Five_Books_Home_main_image-4David Carmel in The Browser's Five Books:

our first choice, Introducing Consciousness by David Papineau and Howard Selina, is presumably trying to make a very complex topic accessible by presenting it using graphic art?

Yes, it’s part of the Introducing… series that presents various topics in graphic form, a bit like a comic book. What I liked about this one is that it takes a very complex issue and shows that you do not need to be a great philosopher, or have a very deep understanding of the science, to understand why it’s a complex issue and what the fundamental questions we’re dealing with are. And the truth is that with consciousness we’re still at the point of raising the interesting questions, as philosophers have done for the last 2,000 years, rather than at the interesting, complex, answers stage. Despite being highly approachable, this book is a serious piece of work that gives a great overview of past and current thinking about consciousness, especially from the philosophical perspective. Most books or articles will look at the issue of consciousness from a different angle, and I’ve tried to balance that out in my choices. This particular book was written by a professor of philosophy, David Papineau, in conjunction with an illustrator. So it’s mostly about the philosophy of mind, with particular reference to consciousness, and while it mentions science here and there, that’s really not the main focus: where it mentions the science, this is done to describe potential methodologies with which to address the philosophical questions that have been raised.

Whereas you would say there is actually more to the science than that?

Not necessarily. I’m a scientist, and my own approach to these questions is scientific. But I got interested in consciousness because of the philosophical issues. What is consciousness? How can we possibly understand it? One of the frustrating things for scientists who deal with consciousness is that nowadays we have lots of great methodologies to look at the brain and at complex forms of behaviour. But we still lack a conceptual framework with which we could recognise an answer if it came along. The answer might be all around us: we may just not see it yet.