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Friday, March 14, 2014

Consciousness and the Limits of Objectivity: The Case for Subjective Physicalism

Robert J. Howell, Consciousness and the Limits of Objectivity: The Case for Subjective Physicalism, Oxford University Press, 2013, 190pp., $55.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780199654666.

Reviewed by Richard Brown, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY

What happens when we take consciousness seriously? Howell argues that doing so requires giving up on objectivity but not on physicalism. The resulting view, which he calls 'subjective physicalism', is one on which consciousness is wholly physical but cannot be truly understood from an objective point of view. It can only be known from the inside, via acquaintance, and so there is a sense in which any objective picture of the physical world will be incomplete.

Howell's book is short, and there are places where things move a bit too quickly and others where one wishes more had been said. Still, overall he presents a clear account of how consciousness could be physical even if we can't fully know it from an objective standpoint. Howell shows that there is still much to be discussed in what might look like well-worn territory, and his book is deserving of attention.

The entire book review is here.

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