Consciousness Matters, But Does It Cause?

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Abstract

Reviews the book, Inner Presence: Consciousness as a Biological Phenomenon by Antti Revonsuo (see record 2006-07369-000). Beginning with a clear statement of his own foundation assumptions and a critical review of contemporary consciousness studies, Revonsuo, a cognitive scientist, then suggests needed improvements in research strategies and outlines his own position on pivotal issues. Revonsuo's theoretical framework is rooted in evolutionary biology, and thus he sees consciousness as a biological phenomenon. Consciousness is a biological adaptation that has real causal properties. It is definitely not a mere “reflection” of neural activity, not an epiphenomenon, and it has specific adaptive qualities. The author's approach on this point seems to parallel that of John Searle. Searle (1992), in his landmark book The Rediscovery of the Mind, labeled his position “biological naturalism”; Revonsuo calls his “biological realism” and claims for it the task of explaining consciousness as an emergent production, “a biological phenomenon… tightly anchored to, indeed literally located within, the confines of the biological reality found in the brain” (p. xvii). Although Revonsuo does acknowledge the contributions of Searle, he definitely is opposed to many of the core ideas of another major writer on consciousness, philosopher Daniel Dennett. Dennett's (1991) book Consciousness Explained had a strong influence on many in the field, due perhaps to his forceful writing style, but also due to the fact that he stayed close to and incorporated contemporary research findings in his discussions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)

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