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Publisher's Summary

Consciousness, a unique and perplexing mental state, has been the subject of debate for philosophers and scientists for millennia. And while it is widely agreed within contemporary philosophy that consciousness is a problem whose solutions are likely to determine the fate of any number of other problems, there is no settled position on the ultimate nature of consciousness. This series of 12 penetrating and thought-provoking lectures by an acclaimed teacher and scholar approaches its subject directly and unflinchingly. Rather than trying to explain away consciousness, or hide behind convenient slogans like "it's all in your brain," Professor Robinson reviews some of the problems that philosophers, psychologists, scientists, and doctors face when taking on this vexing topic, addressing questions that include. What is the most promising way to study this subject? What are the implications that arise from the fact that we have consciousness? What are the ethical and moral issues raised by its presence - or absence?

Professor Robinson draws on the wisdom of the world's greatest thinkers to shed light on the ethical debates involved in any examination of consciousness, including John Locke, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Aristotle. And he also explores the impact of modern physics and medicine on our understanding of the self. Pondering questions from the most fundamental to contemporary quandaries about artificial intelligence, you'll gain new insights into the complexity of how great minds define consciousness.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2007 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2007 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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The Best

I love this lecturer. I've listened to all of his lectures, some of them more than once. He's a polymath and a teacher of the highest order.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

The title says it all.

Did you ever want to know what it is to be alive and concious? Have you ever wanted to prove the consciousness of others? These things and so much more are explored thoroughly in this amzing audio book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars

Weak course.

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Daniel N. Robinson?

A very weak "not so great" course. The lecturer does not go into enough detail and fails to use clear and concrete examples for rather complex issues. Take Searle's famous Chinese Room scenario or Turing's Imitation Game. Both of these merit a detailed explanation to make sense in the context of the speaker's conceptual system. However, I understood these two concepts only because I had listened to a much better philosophy of mind course (Philosophy of Mind by P. Grimm — a truly "great course"). Much of what professor Robinson says in this course may be quite worthwhile, but he does not make himself clear enough. The only worthwhile chapters are 1, 10 and 11.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

The subject is great, the teacher not so much

Consciousness is my favorite subject, but the initial lectures were very confusing, and it seemed to me that the teacher was meandering around definitions and ideas without actually getting to any point in particular. The last lectures get a little bit better, but still I felt like some focus was missing.

For the ones actually interested in this topic, I would strongly recommend the lectures from professor Patrick Grim in his course of phylosophy of mind. It is basically the same subject, but with much more focus and a more compreheensible delivery.

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Ever the best<br />

Few people affect me more than Daniel Robimson. A modern day philosopher who brings to the forefront the amazing questions of our time past, present and future. His intellect and his correlations of the great thinkers of history have me a much better thinker. Listen to his lectures, you are richer for it.

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Doesn't know his stuff

a good review of the consequences of consciousness, but when the author gets into what Consciousness is the book completely fails. Especially the chapter on physics. Nost of what the author says is wrong. There is too many examples to get into in a short review.

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Robinson's brilliance on display

4.5/5.

What do zombies, quantum physics, and autism all have in common? They all pose interesting challenges to the idea of consciousness. If a computer can calculate 200 million chess moves per second, and a chess master about 3, and yet the computer struggles to beat the chess master, what is the computer doing differently? Is it ‘thinking’, as we think of the word?

I enjoyed Robinson’s take on the problem of consciousness and his accumulation of relevant opinions from important thinkers. This wasn't easy listening though. At times he rambled, probably because his brain is accessing such a massive storehouse of information. But most of the time he displayed mastery of the topic of consciousness, while able to branch out into neuroscience, physics, law, computation, mathematics, and social issues, without missing a beat.

I particularly enjoyed his tactful and humane treatment of issues related to PVS (I get the sense that all his philosophical studies have actual made him a pretty warmhearted guy). I’d like to hear more of his thoughts on Physicalism (as opposed to Dualism or other ontologies). I haven’t heard any good explanations yet for Dualism that don’t sound like Descartes' wishful thinking for a gland that connects to the soulish realm. Also, Supervenience is interesting and I think has good explanatory power for the emergence of consciousness. I’m listing these here so I can come back later and explore them more.

Sometimes I got the feeling that Robinson wants to take a ‘common sense’ approach, but is learned enough to know that that has poor epistemological grounds. Some of the issues he raises (such as the “Mary Problem”) are problems of semantics and equivocation. Some can be solved by modern statistics research, such as the difficulty of two thinking beings having shared information and finding common ground for beginning communication (i.e., given enough encounters, chance alone can produce these kinds of results).

All in all, these 12 lectures were a worthy introduction into a weighty and thorny topic that nevertheless pertains to us all, until we fall asleep again and happily surrender our consciousness for a time. I’m looking forward to going deeper.

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Snooze Fest

Boring. The lecturer seemed to be much more impressed with himself than he should be.

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  • Thomas
  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 11-20-17

Excellent as usual

Get anything by Daniel N. Robinson - a witty and entertaining speaker and a very insightful scholar!

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A good introduction

A good introduction to the philosophy of consciousness though needed more background to philosophy itself. Without a prior philosophy background the material was often a little inaccessible.

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  • Luuk
  • 11-26-15

A little disappointing

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Change of title: "Philosophical Views of Consciousness (and Its Implications)"

What about Professor Daniel N. Robinson’s performance did you like?

Good

Any additional comments?

My expectations were probably all wrong, but I had hoped to learn more about self-consciousness and what I got was an interesting but ultimately somewhat disappointing series of lectures largely devoted to the various philosophical musings about consciousness. The implications of the title are only touched upon in the last lectures.

4 of 8 people found this review helpful