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Archive for 'consciousness'

new book on consciousness – ‘Men of Action’ by Howard Akler

November 17, 2015

Men of Action

Men of Action (Exploded Views) by Howard Akler (Coach House Books, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

The problem of consciousness may just be a semantic one. The brain absorbs a sea of sensory input, the tiniest fraction of which reaches the shore of our awareness. We pay attention to what is most novel, most necessary at the time. At its most reductive, the word consciousness refers to the synchronized firing of neurons across multiple areas of the brain, the mental experience of attending.

But should consciousness be summed up simply by its subsconscious mechanism? I would prefer a more imaginative answer.

After his father undergoes brain surgery and slips into a coma, Howard Akler begins to reflect on the complicated texture of consciousness. During the long months that follow, Akler confronts the unknowable nature of another person’s life, as well as the struggles within his own unpredictable mind. With echoes of Paul Auster’s The Invention of Solitude and Philip Roth’s Patrimony, Men of Action treads the line between memoir and meditation, and is at once elegiac, spare and profoundly intimate.

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new book – ‘New Directions in Consciousness Studies: SoS Theory and the Nature of Time’ by Chris Nunn

October 27, 2015

New Directions in Consciousness Studies

New Directions in Consciousness Studies: SoS Theory and the Nature of Time by Chris Nunn (Routledge, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

New Directions in Consciousness Studies describes a range of fresh ideas which promise to significantly advance scientific understanding of human nature. Written in non-specialized language, the book draws upon concepts and research from history, philosophy, neuroscience and physics to delineate new approaches to the study of consciousness.

Early chapters deal with a range of ideas about our nature, and suggest that mind can usefully be viewed as a type of dynamic landscape. The account shows how our minds relate to their societies, brains and bodies and how they differ from computers. Later chapters develop a theory of the basis of consciousness (SoS theory). Using the physical concept of ‘broken symmetry’ the author shows how conscious mind may be rooted in temporality; a view that is supported by the occurrence of a wide range of anomalous phenomena. Potentially valuable future lines of research are identified.

This is a unique and engaging book that will appeal to students and academics in the field of consciousness studies and other readers with an interest in consciousness.

Google Books preview:

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new book – ‘Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action and the Embodied Mind’ by Andy Clark

October 12, 2015

Surfing Uncertainty

Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind by Andy Clark (Oxford University Press, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

How is it that thoroughly physical material beings such as ourselves can think, dream, feel, create and understand ideas, theories and concepts? How does mere matter give rise to all these non-material mental states, including consciousness itself? An answer to this central question of our existence is emerging at the busy intersection of neuroscience, psychology, artificial intelligence, and robotics.

In this groundbreaking work, philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark explores exciting new theories from these fields that reveal minds like ours to be prediction machines – devices that have evolved to anticipate the incoming streams of sensory stimulation before they arrive. These predictions then initiate actions that structure our worlds and alter the very things we need to engage and predict. Clark takes us on a journey in discovering the circular causal flows and the self-structuring of the environment that define “the predictive brain.” What emerges is a bold, new, cutting-edge vision that reveals the brain as our driving force in the daily surf through the waves of sensory stimulation.

See also: Author’s webpage


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new book – ‘The Brain’s Representational Power: On Consciousness and the Integration of Modalities’ by Cyriel M.A. Pennartz

September 26, 2015

Brain's Representational Power

The Brain’s Representational Power: On Consciousness and the Integration of Modalities by Cyriel M.A. Pennartz (MIT Press, 2015)


Book description from the publisher:

Although science has made considerable progress in discovering the neural basis of cognitive processes, how consciousness arises remains elusive. In this book, Cyriel Pennartz analyzes which aspects of conscious experience can be peeled away to access its core: the “hardest” aspect, the relationship between brain processes and the subjective, qualitative nature of consciousness. Pennartz traces the problem back to its historical roots in the foundations of neuroscience and connects early ideas on sensory processing to contemporary computational neuroscience.

What can we learn from neural network models, and where do they fall short in bridging the gap between neural processes and conscious experience? Do neural models of cognition resemble inanimate systems, and how can this help us define requirements for conscious processing in the brain? These questions underlie Pennartz’s examination of the brain’s anatomy and neurophysiology. The perspective of his account is not limited to visual perception but broadened to include other sensory modalities and their integration. Formulating a representational theory of the neural basis of consciousness, Pennartz outlines properties that complex structures must express to process information consciously. This theoretical framework is constructed using empirical findings from neuropsychology and neuroscience as well as such theoretical arguments as the Cuneiform Room and the Wall Street Banker. Positing that qualitative experience is a multimodal and multilevel phenomenon at its very roots, Pennartz places this body of theory in the wider context of mind-brain philosophy, examining implications for our thinking about animal and robot consciousness.

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new book – ‘The Centered Mind: What the Science of Working Memory Shows Us About Human Thought’ by Peter Carruthers

September 11, 2015

The Centered Mind

The Centered Mind: What the Science of Working Memory Shows Us About the Nature of Human Thought by Peter Carruthers (Oxford University Press, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

The Centered Mind offers a new view of the nature and causal determinants of both reflective thinking and, more generally, the stream of consciousness. Peter Carruthers argues that conscious thought is always sensory-based, relying on the resources of the working-memory system. This system has been much studied by cognitive scientists. It enables sensory images to be sustained and manipulated through attentional signals directed at midlevel sensory areas of the brain. When abstract conceptual representations are bound into these images, we consciously experience ourselves as making judgments or arriving at decisions. Thus one might hear oneself as judging, in inner speech, that it is time to go home, for example. However, our amodal (non-sensory) propositional attitudes are never actually among the contents of this stream of conscious reflection. Our beliefs, goals, and decisions are only ever active in the background of consciousness, working behind the scenes to select the sensory-based imagery that occurs in working memory. They are never themselves conscious.

Drawing on extensive knowledge of the scientific literature on working memory and related topics, Carruthers builds an argument that challenges the central assumptions of many philosophers. In addition to arguing that non-sensory propositional attitudes are never conscious, he also shows that they are never under direct intentional control. Written with his usual clarity and directness, The Centered Mind will be essential reading for all philosophers and cognitive scientists interested in the nature of human thought processes.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website (Books section links to sample chapter)

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