Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Partial Reading List

Consciousness
The last dozen years have seen a great deal of writings about the mysteries of consciousness by philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, physicists and others. I’ve especially enjoyed reading a multi-disciplinary journal called the Journal of Consciousness Studies. Because contributors are trying to reach audiences outside their own specialty, most articles are good reading for laypersons. Especially good was a series beginning in Vol. 2 (1995), No. 3 on the topic “Explaining consciousness – The ‘Hard Problem’”.
Interesting books by philosophers include:
The Invisible Flame, Colin McGinn
The Conscious Mind, David Chalmers
Understanding Consciousness, Max Velmans
A History of the Mind, Nicholas Humphrey
A book that attempts to update and explain Whitehead’s process philosophy and how it relates to the problem of consciousness is Unsnarling the World-Knot, by David Ray Griffin.
A neuroscientist with an interesting perspective who is an excellent writer is Antonio Damasio, who has written Descartes’ Error and The Feeling of What Happens.

Physics
It is hard for me to resist the idea that there is a connection between the mysteries of consciousness and that of the deepest levels of physical reality. There have been many good books written for popular audiences about developments in modern physics. Some I have enjoyed are:
Dreams of a Final Theory, Steven Weinberg
A Brief History of Time, Stephen W. Hawking
The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene
The Life of the Cosmos and Three Roads to Quantum Gravity, by Lee Smolin

Evolution and Evolutionary Psychology
Recently I’ve been trying to read more on evolution, a topic which seems to touch so many relevant areas. Recent reads include:
What Evolution Is, by Ernst Mayr, which is a summary written by a premier evolutionist of the past several decades; and Darwin’s Ghost, by Steve Jones, which takes the form of an update to Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species.

Also, on the interesting topic of extending the evolutionary perspective to the broadest possible level is Cosmic Evolution, by Eric Chaisson

The writer Robert Wright is the leading popularizer of developments in evolutionary psychology. His books are The Moral Animal, and Non-Zero: The Logic of Human Destiny.
Another book I read by a specialist in this interesting field is Darwinian Natural Right, by Larry Arnhart.

4 comments:

Key said...

Nice list. If you liked "The Moral Animal" you might like "The Selfish Gene" and other books by Richard Dawkin. He's a great science writer.

Steve said...

Thank you. That is something I will follow up on.

Anonymous said...

Consciousness has taken the place of cosmology and physics as the present 'in vogue' study to find some solid ground for epistemology. All the books you mention add nothing to how the mind, primarily just water with a few other atomic elements, transforms itself into the 'rich wine of consciousness.'

Axons and dentrites and synaptic clefts are interesting to inquiring minds, but no more philosophical fruitful than
Descartes!

Steve said...

Consciousness is fascinating to me because of the problem you describe - how can "water with a few other atomic elements" transform into the "rich wine of consciousness"? I wrote in earlier posts that the answer has to be that the quality of having subjective experience is inherent in the water and atomic elements.

Now it is still a difficult question to say how our rich consciousness is organized out of the simple elements even if I assert those elements have some sort of proto-consciousness. I will spend more time on this question in my next post, which I plan to put up before the end of this week.