Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction

Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction - Susan J. Blackmore Blackmore summarizes the current understanding of what consciousness is in this short book. She is never less than very clear, although at times it slips into philosophy rather than science, which perhaps says more about the current state of knowledge than anything else.

Blackmore is not an adherent of the Cartesian theatre, instead suggesting that consciousness is an illusion - there is no 'centre' which is me. This seems to be supported by current knowledge in neuroscience and helpfully side-steps all the difficult (if not impossible) questions posed by a dualistic nature.

Where I find Blackmore less credible is on the subject of free will. Again Blackmore suggests this may be an illusion, as in experiments the brain waves for action seem to occur before the decision is consciously made. Earlier in the book Blackmore suggests there is a lag in perception (of about 1/2 a second) and I would suggest that the two may be related, rather than dismissing 'free will' - after all I really do have a choice as to whether I write this review or not... (or do I just have the 'Free Won't' to stop myself from doing something my brain wants me to? Argh!)

At the end of the book Blackmore suggests that the only time we are conscious is when we as the question 'am I conscious?' - which sounds like a cop out to me.

Overall it is a very interesting summary of the state of knowledge about how we see ourselves. I don't doubt that consciousness is a form of self-delusion, the explanation seems to fit the evidence presented in this book and others in related subjects. It will no doubt be a subject I will return to.

There is a good list for further reading at the end of the book.