Jesse J. Prinz, "The Conscious Brain: How Attention Engenders Experience" (Oxford UP, 2012)


For decades now, philosophers, linguists, psychologists and neuroscientists have been working to understand the nature of the hard-to-describe but very familiar conscious experiences we have while awake. Some have thought consciousness can't be explained scientifically, and others have argued that it will always remain a mystery. But most consider some sort of explanation in physical, specifically neural, terms to be possible. In The Conscious Brain: How Attention Engenders Experience (Oxford University Press, 2012), Jesse J. Prinz -- Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate Center -- synthesizes scientific data and hypothesis with philosophical theory and insight to argue for the AIR theory of consciousness. On his view, consciousness is Attention to Intermediate-level Representations, attention is availability to working memory, and availability to working memory is realized by synchronized neural activity in the gamma frequency range. In this deftly written book, Prinz also provides novel arguments against competitor theories, argues against the idea that there is a phenomenal self, and proposes a mind-body metaphysics that draws on insights from both non-reductive and reductive physicalism.

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Carrie Figdor

Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.

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