Consciousness by Keith Frankish

In order for you to be reading this sentence you must be conscious. You have a private, direct and intimate possession of consciousness. Awkwardly though, science and philosophy are having a devil of a problem defining what consciousness actually is. There has been a whole crop of theories, some competing, some overlapping and some mutually compatible.

Could a scientific explanation ever account for the ‘feel’, or ‘qualia’ of conscious experience – what it is like to have a throbbing headache, smell a rose, see a sunset, or touch a silk dress? Are such experiences just complex physical phenomena or is there more to them than a physical account could ever capture? What about explaining consciousness in functional terms? Is the feel of a conscious experience a matter of what it represents? Is it the product of a form of inner awareness? Could it be that our view of consciousness is mistaken and that we need to rethink our assumptions completely? These questions go to the heart of our conception of ourselves and our place in the universe, and they are the subject of vigorous debate among contemporary philosophers.

This book by Keith Frankish ( provides a reliable grounding in the fizzing current debate about consciousness. It will enable you to adopt an informed opinion on the matter. Annotated further reading sections at the end of each chapter suggest next steps should you wish to explore the subject further.

Enquire at your local library. Check if this important book is in stock by consulting the online catalogue at

Listen to Keith Frankish speak about conscious thought in a 12 minute podcast interview here

Warm up to the broader subject by listening to the BBC Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’ 30 minute episode on Brain and Consciousness. Available from the link With Steven Rose, Professor of Biology and Director of the Brain and Behaviour Research Group, Open University; and Dan Robinson, Distinguished Research Professor, Georgetown University and visiting lecturer in Philosophy and Senior Member of Linacre College, Oxford. Chaired by Melvyn Bragg. First broadcast Thu 19 Nov 1998.

Follow up by listening to the following podcasts around the subject:

For a good, entertaining, summary of the state of discussion on consciousness – read the Guardian article published January 2015 available at

Embark on a lifetime of thought and reading about consciousness with the Stanford online encyclopaedia entry here

Begin a program of reading with the following:

The Conscious Brain by Jesse Prinz (reviewed by me here

Headhunters by Ben Shephard (reviewed by me here

‘We are our Brains by Dick Swaab (reviewed by me here

The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel M. Wegner (reviewed by me here

The Mechanical Mind by Tim Crane (Routledge, 3rd edition, 2015,

Consciousness and Mental Life‘ (2008) by Daniel N. Robinson (

Can Neuroscience Change Our Minds?‘ (2016, by Steven Rose and Hilary Rose

‘Making up the Mind: How the brain creates our mental world’ by Chris Frith (2007,


‘Consciousness’ by Keith Frankish

278 pages in Open University Press

First published 2005

ISBN  978-0749296452

Keith Frankish

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