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John Searle

The mystery of consciousness

The nature of consciousness is the subject of a great deal of discussion, in one form or another. In The Mystery of Consciousness contributes to this discussion by looking at the work of other writers on the subject. Many of these, such as Francis Crick, Daniel Dennett, and Gerald Edelman have an essentially reductionist viewpoint, and Searle shows how this point of view seems unsatisfactory in that it seems to avoid the difficult questions. He also discusses the work of Roger Penrose, in particular arguing that there are serious flaws in Penrose's idea of a link between consciousness and Gödel's incompleteness theorem.

Searle heaps scorn - justifiably in my opinion - on Chalmers parallelist (property dualist) ideas but in many ways Searle's own ideas suffer from similar problems. I can't help thinking that often Searle just wants a good arguement, rather than to clarify the situation. He says that the solution to the problem is to stop thinking in terms of the old categories, but I don't see that as a solution - if there is one then it must be possible to see how it fits in with such categories. So I have my doubts about whether Searle really takes the debate any further towards resolution, but I feel that the book is useful in presenting an overview with comments on the work of other writers.

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Paperback 224 pages  
ISBN: 0940322064
Salesrank: 123187
Weight:0.45 lbs
Published: 1997 The New York Review of Books
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Paperback 208 pages  
ISBN: 1862070741
Salesrank: 1016526
Weight:0.75 lbs
Published: 1997 Granta Books
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 224 pages  
ISBN: 0940322064
Salesrank: 249155
Weight:0.45 lbs
Published: 1990 New York Review Books
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Marketplace:New from CDN$ 7.24:Used from CDN$ 3.69
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Product Description
It has long been one of the most fundamental problems of philosophy, and it is now, John Searle writes, "the most important problem in the biological sciences": What is consciousness? Is my inner awareness of myself something separate from my body?

In what began as a series of essays in The New York Review of Books, John Searle evaluates the positions on consciousness of such well-known scientists and philosophers as Francis Crick, Gerald Edelman, Roger Penrose, Daniel Dennett, David Chalmers, and Israel Rosenfield. He challenges claims that the mind works like a computer, and that brain functions can be reproduced by computer programs. With a sharp eye for confusion and contradiction, he points out which avenues of current research are most likely to come up with a biological examination of how conscious states are caused by the brain.

Only when we understand how the brain works will we solve the mystery of consciousness, and only then will we begin to understand issues ranging from artificial intelligence to our very nature as human beings.