Conversations on Consciousness – Press Release


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What the Best Minds Think about the Brain, Free Will, and What It Means to Be Human

by Susan Blackmore

(Oxford University Press | To be published: February 15, 2006)

In CONVERSATIONS ON CONSCIOUSNESS, Blackmore confronts some of the most eminent thinkers of our time, from distinguished philosophers to renowned scientists about key philosophical issues. Blackmore’s one-on-one discussions with contributors will surprise readers with revealing insightful into what the greatest minds think about the inner workings of the mind.  Contributors include:

Bernard Baars — Consciousness is a real working theatre

Ned Block — I’m trying to refute functionalism

David Chalmers — I’m conscious: he’s just a zombie

Patricia and Paul Churchland — The brain is a causal machine & The visual sensation of redness is a particular pattern of activations

Francis Crick — You’re just a pack of neurons

Daniel Dennett — You have to give up your intuitions about consciousness

Susan Greenfield — I get impatient when really big questions are sliding past

Richard Gregory — Science is full of gaps

Stuart Hameroff — Consciousness is quantum coherence in the microtubules

Christof Koch — Why does pain hurt?

Stephen LaBerge — Lucid dreaming is a metaphor for enlightenment

Thomas Metzinger — I am the content of a transparent self model

Kevin O’Regan — There’s nothing there until you actually wonder what’s there

Roger Penrose — Real understanding is something outside computation

V.S. Ramachandran — You’re a part of Shiva’s dance; not a little soul that’s going to be extinguished

John Searle — I don’t understand a word of chinese

Petra Stoerig — It’s obvious that other animals experience very much like we do

Francisco Varela — We’re naïve about consciousness, like people before galileo looking at the sky

Max Velmans — The Universe has different views of itself through you and me

Daniel Wegner — Don’t think about a white bear

CONVERSATIONS ON CONSCIOUSNESS brings together some of the great minds of our time, a who’s who of eminent thinkers, all of whom have devoted much of their lives to understanding “what kind of a machine we are.”  They ruminate on the nature of consciousness—is it something apart from the brain? Is it even possible to understand the brain, to understand human consciousness? Some of these thinkers say no, it isn’t possible, but most believe that we will pierce the mystery surrounding consciousness, and that neuroscience will provide the key. Blackmore goes beyond the issue of consciousness to ask other intriguing questions: Is there free will (a question which yields many conflicted replies, with most saying yes and no); if no, how does this effect the way you live your life; and more broadly, how has your work changed the way you live.  Ranging from the curious (do bees have consciousness?) to the profound (is our sense of having a self just an illusion), these provocative conversations illuminate current thinking on the mind and on human nature itself.


What the Best Minds Think about the Brain, Free Will, and What It Means to Be Human

by Susan Blackmore

Date of publication: February 15, 2006

$23.00  —  ISBN: 0-19-517958-7  —  ISBN 13: 9780195179583