The presence of sentience in a basically material reality is among the mysteries of existence. Many philosophers of mind argue that conscious states and properties are nothing beyond the matter that brings them about. Finding these arguments less than satisfactory, Gerald Vision offers a nonphysicalist theory of mind. Revisiting and defending a key doctrine of the once widely accepted school of philosophy known as emergentism, Vision proposes that conscious states are emergents, although they depend for their existence on their material bases.
Although many previous emergentist theories have been decisively undermined, Vision argues that emergent options are still viable on some issues. In Re-Emergence he explores the question of conscious properties arising from brute, unthinking matter, making the case that there is no equally plausible non-emergent alternative.
Vision defends emergentism even while conceding that conscious properties and states are realized by or strongly supervene on the physical. He argues, however, that conscious properties cannot be reduced to, identified with, or given the right kind of materialist explanation in terms of the physical reality on which they depend. Rather than use emergentism simply to assail the current physicalist orthodoxy, Vision views emergentism as a contribution to understanding conscious aspects. After describing and defending his version of emergentism, Vision reviews several varieties of physicalism and near-physicalism, finding that his emergent theory does a better job of coming to grips with these phenomena.
In The Crucible of Consciousness, Zoltan Torey offers a theory of the mind and its central role in evolution. He traces the evolutionary breakthrough that rendered the brain accessible to itself and shows how the mind-boosted brain works. He identifies what it is that separates the human's self-reflective consciousness from mere animal awareness, and he maps its neural and linguistic underpinnings. And he argues, controversially, that the neural technicalities of reflective awareness can be neither algorithmic nor spiritual—neither a computer nor a ghost in the machine.
The human mind is unique; it is not only the epicenter of our knowledge but also the outer limit of our intellectual reach. Not to solve the riddle of the self-aware mind, writes Torey, goes against the evolutionary thrust that created it. Torey proposes a model that brings into a single focus all the elements that make up the puzzle: how the brain works, its functional components and their interactions; how language evolved and how syntax evolved out of the semantic substrate by way of neural transactions; and why the mind-endowed brain deceives itself with entelechy-type impressions.
Torey first traces the language-linked emergence of the mind, the subsystem of the brain that enables it to be aware of itself. He then explores this system: how consciousness works, why it is not transparent to introspection, and what sense it makes in the context of evolution.
The “consciousness revolution” and the integrative focus of neuroscience have made it possible to make concrete formerly mysterious ideas about the human mind. Torey's model of the mind is the logical outcome of this, highlighting a coherent and meaningful role for a reflectively aware humanity.
The holy grail of psychologists and scientists for nearly a century has been to understand and replicate both human thought and the human mind. In fact, it's what attracted the now-legendary computer scientist and AI authority David Gelernter to the discipline in the first place. As a student and young researcher in the 1980s, Gelernter hoped to build a program with a dial marked "focus." At maximum "focus," the program would "think" rationally, formally, reasonably. As the dial was turned down and "focus" diminished, its "mind" would start to wander, and as you dialed even lower, this artificial mind would start to free-associate, eventually ignoring the user completely as it cruised off into the mental adventures we know as sleep.
While the program was a only a partial success, it laid the foundation for The Tides of Mind, a groundbreaking new exploration of the human psyche that shows us how the very purpose of the mind changes throughout the day. Indeed, as Gelernter explains, when we are at our most alert, when reasoning and creating new memories is our main mental business, the mind is a computer-like machine that keeps emotion on a short leash and attention on our surroundings. As we gradually tire, however, and descend the "mental spectrum," reasoning comes unglued. Memory ranges more freely, the mind wanders, and daydreams grow more insistent. Self-awareness fades, reflection blinks out, and at last we are completely immersed in our own minds.
With far-reaching implications, Gelernter’s landmark "Spectrum of Consciousness" finally helps decode some of the most mysterious wonders of the human mind, such as the numinous light of early childhood, why dreams are so often predictive, and why sadism and masochism underpin some of our greatest artistic achievements. It’s a theory that also challenges the very notion of the mind as a machine—and not through empirical studies or "hard science" but by listening to our great poets and novelists, who have proven themselves as humanity's most trusted guides to the subjective mind and inner self.
In the great introspective tradition of Wilhelm Wundt and René Descartes, David Gelernter promises to not only revolutionize our understanding of what it means to be human but also to help answer many of our most fundamental questions about the origins of creativity, thought, and consciousness.