What is consciousness? What is it like to feel pain, or to see the color red? Do robots and computers really think? For that matter, do plants and amoebas think? If we ever meet intelligent aliens, will we be able to understand what they say to us? Philosophers and scientists are still unable to answer questions like these. Perhaps science fiction can help. In DiscognitionWhat is consciousness? What is it like to feel pain, or to see the color red? Do robots and computers really think? For that matter, do plants and amoebas think? If we ever meet intelligent aliens, will we be able to understand what they say to us? Philosophers and scientists are still unable to answer questions like these. Perhaps science fiction can help. In Discognition, Steven Shaviro looks at science fiction novels and stories that explore the extreme possibilities of human and alien sentience....
|Number of Pages||:||300 Pages|
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A fascinating look at how science fiction gives us a way to examine different types of consciousness and ideas about our own. I ended up with a bunch of new titles on my TBR list.
I'm stunned by the sheer amount of brilliant visions and lines of thought which are so exquisitely put together in this book. I highly recommend "Discognition" if you're into serious science-fiction and philosophy of mind. All mentioned outlooks on consciousness are thrilling, and I second the author in his feeling that each of them seem vey convincing when studied on its own. I haven't read mentioned novels and stories except Blindsight, but I'm surely going to catch up. Additionally, Steven's synthesis is an excellent piece of philosophical thinking laid down in very clear terms. I had some problems with references to Kant and a few other thinkers which I don't know that well. On the other hand, I really liked and "felt" references to Whitehead, by studying whom I stumbled upon Steven Shaviro in the first place. Anyway, I don't think you really need to be fluent with philosophy to understand and appreciate "Discognition". Go ahead and read it as a set of terriffic essays on consciousness, intelligence, rationality, "the self" and post-humanism. It's pure gold.
A very nice concept for a book ealing with consciousness. Of course science fiction deals with speculative extrapolation from present day science and technology, but without a good grounding in contemporary knowledge in a given area it can be difficult to know whether the posited reality is a reasonable extrapolation or a total fantasy (not to mention the characterisation, dialog and other highly distracting elements which hinder a nice, dry philosophical examination...).Shaviro is a scholar of literature, so as a neuroscientist it was obviously a somewhat different style of argument and language than I'm used to, but I enjoyed it, I thought it was well written and accessible without requiring a specialist background.
Discognition is a clever, engaging book which uses case studies from science fiction to address philosophical-metaphysical debates about the nature of consciousness (or sentience more broadly). The approach more than pays off by the end of the book, for the slime mold analyzed in that final section (Physarum polycephalum) is a real-world biological entity, even though its description reads as if may as well have been taken from a science fiction story. If taking fiction as a serious springboard for philosophical speculation about the nature of consciousness sounds dubious, Shaviro points out that the entire history of philosophy is already riddled with fabulation and imagined stories (premodern mythic or theological entities, more modern “thought experiments,” as well as the purportedly neutral example cases often employed by even the most sober “analytic” philosophers [as stated in another context: “Since all these conditions are ridiculously counterfactual, the cognitivist assumption of rationality is itself (like most theoretical assumptions) little more than a bizarre fabulation, a fiction of sentience,” p. 206]).Shaviro happens to repeatedly support a position I already tend to agree with (some version of Alfred North Whitehead’s panpsychism, or proto-panpsychism), but the way he makes his case is convincing — chapter by chapter, arguing for the reality of some degree of sentience beyond, or else underlying, a more individuated, ego-based self-consciousness, but each time in ways immanent to the story in question. (Shaviro’s sympathies are obviously in opposition to the much more common view that consciousness, or any awareness altogether, is just an epiphenomenon of physics and biology alone, completely reductive to chemicals and atoms, ultimately.) Because the stories Shaviro addresses also often have overt economic and political implications or overtones, a further point is implied, throughout: it could well be true than intentionality matters when addressing consciousness. (That is: is one seeking to understand consciousness, or to simply to control it?, etc.) Of course, this book will likely be easily dismissed by diehard cognitive reductionists, but in doing so they would miss the entire point (almost by definition).
[image error]MY ALL NEW FAVORITE PHILOSOPHY BOOK!!!!! What an amazing read! So much fun .... and just wow.... this book made me really really think.... This is the kind of book you read and reread... highlighter in hand.I am SO lucky to have won this book on Goodreads!
The perfect book for the Philosopher in you! This book by Steven Shaviro will work your mind and turn your wheels so much, you won't want to put the book down. Questions are asked in this book that still can't be answered today by professionals. This author explores different sides, questions after questions, scenarios after scenarios. This read was amazingly written and very entertaining and thought provoking!