The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World

The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World

The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World

The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World

Synopsis

Is consciousness nothing more than the result of neurons firing through brain tissue? Or is it, as some claim, a fundamental reality like space, time, and matter? In recent years, the nature of consciousness -- our immediately known experience -- has taken its place as the central, most profound problem in the scientific discourse. Now, in elegant prose, Colin McGinn brilliantly and accessibly tackles this most difficult of questions.

Excerpt

It is difficult to escape from your own consciousness--your perceptions, feelings, thoughts, desires. Once your consciousness vanishes, so do you. It is with you always, a perpetual humming presence. There is nothing more evident to you than your existence as a conscious being. Yet consciousness is perplexing. What is consciousness? Where does it come from? How is it connected to the entity we call the body? What does the activity of the brain have to do with it? Consciousness cannot be seen or touched or pulled apart or tasted, despite its intense familiarity. It is self-evident and yet deeply puzzling. There is something special about it.

This book is about the mystery of consciousness. My main theme is that consciousness is indeed a deep mystery, a phenomenon of nature on which we have virtually no theoretical grip. The reason for this mystery, I maintain, is that our intelligence is wrongly designed for understanding consciousness. Some aspects of nature are suited to our mode of intelligence, and science is the result; but others are not of the right form for our intelligence to get its teeth into, and then mystery is the result. As well as explaining why this is so, I investigate the bearing of this "mysterian" thesis on a range of other ques-

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