on my Experience?or some invisible force gives pressure to my brain to take action?or Is this just mere observer for my rational actions/behaviors?
How Science going to help us for our philosophical quest or vice versa,how can we experience something when we knew only the meaning of it?
What actually title of this book supposed to do with these questions?
Father of Modern Science Galileo define universe in mathematical perspective as size,shape,location,motion(Concrete n
May 26, 2020 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book and engaging with the arguments in it, and it was a good, and not overly partisan introduction to issues relating to consciousness. However, I disagreed with almost all aspects of the central argument of the book.

The author tries hard to distinguish himself from New Age philosophies, but by the second-last and most of all last chapter, it becomes clear that underneath the philosophical curtain lies what is, at its core, New Age philosophy. I felt that there wa
Paul Ataua
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hats off to any book that tries to bring very complex philosophical arguments down to non-philosophy graduates, and this book does a fairly good job of outlining dualism, materialism, and panpsychism. I can understand why some would have liked to have seen more of the deeper discussion and argument of those positions, but that wasn’t the purpose of the book. It more or less does the job it set out to do, but I would have liked it more if it had finished the chapters with a slightly more open sta ...more
Tiago Faleiro
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This might be my favorite book about philosophy of mind that I have read. The title alludes to the shift that Galileo introduces in the history of science, and he was a big component of the scientific revolution. I tend to associate the latter more with Descartes and Bacon, but Galileo played an important part as well and it was well argued here. More importantly, the author's choice for Galileo fits perfectly with how he presents his case for science and consciousness in the book.

First, Galile
Sanjay Varma
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The first two sections are a very good read. Goff explains consciousness as defined by various schools of thought, and sets them against each other. Dualism, Materialism, Illusionism, Zombieism, Phenomenal Concept Theory, and Panpsychism. He is very patient, and very clear, choosing a few examples and then walking us through, using “thought experiments” to convey the subtle distinctions.

The weakest part of the book is the third section because Goff attempts to summarize ALL of the world’s spirit
Peter Gelfan
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
The perennial paradox underlying this book: consciousness is a vividly real subjective experience, yet science cannot explain it. Does that mean consciousness is an illusion produced by brain mechanics, or that science’s self-imposed parameters render it incapable of exploring some of the world’s realities?

Goff explores the history, science, philosophy, and arguments of both answers, which often fall into one of two camps. Materialists say that everything that exists boils down to physics, while
Daniel Hageman
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Nothing like smashing through a full book during a long day of travel. This book is an obvious 5 star before the final two chapters. Perhaps the best follow-up to Annaka Harris's book that discusses the plausibility of panpsychism and possible implications that are beginning to be considered more and more seriously in the field.
Johanne Maria
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Eloquent and intriguing introduction to the different theories on consciousness. Philip Goff produces some rather convincing and lucid arguments for a seemingly far fetched idea. Highly recommended for anyone new to the field!
Luke Shuffield
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Rarely do I read a persuasive book that, when finished, has successfully led me to adopt the point of view of the author. This is one of them. I started it as a consciousness-agnostic, but Goff dismantles both materialism and dualism very effectively in my opinion.
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I always thought that philosophy was rather boring and irrelevant, but this book has completely changed my perspective. The author presents three different theories of consciousness: materialism, dualism, and panpsychism, and examines the challenges that each must address. The prevailing orthodoxy is materialism, although many people are dualists without necessarily realising it. The problem that materialism has in accounting for consciousness is in generating subjective qualities from objective ...more
Dara  Ghaznavi
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Galileo's Error" is a great read, especially, for those who are new to the debates on consciousness. Phillip Goff provides a nonbiased analysis of different doctrines in the philosophy of mind with an extremely clear and eloquent manner. This leads to the incessant engagement of the reader with the book, creating moments of joy and enlightenment for her. That said, I do not think the book has managed to set a convincing case (at least for me) in favor of Goff's advocated view, "panpsychism". Th ...more
Jo-jean Keller
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found Galileo's Error concise, well written and intriguing. It encouraged me to consider consciousness in a very different way. I will probably reread it to build my understanding after I've take time to consider my initial thoughts.
Nov 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
Superficial, uninformed, rambling, all-around terrible.
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Galileo determined that the natural world can be measured with math. Certain qualities, however, are unmeasurable because they are derived from the soul rather than from nature. Sensory qualities like “yellow” can’t be measured like size, weight, or movement. Aside from unmeasurable sensory qualities and similar information, Galileo’s method describes nature quite well. But the method creates an error: “Galileo’s error was to commit us to a theory of nature which entailed that consciousness was ...more
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
A brilliant introduction to a difficult topic. Readers have to be aware that they are reading the popularised version of a much more academic text by the same author, alongside a history of papers and books aimed at philosophers rather than the average reader. As such, claims that it is brief, superficial or lacking in detail are unfair. It never intended to be a magnum opus. It shouldn't be expected to be as such.

The first three chapters lay out arguments for materialism and dualism in the tra
David Koerner
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Philip Goff’s book “Galileo’s Error” is a lucid romp through the landscape of philosophical and scientific ideas about consciousness. This is no small feat, since most of these ideas are murky and complex. Goff splits the territory into 3 regions: 1) dualism, 2) materialism, and 3) panpsychism. He makes it clear that the latter is his favorite. Mine too I confess. Goff articulates the “hard problem” for each one of these views: 1) Why is there no empirical evidence for mind-brain interaction? 2) ...more
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
IMO, Galen Strawson's published review got a lot right about the virtues and shortcomings of this book. (Like him, I find Goff's admiration for illusionism to be baffling; I can't help but suspect that his bromance with Keith Frankish is unduly softening his judgment here.) Overall the book is very well argued, and it's probably the phil of mind book I would recommend smart, materialistically-inclined philosophical novices to read first. I see another reviewer wanted Goff to address at greater l ...more
Apr 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This is an interesting exercise that is both flawed and thought provoking at the same time. Goff wants to separate inquiry into consciousness as three distinct modes of inquiry. He does a very good job dismissing dualism, or the believe in an absolute mind/body divide that often involves invoking the mystical. He then goes on to do a pretty tortured and unconvincing takedown of materialism by using a definition of it that only applies to New Atheist positivists and no other school of materialism ...more
Jun 08, 2020 rated it liked it
This is Goff's attempt to sell the world on Panpsychism, the idea that "consciousness," far from being novel is humans, is foundational in the universe from electrons to rocks, trees and fashion savvy apes. This begs the question of what is consciousness, which I don't think he parses very satisfactorily. On one hand I'm convinced by his argument that there is something eternal and powerful about every layer of the universe. Physics, while a beautiful prediction engine, doesn't explain why elect ...more
Abe Aamidor
Jul 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: abe-aamidor
Galileo's "error" was to quantify science, we are told in this book. I'm sympathetic - I don't like everything to be reduced to math - but is that really an error? I've had graduate school faculty tell me if you can't quantify your research, it's junk. Very arrogant of them. All this relates to the author's theory of human consciousness, which is actually the point of the book - not Galileo at all. The author here rejects both a reductionist view of consciousness (the claim that it's purely a fu ...more
George Little
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A lucid argument about the limits of science to account for consciousness. Science, he explains, is quantitative; great at predicting trajectories and behaviours, but not great at describing the inherent nature of things. Through some thought experiments and arguments of philosophical logic, as well as paired with some historical knowledge of what galileo (claimed the grandfather of physical science) originally intended his methods for, Goff wittles down why materialist and dualist arguments fai ...more
Dan Ryan
May 24, 2020 rated it liked it
I am a layperson, not a philosopher. I'm not ashamed to admit that this book was over my head.

The arguments presented in the book are interesting, but become tedious, repetitious and kind of silly the further you go into the book. If you miss tweedy professors lecturing you in stifling halls, this book is definitely up your alley.

I guess, though, that I do miss tweedy professors, because I found an element of enjoyment in this book. Perhaps it was the mental exercise, stretching long-dormant p
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Goff first and foremost makes a compelling argument for the nature and source of consciousness as an intrinsic property of matter, just like spacetime is the essential fabric of the universe. Espousing a theory of panpsychism, he makes strong cases against duality (separation of brain and mind) and even creates daylight between the more reigning hypothesis of materialism. But Goff's new book does more than just explore the problem of consciousness and where it comes from; it also makes a strong ...more
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Some of the exact arguments were difficult to understand at times, but the guy explains the concepts pretty well so you get what he's trying to say. It's a book about why the theory of panpsychism is the more likely view of how consciousness relates to material reality, as opposed to a dualistic or materialistic view of it. He goes through his arguments against the opposing views, states arguments for panpsychism, and states the current problems with the panpsychist view of consciousness. Worth ...more
Barry Cunningham
Some interesting ideas and a good introduction to the literature, but deeply flawed by specious reasoning throughout.
I originally tried listening to this as an audio book, but that was hopeless. It was an effective soporific, but following, analyzing, and picking apart specious philosophical writing is much more easily done by reading and annotating rather than listening, fuming, and falling asleep.
I've posted my annotations on Goodreads, so have a look at them for more specific criticisms. I'd
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29 likes · 15 comments
“Panpsychists believe that consciousness is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of the physical world. An increasing number of philosophers and even some neuroscientists are coming around to the idea that it may be our best hope for solving the problem of consciousness” 0 likes
“Panpsychism is the view that consciousness is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of physical reality.” 0 likes
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