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Nancey Murphy

I Cerebrate Myself

Is there a little man inside your brain?

This tome would be worth buying for either of two reasons: it collects in a single volume a veritable library of essays on consciousness, and it includes as well a remarkable overview of the field of consciousness studies, both current and historical, by one of the editors, Guven Guzeldere.

Interest in philosophy of mind has blossomed in recent years due to a combination of factors. One is the light shed on these issues by developments in the neurosciences and in studies of artificial intelligence. But these developments have provided a stimulus to philosophy of mind only because of a reconceptualization of philosophy itself in the past generation—one that refuses to isolate it, as "conceptual analysis," from empirical studies.

A great deal can be said about the mind without reference to consciousness. In fact, some approaches to psychology and philosophy of mind have deliberately denied a role for consciousness. Study of consciousness is notoriously problematic (some even say impossible) so we should not be surprised that Guzeldere's careful analysis of the state of the field focuses on identifying the controversies rather than the conclusions.

Part of the problem is that the term consciousness is used in a variety of ways. It is helpful to distinguish some of these. First, one can distinguish between social and individual (or "psychological") senses of the word. The first of these, as in "feminist consciousness," is not at play here. With regard to individual consciousness, one can distinguish "intransitive" from "transitive" consciousness, the first contrasting with unconsciousness and of less interest philosophically than transitive consciousness—the awareness of something or other. Transitive consciousness admits of further distinctions. We can attend to what philosophers call propositional attitudes—believing, intending, willing something; or we can attend to the phenomenal characteristics of consciousness—"raw feels," "qualia," the painfulness ...

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