A Novel Theory of Consciousness
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A detective tale based on its author’s theory of consciousness, expounded in an appended essay.

In Part One, “The Thrill of Phenomenology,” first-time novelist Lloyd (Philosophy/Trinity Coll.) tells his story through the eyes of Miranda Sharp, a philosophy grad student who finds her dissertation advisor, Professor Grue, apparently dead in his office. She grabs her dissertation from his desk and runs, then spends the rest of the book trying to get to the bottom of the mystery, which thickens when Grue’s body disappears. The mystery turns out to hinge on Lloyd’s theory of consciousness, aspects of which are being worked on by almost all the characters. These include a psychologist with her own radio show, a love-struck computer geek, a Russian ex-detective, Miranda's ex-boyfriend (a conceptual artist), and Lloyd himself, who appears to help Miranda with the fine points of his theory. She gets some additional help in untangling it from the graphics that conveniently turn up on her computer and in the folder with her dissertation. Judged as fiction, this is thin stuff, with cardboard people and an improbable conspiracy driving the plot. Part Two, “The Real Firefly: Reflections on a Theory of Consciousness,” is written on a level appropriate to an advanced college class: it’s an essay drawing on the ideas of the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl and the results of experiments in perception to build Lloyd’s theory of consciousness. Though obscured by a thick layer of neurophenomenological jargon, it appears to boil down to the assertions that temporal duration is an essential element of experience, and that consciousness is not located in any one place in the brain but throughout the entire organ. Specialists may well find greater depths here than the typical mystery reader.

Probably as good as anything for selling phenomenology to undergrads. Others can give it a pass.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-262-12259-6
Page count: 380pp
Publisher: MIT
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2003