Consciousness is widely regarded as an intractable mystery. Many scientists and philosophers view it as an enigma whose solution waits on some unforeseeable theoretical breakthrough. David Papineau argues that this pessimism is quite misplaced. Consciousness seems mysterious, not because of any hidden essence, but only because we humans think about it in a special way. Thinking about Consciousness analyses this special mode of thought in detail, and exposes the ways in which it can lead us into confusions about consciousness.
At the heart of the book lies a distinction between two ways of thinking about conscious states. We humans can think about conscious states materially, as normal items inhabiting the material world. But we can also think about them phenomenally, as items that feel a certain way. Dualists hold that this phenomenal mode of thought describes some special non-material reality. But David Papineau argues that it is invalid to move from a distinctive phenomenal mode of thought to a distinct non-material reality. By carefully analysing the structure of phenomenal concepts, he is able to expose the flaws in the standard arguments for dualism, while at the same time explaining why dualism can seem so intuitively compelling.
Thinking about Consciousness also casts a new light on contemporary scientific research into consciousness. Much of this research is motivated by the apparently 'hard problem' of identifying the referents of phenomenal concepts. David Papineau argues that such research promises less than it can deliver. Once phenomenal concepts are recognised for what they are, many of the questions posed by consciousness research turn out to be irredeemably vague.
This is the first book to provide a detailed analysis of phenomenal concepts from a materialist point of view. By recognising the importance of phenomenal thinking, David Papineau is able to place a materialist account of consciousness on a firm foundation, and to lay many traditional problems of consciousness to rest.
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
June 09, 2004
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