MINDWORLDS

A Decade of Consciousness Studies

By

Second edition 2009, Imprint Academic

Paperback, 352 pages

ISBN 978 184540185 6

Understanding consciousness is one of the central scientific challenges of our time. This book presents Andy Ross's recent work and discusses a range of perspectives on the core issues. The chapters are based on texts written for a variety of occasions and audiences. Reading them in order, one senses a growing clarity in the articulation of the new ideas, some of which are deep and rather subtle, and glimpses the outlines of a dynamic field. Ross has taken pains to unify the collection and make the main thread clearly visible. His new ideas are of fundamental importance, and readers who grapple with them should gain insight that amply rewards the effort.


Consciousness studies, now halfway through its second decade as a self-consciously separate field of inquiry, finds a lucid, entertaining expositor in Andrew Ross. As well as chronicling the developments — and some of the colorful personality clashes — in the field, Ross has ideas of his own to contribute, grounded in a thorough acquaintance with physics, math, psychology, and philosophy, taking Wittgenstein's "I am my world" for a keynote. It's a wild ride.
John Derbyshire, author of Prime Obsession

In Mindworlds, Andrew Ross mixes, in a charming and highly intelligent way, speculations about consciousness with a very informative account of recent debates in consciousness studies plus some autobiography. Anyone interested in consciousness and the people who study it will be fascinated by it, as I have been.
Paul Snowdon, Grote Professor of Mind and Logic, University College London

Andy Ross thinks, and thinks for himself. He can teach things to mutual-citation circles in the philosophy and science of consciousness.
Ted Honderich, Grote Professor Emeritus of Mind and Logic, University College London
 

Preface

Consciousness is hard to understand. The ongoing attempt to understand it is one of the central scientific challenges of our time.

This book is a portrait of consciousness with two sides. The introvert side presents my own recent work, while the extrovert side discusses a range of other perspectives on the issues. The chapters are based on essays written for a variety of occasions and audiences. Reading them in serial order, one senses a growing clarity in the articulation of the new ideas, some of which are deep and rather subtle, and this adds movement to the introvert side of the picture. As for other perspectives, many ideas in this field are still provisional, and it is interesting to see how they have evolved over the decade during which the essays accumulated.

I have taken pains to unify the two sides of the portrait and make the main thread clearly visible. It seems to me that my new ideas are of fundamental importance, and I hope that readers who grapple with them will gain enough insight to feel their effort has been rewarded.

In this public and printed edition of the collection, five years after a pilot online edition, I have deleted four earlier essays of lesser scientific interest and replaced them with four more recent works. The result, with a fresh application of editorial polish, is an anthology that should be of real value to serious researchers.

Europe, 2009
 

Introduction

The special difficulty with the scientific study of consciousness is not that the concept resists easy definition — many scientifically tractable concepts share that feature — but that as would-be scientists we live in consciousness. This indefinable state of organized or unified awareness frames our every move as cognitive agents. We seem to need to perform a Kantian critique of pure reason before we can even begin to see how and where science can get a grip on the concept.

Ideally, such a philosophical critique can set the limits of the scientific enterprise in psychology. What we seek is a story about a mechanism that can explain our range of experiences as neutrally and uncontroversially as we now explain other biological functions like digestion or physical phenomena like liquids or technology like computers.

What we need in addition — and this is the hard problem — is perspectival therapy to get us out of the mental confusion about first and third person perspectives that makes the issue seem so intractable. In principle, the inner–outer contrast is as trivial as a perspectival shift in an Escher picture. All we need to do is find a set of reliable ways to characterize this perspectival shift in logic, physics, psychology, and philosophy. In practice, this task is far from trivial. But it is doable.

My main purpose in this book is to perform that therapy, essentially by taking the first steps in logic and physics toward a substantial explanation of consciousness within the frame of contemporary science, using what I hope are familiar and uncontested results and approaches and simply putting them together in such a way that the correct view of it all is fairly obvious. Some of my assertions may seem variously ambitious, optimistic, abstract, simplistic and so on, but by the end of it all I hope you’ll find the general position quite plausible and even natural. In fact, I hope you’ll be thinking — of course, quite right, no problem.

Try this test — read the book and see if you agree.
...
 

Contents

Chapter Title Pages
  [Front Matter] X
1 Introduction 12
2 Portrait of a Philosopher 17
3 Fundamentals of Consciousness 13
4 Consciousness: A Logical Model 19
5 Mindworlds 46
6 First-Person Consciousness 33
7 The Self: From Soul to Brain 22
8 A Photonic Theory of Consciousness 26
9 Toward a Theory of Consciousness 14
10 Consciousness as a Physical Process 12
11 Purpose in Life and Science 9
12 Roads to Reality 17
13 About Time 26
14 Blinded by the Light 2
15 Will Robots See Humans as Dinosaurs? 8
16 Hitting on Consciousness 21
  Chapter Notes 22
  References 14
  Index 9

 

Sitemap