A Place For Consciousness
Probing the Deep Structure of the Natural World
Oxford University Press published "A Place for Consciousness: Probing
the deep structure of the natural world." in November 2004. It is available
The book is the culmination of a project spanning more than a decade. It presents a synoptic metaphysics for the natural world
that places mind within it in a comfortable and beautiful way. You can find a short and simple visual executive summary of the book's
central themes and ideas here. The key arguments and advances in the book are,
Though the book is not an easy read for non-specialists, it is manageable for the motivated reader and repays the
investment. Its intended audience is any philosophically-minded person
who is interested in fresh approaches to the
philosophical questions surrounding consciousness and causation. In writing it I drew heavily on my own interdisciplinary background. I hope
readers who similarily have strong interdisciplinary backgrounds or interests will gain from it. To see if it might
be for you, read the preface or take a look at the
Table of Contents.
A direct argument against the view that consciousness is physical (i.e., an argumet that is not a conceivability or knowledge argument).
A proposal for a view called Liberal Naturalism for understanding the natural world without physicalism.
An argument that we can and should separate a basic concept of experiencing from our specifically mental concept of consciousness.
Several arguments connecting the hard problem of consciousness to the metaphysics of causality.
The introduction of a new paradigm for understanding causality called Causal Significance. The Causal Significance of a thing is the
difference its existence makes to the space of possible ways the world can be.
A framework for understanding the deep structure of the
natural world as a causal mesh of overlapping natural individuals.
An argument for tying experiencing into the categorical foundations of the causal
mesh and a detailed development showing exactly how to do it.
A derivation of solutions to many of the deepest mysteries surrounding the hard problem of consciousness,
including Chalmers' "Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment".
If you are interested in a still deeper dive, here is chapter 1.
There is also this short paper presenting the book's central argument and framework.
It is a write-up of a well received plenary talk I gave at Towards a Science of Consciousness in Tucson in 1998.
The book contains within it a "short tour" that details the central ideas and directions. The compiled
short tour is here .
The five individual chapters making up the short tour are broken out below,
I have given a few other talks at the Tucson conferences over the years, and the presentations that went along with
those talks are below.
Also, in the book I mention in two places that I favor a view of representational content on which content is fixed
by the guidance that a representational token gives to action, so that the intentionality of the mind is derived
from a more basic bodily intentionality that finds expression through action and interaction. With Michael Anderson
of the University of Maryland I have written a paper explaining some of the view, though it is a small part of
a bigger picture. That paper is here.
I owe a huge debt of thanks to the Fetzer Foundation, administered
by the University of Arizona, for fellowship support in 1998-1999
that allowed me to write the first draft of A Place for Consciousness.
An historical curiousity: The book is a distant, distant descendant of the term paper here
written by a young boy I used to be. As an intellectual artifact, the paper is a bit embarassing but is notable
for having been unashamedly more thrilled at the prospect of discovery than it was daunted by its demands. That's the one
thing the young boy's paper shares most in common with the book.
As always, feedback is welcome.