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A User’s Guide

Adam Zeman

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A fascinating exploration of the nature of consciousness

This engaging and readable book provides an introduction to consciousness that does justice both to the science and to the philosophy of consciousness, that is, the mechanics of the mind and the experience of awareness. The book opens with a general discussion of the brain and of consciousness itself. Then, exploring the areas of brain science most likely to illuminate the basis of awareness, Zeman focuses on the science of sleep and waking and on the science of vision. He describes healthy states and disorders—epilepsy, narcolepsy, blindsight and hallucinations after stroke—that provide insights into the capacity for consciousness and into its contents. And he tracks the evolution of the brain, the human species, and human culture and surveys the main current scientific theories of awareness, pioneering attempts to explain how the brain gives rise to experience.

Zeman concludes by examining philosophical arguments about the nature of consciousness. A practicing neurologist, he animates his text with examples from the behavioral and neurological disorders of his patients and from the expanding mental worlds of young children, including his own. His book is an accessible and enlightening explanation of why we are conscious.

Adam Zeman is a consultant neurologist at Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, and senior lecturer in the department of clinical neurosciences at Edinburgh University.

A main selection of the Library of Science and an alternate selection of the Behavioral Science Book Service

"Practicing neurologist Zeman has taken a very difficult topic, the existence of consciousness, and made it readable for persons from a variety of backgrounds. . . . Students and researchers in neuroscience, medicine, biology, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy will find his book a helpful resource and its broad perspective intriguing. Health professionals would find this book most appealing. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals."—Choice

“Adam Zeman clarifies, qualifies, and quantifies issues in the contemporary study of Consciousness. . . . What makes Zeman’s account of consciousness so enjoyable is his playfully tangential writing style, which cinematically zooms in and out from broad scientific overviews to detailed close-ups of specific ideas and concepts. Zeman sprinkles his narration with anecdotal accounts and pertinent quotes from sources as disparate as Alan Turing, Sylvia Plath, and Trainspotting. The far-reaching topics he addresses are attractive to the wide variety of readers, and especially the reader of the wide variety.”—Jim Fingal, Harvard Book Review

“Consciousness: A User’s Guide is now catalogued in my collection of significant books in the neurosciences.”—D.A.S. Compston, Journal of Neurology

“An elegant and clear distillation of the rich diversity of theories behind one of the greatest challenges for human understanding.”—Mark Harper, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

"In the recent glut of books on consciousness, is there any excuse for another? For Adam Zeman’s Consciousness: A User’s Guide, I think there is. . . . [Zeman] is uniquely qualified to write this particular book, whose chief merit is that it provides a summary of the current state of play in neurobiology, psychology and philosophy. . . . The book’s best feature is its summary of what is known about the brain processes that cause and realize consciousness in its various forms. Even if you don’t learn why we are conscious, you will still learn a lot about such things as epilepsy, anesthetics, sleep, drugs and visual perception. . . . A very useful book."—John R. Searle, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"[Zeman] is uniquely qualified to write this particular book, whose chief merit is that it provides a summary of the current state of play in neurobiology, psychology and philosophy. . . . A very useful book."—John R. Searle, Los Angeles
Times Book Review

“It is a well-written account of the wiring that makes up the brain and of the neural activities involved in the creation of consciousness. . . . I recommend this book to those who are beginners in the field of consciousness studies; it is a valuable contribution.”—John G. Taylor, New England Journal of Medicine

"[This] book is more than an argument about computers and consciousness. There are . . . potentially mind-numbing discussions of the pathways that give rise to the senses and to cognition, accompanied by diagrams of the same. . . . Zeman manages to make all of this stuff . . . interesting."—Ivan Oransky, New York Sun

"An articulate . . . neurologist . . . covers many aspects of consciousness for general readers. His treatment of the disorders of knowledge is superb. If you were intrigued with The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, you’ll appreciate [the book’s] buildup to what Oliver Sacks described in that work. . . . Could [also] be used in an undergraduate humanities or psychology course to fill in the neuroscience background for readers coming to it for the first time. . . . Approachable and instructive."—William H. Calvin, New York Times Book Review

"Zeman is a humane and engaging writer and this is a wonderfully ambitious and entertaining book. I can think of no better guide to ’the last great frontier of science.’"—Paul Broks, Prospect

“This book presents a grand tour of the terrain of consciousness, as viewed from neuroscientific and philosophical perspectives. Its purpose is to introduce neophytes to major landmarks in areas of current concern for the understanding of human nature and culture. . . . All of this material is presented in succinct and . . . clear fashion, with a leavening of humor and anecdote. The book can be recommended to anyone who wants an entry to and road map for the fields approaching a science of consciousness.”—Colin Beer, The Quarterly Review of Biology

"Anyone new to the field [neurophilosophy] should begin with [Zeman's] beautifully written Consciousness. A User's Guide, an extraordinarily helpful account of the relevant neuroscience and of the key philosophical arguments.  I know of no better general exposition of the current state of our knowledge of how the brain works. . . . He provides an incomparably clear guide to the theories put forth by others."—Raymond Tallis, Brain

ISBN: 9780300104974
Publication Date: September 10, 2004
416 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
60 b/w illus. + 75 figures