Books

Books by Philosophy Day speakers

The Character Of Consciousness, by David Chalmers. What is consciousness? How does the subjective character of consciousness fit into an objective world? How can there be a science of consciousness? In this sequel to his groundbreaking and controversial The Conscious Mind, David Chalmers develops a unified framework that addresses these questions and many others. Starting with a statement of the “hard problem” of consciousness, Chalmers builds a positive framework for the science of consciousness and a nonreductive vision of the metaphysics of consciousness. He replies to many critics of The Conscious Mind, and then develops a positive theory in new directions. The book includes original accounts of how we think and know about consciousness, of the unity of consciousness, and of how consciousness relates to the external world. Along the way, Chalmers develops many provocative ideas: the “consciousness meter”, the Garden of Eden as a model of perceptual experience, and The Matrix as a guide to the deepest philosophical problems about consciousness and the external world.

Grete Hermann – Between Physics And Philosophy, co-edited by Elise Crull. Grete Hermann (1901-1984) was a pupil of mathematical physicist Emmy Noether, follower and co-worker of neo-Kantian philosopher Leonard Nelson, and an important intellectual figure in post-war German social democracy. She is best known for her work on the philosophy of modern physics in the 1930s, some of which emerged from intense discussions with Heisenberg and Weizs cker in Leipzig. Hermann’s aim was to counter the threat to the Kantian notion of causality coming from quantum mechanics. She also discussed in depth the question of ‘hidden variables’ (including the first critique of von Neumann’s alleged impossibility proof) and provided an extensive analysis of Bohr’s notion of complementarity. This volume includes translations of Hermann’s two most important essays on this topic: one hitherto unpublished and one translated here into English for the first time. It also brings together recent scholarly contributions by historians and philosophers of science, physicists, and philosophers and educators following in Hermann’s steps. Hermann’s work places her in the first rank among philosophers who wrote about modern physics in the first half of the last century. Those interested in the many fields to which she contributed will find here a comprehensive discussion of her philosophy of physics that places it in the context of her wider work.

The Cambridge Companion To Merleau-Ponty, co-edited by Taylor Carman. Maurice Merleau-Ponty was described by Paul Ricoeur as “the greatest of the French phenomenologists.” The new essays in this volume examine the full scope of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, from his central and abiding concern with the nature of perception and the bodily constitution of intentionality to his reflections on science, nature, art, history, and politics. The authors explore the historical origins and context of his thought as well as its continuing relevance to contemporary work in phenomenology, philosophy of mind, cognitive science, biology, art criticism and political and social theory.

The Conscious Brain: How Attention Engenders Experience, by Jesse Prinz. The problem of consciousness continues to be a subject of great debate in cognitive science. Synthesizing decades of research, The Conscious Brain advances a new theory of the psychological and neurophysiological correlates of conscious experience. Prinz’s account of consciousness makes two main claims: first consciousness always arises at a particular stage of perceptual processing, the intermediate level, and, second, consciousness depends on attention. Attention changes the flow of information allowing perceptual information to access memory systems. Neurobiologically, this change in flow depends on synchronized neural firing. Neural synchrony is also implicated in the unity of consciousness and in the temporal duration of experience.

Existentialism and Romantic Love, by Skye Cleary. This book is an existential study of romantic loving. It draws on five existential philosophers to offer insights into what is wrong with our everyday ideas about romantic loving, why reality often falls short of the ideal, sources of frustrations and disappointments, and possibilities for creating authentically meaningful relationships. Cleary’s book is a wonderful introduction to some key philosophical thinkers. Even if readers are searching for minor exposures to existentialism, Cleary ties together a lot of their larger ideas under the umbrella of romance. … The book is a step in unhinging love from its banality and its honest and accessible approach should be an interest philosophers of relationships and love.

Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, by Rebecca Goldstein. Is philosophy obsolete? Are the ancient questions still relevant in the age of cosmology and neuroscience, not to mention crowd-sourcing and cable news? The acclaimed philosopher and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein provides a dazzlingly original plunge into the drama of philosophy, revealing its hidden role in today’s debates on religion, morality, politics, and science. Imagine that Plato came to life in the twenty-first century and embarked on a multicity speaking tour. How would he handle the host of a cable news program who denies there can be morality without religion? How would he mediate a debate between a Freudian psychoanalyst and a tiger mom on how to raise the perfect child? How would he answer a neuroscientist who, about to scan Plato’s brain, argues that science has definitively answered the questions of free will and moral agency? What would Plato make of Google, and of the idea that knowledge can be crowd-sourced rather than reasoned out by experts? With a philosopher’s depth and a novelist’s imagination and wit, Goldstein probes the deepest issues confronting us by allowing us to eavesdrop on Plato as he takes on the modern world.

Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Matter, by Peter Singer. In this book of brief essays, Peter Singer — described as one of the world’s most influential philosophers — applies his controversial ways of thinking to issues like climate change, extreme poverty, animals, abortion, euthanasia, human genetic selection, sports doping, the sale of kidneys, the ethics of high-priced art, and ways of increasing happiness. Singer asks whether chimpanzees are people, smoking should be outlawed, or consensual sex between adult siblings should be decriminalized, and he reiterates his case against the idea that all human life is sacred, applying his arguments to some recent cases in the news. In addition, he explores, in an easily accessible form, some of the deepest philosophical questions, such as whether anything really matters and what is the value of the pale blue dot that is our planet. The collection also includes some more personal reflections, like Singer’s thoughts on one of his favorite activities, surfing, and an unusual suggestion for starting a family conversation over a holiday feast.

The Future of Whiteness, by Linda Alcoff. White identity is in ferment. White, European Americans living in the United States will soon share an unprecedented experience of slipping below 50% of the population. The impending demographic shifts are already felt in most urban centers and the effect is a national backlash of hyper-mobilized political, and sometimes violent, activism with a stated aim that is simultaneously vague and deadly clear: ‘to take our country back.’ Meanwhile the spectre of ‘minority status’ draws closer, and the material advantages of being born white are eroding. This is the political and cultural reality tackled by Linda Martín Alcoff in The Future of Whiteness. She argues that whiteness is here to stay, at least for a while, but that half of whites have given up on ideas of white supremacy, and the shared public, material culture is more integrated than ever. More and more, whites are becoming aware of how they appear to non-whites, both at home and abroad, and this is having profound effects on white identity in North America. The young generation of whites today, as well as all those who follow, will have never known a country in which they could take white identity as the unchallenged default that dominates the political, economic and cultural leadership. Change is on the horizon, and the most important battleground is among white people themselves.