Conversations on Consciousness: Interviews with Twenty Minds (英語) ハードカバー – 2005/11/10
Kindle 端末は必要ありません。無料 Kindle アプリのいずれかをダウンロードすると、スマートフォン、タブレットPCで Kindle 本をお読みいただけます。
A delightful collection of interviews with 20 famous names in the study of consciousness. Sue Blackmore, herself a writer on consciousness, engages in conversation with each of these very different personalities, drawing out their views on the nature of the mind, on how what goes on in the network of neurons in the brain produces our vivid experiences, and whether we have free will. The collection includes interviews with such well-known names as Daniel Dennett, John Searle, David Chalmers, Francis Crick (the last interview he gave), V. Ramachandran, Roger Penrose, Richard Gregory, and Susan Greenfield. The interviews are conducted in an informal but focused style, bringing out the personality of each interviewee, and giving the reader a very accessible and readable introduction to their ideas, and to the central scientific and philosophical challenges involved in understanding the nature of mind and consciousness.
A great read for someone studying, or itnerested in the study of consciousness. (BBC Mindgames )
Blackmore herself comes across as spunky and clever, and the probing follow-up questions she occasionally asks prevent the interviews from seeming too repetitive and boring. (Nature )
"the book provides a very efficient overview of contemporary strands of thinking about its subject." (Steven Poole, The Guardian )
Is it fair? I’m no expert, so I’ll have to trust that her quick dismissal of Dualism is warranted. Ms. Blackmore seems to pass over the problem of memory. If consciousness is an illusion and is caused by brain processes and environmental reactions, then memory seems to pose a problem. I can often pull out memories or think of things that have nothing to do with my environment (a purple horse!). And, if my thinking is due to brain processes, then what causes those?
These Very Short Intro books pose a major challenge for most writers. With only 140 pages or so, the writer needs to hit the major concepts of the subject. But most of them tend to spread themselves too thin (see Nothing). Anyway, The Ego Tunnel by Thomas Metzinger appears to have much in common with Ms. Blackmore’s solution. I loved the ride, even if I am only about 75% with her. Something is still missing.
As of now, there are no theories that try to explain how the movement of neurotransmitters across cells eventually materialize into the experience of being conscious. Philosophers and scientists have been arguing about it for ever, and we are no closer to the answer than decades ago. Susan Blackmore does a great job summarizing evidence and philosophical debates regarding consciousness.
The conclusion at the end of the book was surprising and satisfying for me at the same time. It seem that the science getting the same idea that ancients figured out a while ago: consciousness - as the property of the self - is an illusion. It is nothing more than a bunch of constantly changing processes going on in the brain all the time. Do not be alarmed, there is nothing New Age in the book, it is based purely on science.
If you are interested in the topic of consciousness - this is the right book to start from.
Combined with a plain-English writing style and well-written sidebars, this book is a refreshing bit of actual light in an overheated room.
Susan Blackmore puts together a short, lucid introduction to what will most likely be (if it isn't already) the 21st centuries most tasking, intellectual enterprise: consciousness. This is for two reasons. 1) We have better scientific tools to get us closer to the workings of the brain than ever before, and 2) we still can't figure it out. By combining evidence from the fields of psychology, brain science, philosophy of the past and present, and even thoughtful contributions from modern day physics, the reader can see, from this book, how difficult and wonderful the subject matter is. It is like a reservoir that seems completely empty, but the further we look, the more we find, unable too find a rational description merges the gap between objective brain functions and subjective experience.
This book, as well as others, inspired these questions:
1) I noticed that the emphasis always seems to be on the brain. Perhaps this is a mistake. Yes, it is the centrality of our being, the core of our organic "computer," but is it still capable of existing without the body? Perhaps not. Does that mean consciousness needs to be "spread out" into the body as well?
2) If Consciousness is simply an organic being, reacting in a self-survival manner, it can be defined without "self" in the strictest human sense and would have to be applied to all animals, plants and bacteria. Or, in other words, consciousness is synonymous with life.
3) Perhaps the classic notion, "stream-of-consciousness," originally coined by William James, needs to be turned on its head. Due to the chapter on Self and Free Will as well as talking about the experiments of Libet, perhaps we need to talk about a stream-of-experience or stream-of-the-world that includes the body and its functions and it is Consciousness that is the "breaking away" of the stream. Studies in meditation and classic philosophies of the east (Buddhism and Taoism) could help should light on the subject, instead of just relying on the western application of technology pulling apart the brain functions.
4) I get the feeling that we refer to consciousness as the very basis or ground-of-experience itself. If this is so, can the ground-of-experience ever become an experience? If so, what would be experiencing THAT experience? If nothing, consciousness will remain a mystery, as Colin Mcginn has suggested.
Whether or not we discover what consciousness is, the search for it will continue to excite philosophers and scientists alike, as well as the layman, as it will lead to discoveries of what makes us who we are and possibly of life itself. Even if we never come to a conclusion, what we learn will no doubt be an incredibly rich enterprise.
Susan Blackmore does the subject justice in this introduction.