A reading club with a view to the future

383 Susan Blackmore: Consciousness

Exploring the nature of consciousness and its implications for our understanding of the self, perception, and the mind-body relationship.



"Consciousness: An Introduction" provides a comprehensive examination of the concept of consciousness, addressing questions such as what it means to be conscious, how consciousness arises, and the relationship between consciousness and the physical brain. Susan Blackmore delves into philosophical, psychological, and scientific perspectives, presenting theories and research findings to shed light on this complex and elusive phenomenon.


Title: "Consciousness: An Introduction" 

Author: Susan Blackmore 

Publishing Year: 2004 

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Length in Hours: 4 hrs and 35 mins

5 main ideas

  1. The Nature of Consciousness: Examining different philosophical theories and perspectives on consciousness, including dualism, materialism, and panpsychism, and exploring the concept of subjective experience.
  2. Consciousness and the Brain: Investigating the neural correlates of consciousness and the role of brain processes in generating conscious experiences, delving into topics such as the binding problem, attention, and the role of specific brain regions.
  3. Altered States of Consciousness: Exploring altered states of consciousness, including sleep, dreams, meditation, and hallucinogenic experiences, and their implications for our understanding of normal waking consciousness.
  4. The Self and Consciousness: Examining the relationship between consciousness and the self, investigating topics such as self-awareness, self-identity, and the illusion of free will, and discussing the implications of these concepts for our understanding of personal identity.
  5. The Evolution of Consciousness: Exploring the evolution of consciousness in humans and other animals, discussing theories and evidence related to the origins and adaptive significance of consciousness in evolutionary terms.

5 funny quotes

  1. "Consciousness is like a mysterious magician performing tricks in our heads, leaving us both amazed and bewildered." - Susan Blackmore
  2. "Trying to define consciousness is like trying to catch a butterfly with a fishing net made of fog." - Susan Blackmore
  3. "Explaining consciousness to someone who has never experienced it is like describing colors to a blind person—it's an enigma best understood through personal experience." - Susan Blackmore
  4. "Consciousness is like a cosmic dance party in the theater of the mind, where thoughts, emotions, and perceptions take the stage and captivate our attention." - Susan Blackmore
  5. "Consciousness is the ultimate reality show, with our own minds as the hosts, contestants, and audience all at once." - Susan Blackmore

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "Consciousness is the most puzzling aspect of our existence, intimately tied to our sense of self and yet still a profound mystery." - Susan Blackmore
  2. "Understanding consciousness requires us to grapple with fundamental questions about the nature of reality, the mind-body relationship, and the limits of scientific inquiry." - Susan Blackmore
  3. "Consciousness is not a thing or entity; it is a process, an ongoing stream of experiences that shape our perception of reality." - Susan Blackmore
  4. "Exploring altered states of consciousness can offer valuable insights into the nature of consciousness itself, challenging our preconceived notions and expanding our understanding of human experience." - Susan Blackmore
  5. "Consciousness may be an emergent property of complex neural networks, but the exact mechanisms and processes that give rise to subjective experience remain elusive." - Susan Blackmore

5 dilemmas

  1. The Hard Problem of Consciousness: Wrestling with the challenge of explaining how and why subjective experiences arise from physical processes, often referred to as the "hard problem" of consciousness.
  2. The Unity of Consciousness: Investigating how diverse sensations, perceptions, and thoughts are unified into a coherent and integrated conscious experience.
  3. The Philosophical Implications: Exploring the philosophical implications of different theories of consciousness for our understanding of reality, personal identity, and the nature of the mind.
  4. The Ethical Dimensions: Examining the ethical considerations associated with consciousness, including the rights and moral status of conscious beings, artificial intelligence, and the implications for sentient beings in various domains.
  5. The Future of Consciousness Research: Considering the future directions of consciousness research, including advancements in neuroimaging techniques, artificial intelligence, and the potential ethical and societal implications of a deeper understanding of consciousness.

5 examples

  1. Qualia: The subjective qualities of conscious experience, such as the taste of chocolate or the color red.
  2. Split-brain Patients: Individuals who have undergone a surgical procedure called corpus callosotomy, which severs the connection between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, leading to unique insights into the relationship between consciousness and brain function.
  3. Near-death Experiences: Profound experiences reported by individuals who have come close to death, often involving sensations of floating, tunnel vision, and encounters with deceased loved ones.
  4. Global Workspace Theory (GWT): A theoretical framework proposed by Bernard Baars, suggesting that consciousness arises from the coordinated activity of widely distributed brain regions.
  5. Blindsight: A condition in which individuals with damage to the primary visual cortex can still respond to visual stimuli without consciously perceiving them, highlighting the dissociation between visual awareness and unconscious processing.

Referenced books

  1. "The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory" by David J. Chalmers
  2. "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes
  3. "The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness" by Antonio Damasio
  4. "The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience" by Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch
  5. "I Am a Strange Loop" by Douglas Hofstadter

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"Consciousness is the ultimate reality show, with our own minds as the hosts, contestants, and audience all at once."

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