Précis of The Unity of Consciousness

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The explosion of research on consciousness in the last two decades has undoubtedly deepened our understanding of the phenomenon. We have a better sense of what the options are for theories of consciousness, and progress has been made in identifying the neural and information-processing basis of consciousness. There are, however, a number of aspects of consciousness that have been largely overlooked. One such aspect is the unity of consciousness. With some notable exceptions, neither philosophers nor the scientists have paid serious attention to the ways in which consciousness is unified.1 This is a surprising, for not only is the unity of consciousness an important topic in its own right, it also promises to provide much-needed constraints on theories of consciousness. If consciousness is necessarily unified, then any account of consciousness must accommodate and perhaps even explain that fact, and if consciousness is not necessarily unified, then any account of consciousness must also accommodate and perhaps even explain that fact.

The Unity of Consciousness has three central aims. The first aim is that of providing an account of what the unity of consciousness consists in. What might it mean to say that conscious is—or, as the case may be, is not—unified? Even the most cursory acquaintance with the literature suggests that theorists operate with very different conceptions of the unity of consciousness. The second aim of the volume is to determine the degree to which consciousness is unified. I argue that there is good (although far from decisive) reason to think that consciousness—in human beings, at least—is necessarily unified. The third aim of the volume is to consider what implications the unity of consciousness might have for our understanding of bodily experience, the evaluation of theories of consciousness, and our conception of the self.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-208
Number of pages9
JournalPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

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