Society Magazine

BOOK REVIEW: Conversations on Consciousness Ed. by Susan Blackmore

By Berniegourley @berniegourley

Conversations on Consciousness: What the Best Minds Think about the Brain, Free Will, and What It Means to Be HumanConversations on Consciousness: What the Best Minds Think about the Brain, Free Will, and What It Means to Be Human by Susan Blackmore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

Blackmore gathers together interviews from a veritable who’s who of consciousness experts from neuroscience, philosophy, physiology, psychology, and physics. While the interviews are in part tailored to tap into the special insights of the given expert, a consistent series of questions is asked of each of the interviewees. Each expert is asked what they think is challenging about consciousness, what they think about the feasibility of philosopher’s zombies (a popular thought experiment about an individual who seems to behave like an ordinary human but who has no conscious experience), what they think about the existence of free will, what happens to consciousness after death, and what got them interested in the subject. This makes it easy for the reader to see not just differences in thinking across disciplines, but also different schools of thought within disciplines. There’s enough variety to make for intriguing reading. There is also a mix between individuals who have experience with meditation (e.g. the interviewer) and those who don’t, and so it’s interesting to compare views of those with such insight to those who study consciousness entirely abstractly.

I won’t list all the authors, but they include: David Chalmers (who famously coined the term the “hard problem” of consciousness, which is one of the most widely discussed ideas in the book), Francis Crick (of DNA fame who later shifted focus), Daniel Dennett (a well-known philosopher), V.S. Ramachandran (a neuroscientist famous for work on phantom limbs and behavioral neurology), and Roger Penrose (a physicist who believes that quantum mechanics may prove crucial to figuring out consciousness.)

It’s a straightforward book. There’s an Introduction by Blackmore and then the 20 or 21 interviews (one “chapter” is a married couple – Pat and Paul Churchland — whose insights are presented together.) The only back matter is a glossary, which is quite in-depth and which helps to clarify the many confusing concepts from various disciplines. There are a few cartoon drawings that lighten the tone, but serve no essential purpose.

I enjoyed this book and found it thought-provoking. It’s quite old at this point – having come out in 2005 – but since consciousness is so intractable, it’s not like any of the questions have been cleared up. (If it were a book on AI, I’d probably say it was worthless at this point, but not this book.) I’d recommend it for anyone looking to understand the lay of the land with regards thinking about consciousness.

View all my reviews

By in Book Reviews, Books, Meditation, mind, Neuroscience, nonfiction, Philosophy, Psychology, Review, Reviews, science on March 20, 2018.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • HCTF Premiere - Slum Summer: Bobby

    HCTF Premiere Slum Summer: Bobby

    Anglo-American indie band Slum Summer pair an American lo-fi garage rock vibe to an English sense for melody on their single Bobby, a taste from their... Read more

    7 hours, 42 minutes ago by   Hctf
    ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC
  • Tony Montana’s White Suit in Scarface

    Tony Montana’s White Suit Scarface

    Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface (1983)VitalsAl Pacino as Tony Montana, impulsive and hotheaded cocaine dealerMiami, Summer 1981Film: Scarface Release Date... Read more

    7 hours, 47 minutes ago by   Nguzan
    ENTERTAINMENT, TV & VIDEO
  • China Has Strict New Rules for Climbing Everest

    China Strict Rules Climbing Everest

    With the winter fall climbing season in the Himalaya now behind us and the spring climbing season still a bit far off, you would think there wouldn't be much... Read more

    7 hours, 47 minutes ago by   Kungfujedi
    OUTDOORS
  • Managing the Micromanager

    Embed from Getty ImagesMicromanagers want to control every aspect of their employees’ work, down to the smallest detail. They insist on being consulted about... Read more

    7 hours, 59 minutes ago by   Candacemoody
    BUSINESS, CAREER
  • 8 Ways To Prepare Yourself For Business Crises Ahead

    Ways Prepare Yourself Business Crises Ahead

    Most entrepreneurs see their new venture as a fun adventure, until the pressures of a cash flow crisis, or a manufacturing quality problem, or a major customer... Read more

    8 hours, 17 minutes ago by   Martin Zwilling
    BUSINESS, CAREER
  • Christmas Style: Neutrals + Last Minute Gift Ideas

    Christmas Style: Neutrals Last Minute Gift Ideas

    This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Meijer. All opinions and thoughts are my own.  Is anyone else having super weird weather where they... Read more

    8 hours, 28 minutes ago by   Thesamanthashow
    LIFESTYLE, SELF EXPRESSION
  • The Cup Chronicles Cafe

    Chronicles Cafe

    Cup Chronicles Café is a cozy café located on 12th Main, Indiranagar, Bangalore. The place opened only few weeks back and has managed to attract crowd to try it... Read more

    8 hours, 30 minutes ago by   Rohit Dassani
    DINING OUT, FOOD & DRINK

Magazines