The Conscious Brain

Jesse Prinz

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195314595
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979059 | DOI:

Series: Philosophy of Mind Series

The Conscious Brain

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Synthesizing decades of research, this book advances a theory of the psychological and neurophysiological correlates of conscious experience. The first part of the book argues that consciousness always arises at a particular stage of perceptual processing, the intermediate level, and that consciousness depends on attention. Attention changes the flow of information and that gives rise to experience. The resulting account is called the AIR Theory, for attended intermediate-level representations. Objections to the theory are addressed. The second part of the book argues that all consciousness is perceptual: there is no cognitive phenomenology, no experience of motor commands, and no experience of a conscious self. The conclusions challenge popular theories in consciousness studies: the view that we can directly experience our thoughts, the view that consciousness essentially involves action, and the view that every experience includes awareness of the subject having that experience. The third part of the book explores the neural correlates of consciousness. It argues attention—hence consciousness—arises when populations of neurons fire in synchrony, and the book responds to those who deny that consciousness could be a process in the brain. Along the way, the book also advances novel theories of qualia, the function of consciousness, the unity of consciousness, and the mind-body relation, defending a view called neurofunctionism. Each chapter brings neuroscientific evidence to bear on enduring philosophical questions. Major philosophical and scientific theories of consciousness are surveyed, challenged, and extended.

Keywords: consciousness; neuroscience; attention; perception; working memory; self; action; neural synchrony; physicalism

Book.  416 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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