CONSCIOUSNESS EXPLAINED by Daniel C. Dennett

CONSCIOUSNESS EXPLAINED

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Maybe not explained. But explored, analyzed, examined from an extraordinarily rich perspective. Here, as in other philosophical work (Elbow Room, 1984, etc.), the Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts Univ. states that he aims to dethrone the ``Cartesian Theater'' of the mind--that central screen with its implied ``Central Meaner'' who attends to the ``contents of consciousness'': the ghost in the machine with all its implied infinite regress and mind/brain dichotomy. Instead, Dennett posits ``multiple drafts'' of the real world, the product of parallel processing of perceptual and cognitive subsystems compiled by independent ``demons'' vying with each other, with now one or another gaining ascendancy--the whole a form of ``pandemonium'' that results in consciousness. In arriving at this model, Dennett reviews the extensive literature of neuroscience, artificial intelligence, neurology, cognitive psychology, speech and language studies, thought experiments, and the philosophical tradition itself. This discourse is well worth the price of admission to Dennett's own theater of the brain: He is a gifted expositor with a marvelous sense of humor, and, typical of philosophers, ever eager to persuade, answer the reader's objectives, and strike down rival theories. Does he succeed? Not completely. One suspects that metaphors based on artificial intelligence, ``virtual'' machines, and computer technology are just this culture's mind-set at this time. Dennett also pays scant attention to the role of emotions (in comparison to Robert Ornstein, see below), nor for that matter to the emerging concept that the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems should be considered in any schema of consciousness. Nevertheless, Dennett's analysis is so often brilliant, so witty, and so informed by contemporary culture as to make pleasurable the reading of what is truly a complex and demanding text.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1991
ISBN: 0-316-18065-3
Page count: 514pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1991




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