This work questions existing theories of conscious mental processes and proposes a new physicalist but non-reductionist conception of consciousness.
What is consciousness? How can physical processes in the brain give rise to the activity of a conscious mind? These questions raise the most heated discussions in philosophy and science today. Philosopher David J. Chalmers here offers a concise analysis of this debate and outlines a new theory of consciousness, one that rejects reductionist tendencies, remains compatible with physicalist conceptions, but goes beyond them.
In a rigorous and stimulating style, the author takes us on a far-reaching journey through the ramifications of philosophical conceptions of consciousness. Contrary to contemporary cognitive science and neuroscience, Chalmers proposes to understand conscious experience as an irreducible entity -just like the physical properties of time, mass, and space- that would be found at very deep levels and that cannot be understood as the mere sum of simpler physical components.
In the second half of the book, the author builds a fundamental theory about the basic laws governing the structure and character of conscious experiences, showing how this reconceptualization of mind could lead to a new science of consciousness.
Throughout the book, Chalmers offers fascinating thought experiments, suggesting to us, for example, what would happen if, in a brain, neurons were gradually replaced by silicon chips. To the extent that neurons would be replaced, would consciousness gradually disappear?
Throughout the text we also find suggestions of how the author's ideas could be applied to questions related to artificial intelligence or to the interpretation of quantum mechanics.