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On Consciousness

Ted Honderich

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Is your consciousness neural events in your head? Is it anything in there? On Consciousness offers answers to the question of the very nature of consciousness, and the separate question of how consciousness is related to the brain.

It begins with Anomalous Monism, a doctrine seemingly to the effect that mind and brain are one thing with two kinds of properties not lawfully connected. It goes on to consider the thinking of neuroscientists and then functionalists. It reconsiders Honderich's own Union Theory, and the anti-individualism that disconnects the mind from the brain. These doctrines are examined in terms of whether they satisfy our agreed criteria for decent accounts of consciousness.

The book leads up to the question: 'What is it like for you to be aware of the room you are in?' The bold new answer is: 'It is for the room in a way to exist'. Such an answer gives rise to analyses of reflective and affective consciousness as well, such as thinking and feeling. On Consciousness respects the most resilient proposition in the history of the philosophy of mind -that consciousness isn't just cells. It also makes all of consciousness a proper subject for science.


1 Anomalous Monism, and the Champion of Mauve
1 From an Inconsistent Triad to a Mind-Brain Identity Theory
2 Causally-Relevant Properties and Lawlike Connection
3 A Dilemma with Epiphenomenalism in It
4 The Worth of Being Mauve
2 The Thinking of Some Neuroscientific Friends
1 The Correlation Hypothesis, and Alternatives
2 Non-Mental Causation of Neural Events, and of Actions
3 Wittgensteinian Objections to Correlation
4 Objections from Holism, Indeterminacy and Rationality
5 The Mental Efficacy Problem, and Identity Theories
6 Mental Efficacy, Fly in the Ointment
3 Cognitive Science's Philosophy, and the Union Theory
1 What Functionalism Is Not, And Is
2 Functionalism as Unswallowable
3 Functionalism as Incoherent
4 Mental Realism, Subjectivity, Psychoneural Intimacy
5 The Union Theory
4 Anti-Individualism v. the Union Theory
1 The Mind-Brain Union Theory etc.
2 The Surprising Meaning of the Word `page`
3 Replies about Meaning
4 Arthritis in the Thigh
5 What the Theory Comes To
5 Consciousness and Humble Truths
1 Deep and Murky Water
2 Physicality and Levels
3 Subjectivities and Unities
4 Intentionality
5 Conclusions, Outrageous Postscript
6 Dualism, Monism, Outrageousness
6 Seeing Things
1 Subject and Content
2 Content and World -- Relations of Representation
3 Non-Mental Representations
4 Representative Contents as Impressions
5 Help From Subject and Content, and Unmediated Awareness?
6 The Givenness of the World
7 Contents as Transparent
7 Consciousness as the Existence of a World
1 Leaving Consciousness Out, Or Trying To
2 The Existence of a World
3 A Mental World?
4 My World of Perceptual Consciousness and the Physical World
5 Consciousness as Existence
8 The Theory Embarked On
1 Naturalism and Subjectivity
2 Subjectivity and the Mind-Body Problem
3 Historical Theories, Brains in Vats
4 Something Left Out?
9 The End of Intentionality in Perceptual Consciousness
1 A Good Start But a Blunder?
2 Conscious Contents, Unconscious Contents, Intensionality
3 Two Relations, a Causal Story
4 Being Given to the Mind
5 Contents as Experiences
6 A Mess

10 Reflective and Affective Consciousness
1 The Inescapable Criteria
2 The Sort of Theory of Perceptual Consciousness
3 Reflective Consciousness, Possible Worlds, Concepts Etc.
4 Reflective Consciousness as Existence -- Outer Representations
5 Reflective Consciousness -- Inner Representations
6 Affective Consciousness as Existence -- Inner Representations
7 Uncertainties and a Certainty
11 Spiritualism, Devout Physicalism, Vats, Science
1 Alternatives
2 Representative Theory, Realist Theory
3 Deluded Brains in Vats
4 Consciousness as Baffling
5 Neuroscience and Some Attendant Philosophy
6 Postscript on Reconstruction

About the Author

Ted Honderich has been the Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic at University College London, and a Visiting Professor at Yale and also the Graduate Centre and Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. His most recent book is the philosophical autobiography Philosopher: A Kind of Life. He is the editor of the internationally-acclaimed reference work The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, and the author of books including A Theory of Determinism, Conservatism, and Punishment, The Supposed Justifications, and of papers on the nature of consciousness, mind and brain, and causation. Other edited books include the anthology Philosophy as It Is, and Essays on Freedom of Action and Social Ends and Political Means.


I think Honderich's approach both new and very interesting. It deserves the attention of both those who view conscious experience as deeply puzzling and those who see no mystery.
What exactly is consciousness, and what does it mean? Delving into neuroscience, philosophy, theory, and spiritualism in search of answers, as well as exploring topics such as reflective vs. affective consciousness, anti-individualism vs. union theory, and so much more, On Consciousness carefully dissects grand mysteries into bite-sized conundrums for personal contemplation. The scholarly text is intended for advanced students, yet curious lay readers can also unravel the mysteries of perception, explained as they are to the best of human understanding in On Consciousness.