The Nature of Consciousness

The Nature of Consciousness

The Nature of Consciousness

The Nature of Consciousness


Mark Rowlands develops an innovative and radical account of the nature of phenomenal consciousness, with significant consequences for attempts to find a place for it in the natural order. He argues that the phenomenal aspects of conscious experience are aspects that exist only in the directing of experience towards non-phenomenal objects, a theory that undermines reductive attempts to explain consciousness in terms of what is not conscious. His book will be of interest to a wide range of readers in the philosophy of mind and language, psychology, and cognitive science.


Colin McGinn ®rst got me thinking about consciousness. I was ®nishing up a D. Phil. at Oxford, where Colin was my supervisor. He had just thought up the basic line of argument behind 'Can we solve the mind±body problem?', and I may have been one of the ®rst people he explained it to. I thought he was mad! A decade or so later, when I returned to look at his work, I was struck by how sane the old man had become in the intervening years. Also, much to my chagrin, I was struck by how much my own developing position owed to his. Somewhat in this spirit of chagrin, then, I did my best to distinguish my view from his, and this resulted in chapter 3.

My thinking on the nature of supervenience, and, in particular, on the distinction between ontological and epistemological interpretations, has been profoundly in¯uenced by the work of John Post, as anyone who has read his Faces of Existence ± a work of the highest quality ± will know. The in¯uence of Sydney Shoemaker will also be evident in many of the pages that follow.

An earlier version of chapter 5 appeared in Mind and Language, as 'Consciousness and higher-order thoughts'. I am grateful to Sam Guttenplan, Editor of the journal, and to Blackwell publishers for permission to use this work.

Thanks to Hilary Gaskin at Cambridge University Press. Colin Allen, in his capacity as reader for Cambridge University Press, made several helpful suggestions. My thanks to him. And thanks to Joanne Hill for some outstanding copy-editing.

This work was supported by a grant from the Faculty of Arts Research Grants Committee at University College, Cork. My thanks. Thanks also to my colleagues in the Department of Philosophy at University College, Cork who have helped foster a very pleasant working environment, and to Des Clarke, whose creative approach towards my current leave of absence greatly facilitated the completion of this work.

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