Conscious Book Summary - Conscious Book explained in key points
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Conscious summary

Annaka Harris

A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind

4.3 (216 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

Conscious by Annaka Harris is a mind-bending exploration of the nature of consciousness. Drawing on the latest neuroscience and philosophy, it challenges our assumptions about the self and the world we live in, ultimately revealing the mysterious and wondrous nature of our own awareness.

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    To understand consciousness, we must question our understanding of experience and intuition.

    When you think of what it means to be conscious, or to experience consciousness, what comes to mind? For something that is so central to our lives, consciousness continues to be an elusive and mysterious subject, and one of the primary reasons for this is that we tend to have a variety of ideas as to what it really means to have consciousness.

    To gain a better understanding of what consciousness is, we can begin by ruling out what it isn’t. But in order to begin this inquiry on a solid footing, it would be helpful for us to agree upon a rough idea of what it is we’re talking about in the first place.

    For this, we’ll turn to the esteemed philosopher Thomas Nagel, who in 1974 suggested that “an organism is conscious if there is something that it is like to be that organism.” Essentially, this means that a conscious organism is one that has some sort of experience. 

    So it would be like something to be you in this moment, since you’re currently experiencing things. But it may not be like anything to be the seat you’re sitting on, if the chair isn’t experiencing anything, right?

    With that in mind, we can start looking at things that are often closely related to experience to see if they are indeed aspects of our consciousness or can be ruled out altogether.

    However, it’s important to note that when we do this, our intuition is playing a big role. Since no one knows for sure what consciousness is precisely, we often rely on our intuition to tell us what seems right or wrong when we consider questions like which things in the world experience consciousness. 

    Ironically enough, intuition is also a mysterious thing that science has yet to fully grasp. Basically, intuition is that gut feeling you have when you know something is amiss and yet you can’t pinpoint why. 

    Maybe you see a stranger getting on the subway and sense that he poses a threat. Your intuition could be due to the man’s face being flushed and his eyes being dilated. These are signs that he may become violent, and you may have noticed them, but only on an instinctual, subconscious level.

    However, our intuition can, and often does, lead us astray as well. Early on, our instincts told us that the Earth was flat until someone noticed that the stars in the sky suggested otherwise. And today, many people feel instinctively more worried when they board a plane than when they get into a car, even though a car ride comes with a much higher chance of injury.

    So, in the blinks ahead, listen to your intuition, but also try to keep an open mind about the possibilities of consciousness.

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    What is Conscious about?

    Conscious (2019) offers a contemplative and probing look at one of life's central mysteries: consciousness. Author Annaka Harris explores two fundamental questions: How do we define consciousness? And how widespread is its existence in the universe?

    Conscious Review

    Conscious (2019) by Annaka Harris is a thought-provoking exploration of the nature of consciousness and why it matters. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Explores cutting-edge scientific research and philosophical questions, offering a fresh perspective on the mysterious phenomenon of consciousness.
    • Provides clear, accessible explanations of complex ideas, making it easy for readers to grasp and engage with the material.
    • Promotes reflection and self-awareness, encouraging readers to question their own consciousness and explore the implications of this understanding on our lives.

    Who should read Conscious?

    • Curious people interested in life’s mysteries
    • Students of philosophy and biology
    • Anyone curious about the human brain

    About the Author

    Annaka Harris is a writer whose work has been featured in the New York Times. She also works as a consultant for other science writers, and she was a collaborator in creating the Mindful Games Activity Cards. She is also the author of the children’s book I Wonder and has two children of her own with the podcast host and neuroscientist Sam Harris.

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    Conscious FAQs 

    What is the main message of Conscious?

    The main message of Conscious is that consciousness is a fundamental component of our existence.

    How long does it take to read Conscious?

    The reading time for Conscious varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Conscious a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Conscious is a thought-provoking book that explores the nature of consciousness. It offers valuable insights and is worth reading.

    Who is the author of Conscious?

    The author of Conscious is Annaka Harris.

    What to read after Conscious?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Conscious, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Making Sense by Sam Harris
    • The Greatest Secret by Rhonda Byrne
    • The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck
    • How to be F*cking Awesome by Dan Meredith
    • Rewire Your Ocd Brain by Catherine M. Pittman
    • Lying by Sam Harris
    • The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch
    • The Big Picture by Sean Carroll
    • The Law of Attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks
    • The Negativity Fast by Anthony Iannarino