Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Conscious Mind

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Conscious Mind

In Search of a Fundamental Theory

Oxford UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Your experience of consciousness cannot be explained by physical reasons alone – so how can it be explained?

auto-generated audio
auto-generated audio

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Philosopher and author David J. Chalmers makes an ambitious, daring attempt to expand the understanding of consciousness. Although he admits that his sympathies are with materialism, he concludes that materialist (physical) explanations cannot account for the existence of consciousness. His theory of consciousness is based in the natural world, but he proposes that consciousness has both physical and nonphysical properties. He suggests that a set of psychophysical laws are needed to explain the how and why of consciousness. Although parts of this book are densely technical and call for readers with a thorough background in mathematics, physics and philosophy, Chalmers has taken pains to make his material as accessible as possible to the average well-educated person. He even puts asterisks beside sections that lay readers are likely to find too daunting, and notes those sections general readers might most productively read, skim or ignore. getAbstract suggests this book to well-schooled readers who are interested in the philosophy of the mind, cognition or psychology.


Why Consciousness

Consciousness is a mysterious, fundamental fact of life that is almost wholly unexplained. Indeed, philosophers have rarely attempted an explanation. When they have, they have often been less than scrupulous in their approach. Some consider consciousness illusory. Indeed, it really is impossible to prove the existence of consciousness - yet, paradoxically, it is hardly possible to deny its existence. Conscious feelings or "qualia," such as the experiences of redness, or warmth, or sound, are familiar to everyone. Thus, although it may be impossible to prove the existence of consciousness empirically, consciousness obviously is fundamental to the human organism.

Some scientists and philosophers believe that explaining the physical facts of neurological functioning is enough to explain everything you need to know about the mind. Although the physical facts are important, indeed even indispensable, to consciousness, they are not the same thing as consciousness. Consciousness is natural, but not physical. Materialism or physicality cannot explain consciousness sufficiently. Yet, any explanation of consciousness must accept the findings of and be compatible...

About the Author

David J. Chalmers is professor of philosophy and director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University. A Rhodes scholar, he formerly taught at the University of Arizona. He has compiled what could be the largest bibliography on the philosophy of mind and related fields with some 8,000 annotated entries topically organized.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

Learners who read this summary also read

Related Channels