My book is coming out with Oxford University Press (NY) on April 27th, 2011!



1. The catastrophe of the eye
2. A new view of seeing
3. Applying the new view of seeing
4. The illusion of seeing everything
5. Some contentious points

6. Towards consciousness
7. Types of consciousness
8. Phenomenal consciousness, raw feel, and why they're hard
9. Squeeze a sponge, drive a Porsche: a sensorimotor account of feel
10. Consciously experiencing a feel
11. The sensorimotor approach to color
12. Sensory substitution
13. The localization of touch
14. The phenomenality plot
15. Consciousness

The book proposes a novel view to explain how we as humans -- contrary to current robots -- can have the impression of consciously feeling things: for example the red of a sunset, the smell of a rose, the sound of a symphony, or a pain.

The book starts off by looking at visual perception. The eye contains many defects which should seriously interfere with vision. Yet we have the impression of seeing the world perfectly well. Explaining how this is possible leads to a new idea about what seeing really is: Seeing is not receiving information in the brain, but a way of interacting with the world. The book goes against the received view according to which the brain creates visual sensation. Instead the book claims that the role of the brain is to enable vision-specific interactions with the world.

This "sensorimotor" approach to seeing is extended in the second part of the book to encompass the other senses: hearing, touch, taste and smell. By taking different sensory experience as different ways of interacting with the world, it becomes possible to explain why experiences are different in the way they are. It also explains why the vast majority brain functions (e.g. digestion, balance, and even thoughts) are not accompanied by any real feeling.

The "sensorimotor" approach is not simply a philosophical argument: It leads to scientifically verifiable predictions and new research directions. Among these are the phenomena of change blindness, sensory substitution, "looked but failed to see", as well as results on color naming and color perception and the localisation of touch on the body.

The approach is relevant to the question of what animals and babies can feel, and to understanding what will be necessary for robots to become conscious.

And here is some interesting stuff -- mainly on the mysteries of vision -- that I left out of the book.