I am looking for a book that is more focused on the philosophy of consciousness(rather than general topic of Phil. of Mind) which takes up the hard problem as a major theme. Can you guys give me reccomendations for books (or even other reading material) and objective reasons about what you liked about your choice??

I am not looking for things in the history of the subject but rather stuff by contemporary authors such as Chalmers, Rosenthenal, Dennett, Nagel, Kripke, Churchland, Dretske, Peacocke, Ned Block and others. I am taking a philosophy of mind course right now and from what I have been told the 19th century philosophers are not necessary to understand contemporary debates. And I believe I can handle the contemporary stuff with out too much difficukty. ALSO NO ANTHOLOGIES, I find them disorganized and want to try a typical textbook.

In particular is Chalmers "The Conscious Mind" able to live up to its hype for those of you who have read it.

Thanks in advance guys.

  • I'm reading Dennett's "Consciousness Explained", it is a interesting read, but isn't very textbooky and is more of a Dennett Monologue. Also Dennett's tendency to disparage opposing views makes it feel a little bit too polemic. I have a copy of Churchland's "Engine of Reason, Seat of the Soul", which seems more like a text book and seems to be better balanced (for example he gives a good presentation of dualism and of Nagel's and Jackson's arguments, despite being opposed to them). But I haven't gone through all of it yet. Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 20:57
  • +1 on Dennet. He gives a plausible account far to one end without disowning natural inclinations and understandings or vilifying his opponents.
    – user9166
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 1:02
  • Dennett! If you want to be totally confused about consciousness I would certainly recommend him. Otherwise I'd read someone who claims to understand it. On the list of authors you mention not one understands consciousness.or claims to do so. Why read them? I don't get this approach. Why not read Osho, Watts, Aurobindo and others who claim an understanding of the topic and exhibit it? Even William James would be an improvement on your list. Pardon my strong views. When we study science we don't consult writers who don't claim to understand science so why do we do this with consciousness? .
    – user20253
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 11:41

5 Answers 5


"19th century philosophers are not necessary to understand contemporary debates" is largely true because modern debates regurgitate ideas and arguments explored at length since Kant. Here is an example of Searle arguably replaying an argument already discussed by Kant, see What are the problems with the argument for the mind-body dualism from immateriality of thoughts? A text may not be the best way to get into the subject, I start with two short papers instead.

Rosenthal, Theory of Consciousness, a short review (27pp) of the setting of modern debates.

Nagel, What is it like to be a bat?, a short modern classic (9pp). The argument for the impossibility of a physicalist reduction of "what it is like" in a nutshell.

Kim, Philosophy of Mind, a standard introductory text. The author is known for the famous "causal exclusion argument", see Is there a causal influence of the mental on the physical?

Burge, Foundations of Mind, collection of essays on the subject by a prominent modern philosopher, available for free. Some essays are specifically on consciousness, and the last chapter reviews philosophical developments in the area in 1950-2000.

Nagel, The View From Nowhere, the book long version of the argument on the limitations of objectification, and their manifestations in philosophical debates. More subtle and less "pop" than Chalmers, the title has become an idiom.

Carruthers, Phenomenal Consciousness. A Naturalistic Theory An attempt to offer a materialistic theory that takes into account the debates over qualia, in particular the objections such as Nagel's. Is based on the higher-order thought (HOT) theory.

Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis a 1994 book by a co-discoverer of DNA devoted to his late life passion, neuroscience. Attempts to give a conjectural account of how consciousness emerges using what we know about the brain function, and to set up an empirical programme for exploring it.

Mele, Free: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will, an up to date philosophical look at the relationship between consciousness and free will in the light of recent neuroscience (Libet experiments, etc.)

  • Kitcher misreads Searle. and, If you've read Searle's summary of Kant's CoPR, you might notice that Kitcher has misread Kant...
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 20:17
  • 1
    @Mr.Kennedy: As this summary seemingly has never been published and I'd be very interested in reading it - any way to get it you know of?
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 2:53
  • @PhilipKlöcking it has not been published. I wrote to him and requested it.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 3:00

If you aren't reading Professor John R. Searle, you are missing out.

Here's a short article to give you a sense of his writing: "Consciousness"

He's got lots of books and articles on the subject, all worth reading. In particular you might enjoy:

  • Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind (1983)
  • Minds, Brains and Science: The 1984 Reith Lectures (lecture collection; 1984)
  • John Searle and His Critics (Ernest Lepore and Robert Van Gulick, eds.; 1991)
  • The Rediscovery of the Mind (1992)
  • The Mystery of Consciousness (review collection; 1997)
  • Mind, Language and Society: Philosophy in the Real World (summary of earlier work; 1998)
  • Consciousness and Language (essay collection; 2002)
  • Freedom and Neurobiology (lecture collection; 2004)
  • Mind: A Brief Introduction (summary of work in philosophy of mind; 2004)
  • Seeing Things As They Are: A Theory of Perception (2015)

See also his book reviews for the New York Review of Books for useful commentary on and critique of his contemporaries, for example, his review of Chalmer's "The Conscious Mind"


and their exchange:


Here he reviews several authors:
The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul
by Francis Crick
Consciousness Explained
by Daniel C. Dennett
The Remembered Present: A Biological Theory of Consciousness
by Gerald Edelman
Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind
by Gerald Edelman
Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness
by Roger Penrose
The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten: An Anatomy of Consciousness
by Israel Rosenfield
(this is a summary if you are not a scubscriber to NYBR)

...and a resulting exchange with Dennett:


  • Yes, per the rejected edit suggestions, John R. Searle was stripped of his professorship & tenure during the ideological whinging of the "me too" movement. This censure of his status has no bearing whatsoever on his ideas.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 22:49

How Can Physics Underlie the Mind? by George Ellis is fantastic. Published in 2016 so it's very contemporary. The central tenet of the book is that the determinism of fundamental physics is not sufficient to explain the behaviour of large, complex systems (such as ecosystems or minds) and that we need a picture of top-down causation to understand such things. Ellis is an eminent physicist, well versed in philosophy and complexity theory. Worth a read for sure.


The Journal of Consciousness Studies is as the name indicates. There are also frequently good discussions in The Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, where target articles are briefly responded to by many and distinguished readers.


I second the recommendation of any of Sadhguru's books made above by @Sriharshi Singam. The entire literature of mysticism is about consciousness and these days there is even lots of good stuff on Youtube, for which see Mooji, Rupert Spira, Bernardo Kastrup and others. Kastrup comes from a science background and has a few 'popular' books out on the topic.

Not everybody likes the idea that the mystics know anything about consciousness but as this is the only thing they study it would be odd if they were more ignorant than Dennett, Searle and Chalmers.

You ask about Chalmer's The Conscious Mind. I couldn't read more than a couple of chapters but this is the sort of book you have to struggle through for a grasp of modern philosophy of mind. Such books won't tell you much about consciousness since none of their authors claim to understand it, but they do summarise the state of play in academic philosophy

Modern philosophy of mind is characterised by its rejection of the perennial philosophical tradition that specialises in the study of it and so it is hardly surprising that these books by Chalmers, Searle and Dennett and their peers are so underwhelming. But they have to be read to discover their worth and they're representative of the field so have to be recommended.

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