Monday, 2 July 2012

Book Review: Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Objections to a Science of Consciousness

Sweet Dreams was published in 2005, and is one of Dennett's lesser well known books, but I would contend is still of great importance if one wishes to fully understand Dennett's stance on consciousness. The product description written on Amazon makes out as if the book is some kind of direct follow up to his 1991 book Consciousness Explained. In fact this books content is largely from the content Jean Nicord lectures given by Dennett. This book more directly deals with many of the objections that have been put to Dennett's theory of consciousness and see's Dennett reply to these objections in a more head on style.  

The book of course is better understood if one has read Dennett's first book Consciousness Explained, but any avid reader in the philosophy of mind will be familiar with many of the objections he attempts to formulate a reply to in this book. Topics include the possibility of Zombies and Frank Jackson's now infamous Mary's Room argument. Large amounts of this book can be seen as attacking the idea of Qualia and the idea that there is some particular aspect of consciousness which is out of the reach of science. 

Dennett does make some revision to his original theory of consciousness as outlined in 1991's Consciousness Explained in reply to certain objections and to fit better what new research has outlined. But the changes are minor and you won't have missed much if you decide to not to read this book. Though the chapter further detailing how we might advance a third person science of consciousness is both interesting and valuable.  

Dennett is a great writer and this book is no exception, each chapter deals with its primary issue well and can be easily read by educated layman unlike many highly academic philosophy books. The only weakness is that the book often repeats itself, this is probably due to the contents have being originally presented in the form of Jean Nicord lecture series. While this repetition is noticeable it only slightly detracts from the book.   

The real value of the book lies in the sections which tackle head on the objections that have arguably plagued modern Philosophy of Mind. Even if one doesn't agree with Daniel Dennett's views this is valuable reading for all who are interested in the topic of consciousness. Though it should be said that this follow up is not essential reading unlike his 1991 Consciousness Explained

Available from very few book stores and on Amazon. 

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