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Consciousness Explained Paperback – Oct 20 1992
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Consciousness is notoriously difficult to explain. On one hand, there are facts about conscious experience--the way clarinets sound, the way lemonade tastes--that we know subjectively, from the inside. On the other hand, such facts are not readily accommodated in the objective world described by science. How, after all, could the reediness of clarinets or the tartness of lemonade be predicted in advance? Central to Daniel C. Dennett's attempt to resolve this dilemma is the "heterophenomenological" method, which treats reports of introspection nontraditionally--not as evidence to be used in explaining consciousness, but as data to be explained. Using this method, Dennett argues against the myth of the Cartesian theater--the idea that consciousness can be precisely located in space or in time. To replace the Cartesian theater, he introduces his own multiple drafts model of consciousness, in which the mind is a bubbling congeries of unsupervised parallel processing. Finally, Dennett tackles the conventional philosophical questions about consciousness, taking issue not only with the traditional answers but also with the traditional methodology by which they were reached.
Dennett's writing, while always serious, is never solemn; who would have thought that combining philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience could be such fun? Not every reader will be convinced that Dennett has succeeded in explaining consciousness; many will feel that his account fails to capture essential features of conscious experience. But none will want to deny that the attempt was well worth making. --Glenn Branch
From Publishers Weekly
Tufts University cognitive scientist Dennett claims to have developed a major new theory of consciousness, yet his view of the brain as a massive parallel processor is a familiar one. What is different in his counter-intuitive theory is the claim that human consciousness, rather than being "hard-wired" into the brain's innate machinery, is more like software "running on the brain's parallel hardware" and is largely a product of cultural evolution. Author of Brainstorms , Dennett leads the adventurous gently through thought experiments, metaphors and diagrams in a treatise keyed to the serious, diligent reader. He presents a plausible evolutionary scenario of how consciousness could have emerged from the hominid brain. Dennett's audacious, tantalizing foray into the mind's inner workings ties up loose ends at the interface of cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience and biology.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Another reviewer titles his review "Consciousness Denied." That is a fair comment. Many people think that Dennett explains away consciousness, rather than explaining it. In fact, I agree with that critism myself -- I think. I tend to agree with John Searle (again -- think). The one star rating, however, is grossly unfair. Consciousness is a very hard problem, to put it mildly, and Dennett's reasoning and opinions are crucial for two reasons. First, they are very well thought out, and well expressed. Moreover, Dennett is one of the key writers in the area, and if you read anything else about consciousness, you will find references and responses to Dennett.
Other authors worth reading in this area include John Searle (no friend of Dennett), Susan Blackmore, Steven Pinker, David Chalmers, V. S. Ramachandran and Antonio Damasio.
Writing software programs as I do, I understand how difficult it is to get a computer to "think", let alone to actually think.
People just don't yet understand how revolutionary and ingenious evolutionary software is, nor does the everyday person comprehend the radical impact it will have over time. Dennett is dead on. Get involved with computers, read about genetic algorithms and see the types of problems that genetic programming can solve.
When you get what its impact is maybe you'll begin to realize that if you tire of "mystery" and want to understand he's laid the path with real information. A real solution to the question of consciousness.
All of the pages he wrote were to lay the necessary foundation to help the layman (or the ignorant intellectual) understand the necessary methods of thinking to see the solution. As he wrote in Darwin's Dangerous Idea people don't yet see just how important the evolutionary algoritm is so vital. It happens everywhere we have replication, mutation, and selection. When one wishes to achieve computer behavior that appears intelligent AND you quit trying to program in every possibility, THEN you have to allow the program to present varied solutions and use some testing algorithm to evalutate the solutions for fitness.
His whole book seems to be oriented around the brain's massively parallel structure being set up to do just that at all levels. From interpreting input data to choosing output actions.
At all levels the mind uses evolutionary algorithms to present solutions and select them.Read more ›
He also builds up a straw man in the form of "the Cartesian theater" and repeatedly bashes it. I don't know why it's so important to him to put this theory to rest - probably this is something important in philosophical circles. If this Cartesian Theater is a big force in philosophy, I must say I'm a little disappointed in the whole philosophical field. They should learn about programming. I would much rather see him building on his existing model, digging deeper into the specifics, cataloguing and explaining what some of these "mini-homunculi" or automatic functions might be. Instead he repeatedly beats a dead horse.
Most programmers have the mindset that complex behavior can be built up from many simple functions.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Dennett is this pompous author who plunges into the subject without a proper appreciation of the complexities of the matter. Read morePublished on June 1 2004
I wonder if Dennett has ever truly understood the Kantian dichotomy of noumenon and phenomena. At any rate, nowhere in his book, there is any meaningful reference to this... Read morePublished on March 26 2004 by Ferdino
First of all, this guy's book-title smacks of hubris! He is a pedant posing as a philosopher. Using sophistry to weave a web of verbal convolutions, in which consciousness manages... Read morePublished on Jan. 6 2004 by ken
The above is the title of a review of Dennet's book by John Searle in his 'Mysteries of Consciousness'... Read morePublished on Oct. 16 2003
The mistake here is in assuming the mind is SOMETHING - some abstract object waiting for someone to comprehend it. Read morePublished on March 21 2003 by Isle of Jurs
Very slow and far too long book based on a few crucial experiments or diseases: the color-phi-phenomenon of Koler, the experiments of Libet and Multiple Personality Disorder. Read morePublished on Jan. 10 2003 by Luc REYNAERT
I believe it was Thomas Wolfe who once remarked with pride that he was a generous literary putter-inner, while minimalists like Ernest Hemingway were stingy leaver-outers. Read morePublished on Sept. 2 2002 by Jeremy M. Harris
This book contains a great many words. Unfortunately, it contains only a very few ideas. This book could very well be contained in a 15 page white paper. Indeed it has. Read morePublished on Aug. 18 2002 by Tom Gray
Dennett's book mainly serves to present his theory of consciousness, the Multiple Drafts Model. It should be called "The Multiple Drafts Model, and footnotes" rather... Read morePublished on Aug. 7 2002