• Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist (MIT Press)

  • By: Christof Koch
  • Narrated by: Walter Dixon
  • Length: 7 hrs and 4 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (161 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

What links conscious experience of pain, joy, color, and smell to bio-electrical activity in the brain? How can anything physical give rise to nonphysical, subjective, conscious states? Christof Koch has devoted much of his career to bridging the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the physics of the brain and phenomenal experience.

This engaging book - part scientific overview, part memoir, part futurist speculation - describes Koch's search for an empirical explanation for consciousness. Koch recounts not only the birth of the modern science of consciousness but also the subterranean motivation for his quest - his instinctual (if not romantic) belief that life is meaningful.

Koch describes his own groundbreaking work with Francis Crick in the 1990s and 2000s and the gradual emergence of consciousness (once considered a fringy subject) as a legitimate topic for scientific investigation.

Koch gives us stories from the front lines of modern research into the neurobiology of consciousness as well as his own reflections on a variety of topics. All are signposts in the pursuit of his life's work - to uncover the roots of consciousness.

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title published by The MIT Press.

“I loved every minute of it.” - Nature

“Science writing at its best.” - Times Higher Education

“Destined to takes its place as a timeless masterpiece in the history of science.” - Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine

©2012 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (P)2017 Redwood Audiobooks

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Hard science and consciousness brought closer

Christof Koch is in the hardcore science of Biophysics and Neural correlates of consciousness, subjects that are at the forefront of empirical brain science.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see some philosophy, and dare I say a touch of what some might call, beyond the known. This could be because it is very hard to speak about consciousness with dabbling with the "Hard Problem" of Qualia.

I found this book enlightening with some unique hypothesis that did not shy away from the subjective experience and how science might tackle this issue.

This together with a bit of autobiography creates a well rounded and enjoyable book, with a humbling experience as to how little we know, recommended for those who are interested in knowing how hard is the Hard Problem of consciousness.

10 people found this helpful

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very bad book. all conjecture, full of assumptions

very bad quality research, because will not track evidence unless fits into their presuppositions. This is presuppositional research, not evidentialist. One needa to go where evidence leads, not be hogtied by presuppositions. it is really annoying to see such smart people become slaves to their presuppositions; they cannot even consider options and lines of evidence outside their preconceived notions. got to have open mind to wherever evidence leads and consider all options no matter your presups. Science is stifled by this presuppositionalist mindset. To me this author and others lkle him are are just religious zealots, who worship at the altar of materialism. Religion is always based on unquestionably presuppositions, amd this author's unquestionable presupposition is materialism. this is called methodological materialism. Methodological materialism will hinder humanities advancement. Science needs to be evidence based, without these dogged presuppositions.

it is a breath of fresh air when i actually read a book without religious presuppositions, but this book was so full of materialist presuppositions, it almoat smothered me!

4 people found this helpful

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Superb!

Loved it!!! I truly enjoyed reading every bit of it, from start to finish. It's a wonderful feast for the mind, which touches the heart. I can't wait to read Christof Koch's next book The Feeling of Life Itself. And Thank You, Christof!

1 person found this helpful

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Incredible

Amazing insights into the depths of human consciousness on a both scientific and philosophical level written with thoughtful and enduring prose.

1 person found this helpful

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A tremendously important book concerning consciousness , Arguably leading to a lack of dualism

I have been a fan of Christof Koch since reading the neural correlates of consciousness and seeing his Cal techWebpage perhaps 10 or more years ago.

Those of us who have long struggled with theExistence of a mind/soul Dualism appreciate the important scientific work of Koch and Crick and those who have worked with them to scientifically analyze the Thought process and consciousness. This is the latest book in a series of books. In the neural correlates of consciousness Koch was able to show how much is the visual cortex works and how we assemble images.

15 years ago there were a few attempting to do what is now being done with the advent of better measuring tools such as fMRI. The ability to measure electrical activity of single neurons and small groups of neurons and track their connections is astounding.

It May not be easy for to understand this work for those mired in philosophy that could not be tested or religion that could not be scrutinized yet this book is understandable to all. Many will need to rethink putting the cart before the horse. We may feel as though we have a soul here at the definition of a soul need to be re-defined. Descartes did not have the tools available to him that are available to Koch.

As we have long been able to see vertebrae and fossils that are similar from one animal to another, we are now able to examine the brains Of many animals and it is apparent that they are conscious as we are even though they are not able to speak (or speak in a language that we are able to understand).

This book makes it abundantly clear that the consciousness that each of us have is based upon the anatomy of our brains, the inputs that we receive and have received and the chemicals, food, neural sustenance That we have taken in allowing us to have the thoughts and feelings that we have.

I will continue to look for new research by Christof Koch and Those who build upon his research.

1 person found this helpful

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Engaging autobiography and compelling science

Engaging autobiography and compelling science. The reader had trouble with the occasional French word but otherwise is excellent.

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The hard problem of letting go of the faith!

It was a very informative book for me personally, I learned a lot about the anatomy of the brain, neurological activities and their relations to our physical behavior / actions. Specifically I was fascinated by the mentioned method of measuring / quantifying consciousness in brain damaged patients. However, I didn’t find the book necessarily helpful (again, for me) on the subject of consciousness!
I found the description of the IIT (integrated information technology) incomplete (without explaining how consciousness can emerge from integrated information), sort of hoping that consciousness miraculously emerges when a computing system can integrate high level data, explores and finds relations between them!
Additionally,
Nevertheless, I found the content of the book matching its title: confessions of a hopeless scientific mind loosing its faith to scientific discoveries and objectiveness of the physical world, yet hoping there is a meaning to the life and universe!
I strongly believe this book is absolutely useful for people of the faith and those who believe in metaphysical world, because the writer patiently walks you out of many illusions graciously easier the way he helped himself, the hard way.
— Remarks on a technical matter: the writer believes consciousness is a property built into a whole system and therefore you cannot simulate consciousness using digital computer, the same way simulation of a black hole won’t wrap the space-time around the simulating computer [Nature 2018]. I found this argument bizarre and the analogy utterly wrong! This argument, I think, attest on the writer believe that he thinks consciousness is something on top of a system like a mind or spirit that emerges from it, and not a result of information processing. The way I understand it he’s saying since the brain is an analog system, you cannot simulate it using a digital computer. But this contradicts his adherence to the IIT! Also, if consciousness is the result of information processing, the information being analog or digital would not matter (incomparable to simulation of gravity in a computer). After all, all analog signals are digital in nature … so, it’s a matter of resolution. Will a digital computer built based on multi-value logics capable of simulating consciousness, but not a binary computer?!

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Two themes mashed together confusedly

If this was science only leaving out the philosophical assumptions the conclusion, "We don't know what consciousness is, but think it's physical" would at least be truthful. The case that mechanics explains consciousness was not made. If it was focused on the personal history, it might also have been a decent story, and maybe the philosophical assumptions would have been explored. There were certainly sad points in the author's life, and the concluding rule, "Everything turns out just as it is supposed to." Is reasonable. HIs advocation of the platonic view of the soul is misguided as it is not the only one worthy of consideration. There is a better case to examine from Aristotle: Soul as principle of life or substantial for of the body is worthy of consideration. The dismissal of miracles as fabrications, first misunderstands miracles and second, leads to wild speculations unworthy of consideration. If a miracle is a physical event that has not or cannot be explained by science, then they are all around us.

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Drivel

If you like the self-obsessed narcissism of most TED talks, you’ll love this. I made it through most of the second chapter before crying uncle! If you are actually interested in consciousness, listen to some of Dan Dennett’s works. Good narration, though.

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  • NL
  • 04-26-21

Endless but soothing neurodroning.

Trying too hard to be a hip Carl Sagan down with the kids and the popcultural and pseudointellectual references while waxing poetic at every single corner, stumbling over his unexamined assumptions. Still an ok listen for when you just wanna zone out over some intro neurodrivel.

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  • Huseyin Beykoylu
  • 07-10-20

deeply stimulating

one of the deepest and extensive books on the science of consciousness. Stimulating and at times touching.

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