Conscious Book Summary - Conscious Book explained in key points

Conscious summary

Annaka Harris

A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind

Listen to the first key idea

Key idea 1 of 6
4.3 (184 ratings)
17 mins
6 key ideas
Audio & text

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?

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.

Table of Contents
    Key idea 1 of 6

    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.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Conscious?

    Key ideas in Conscious

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    Who should read Conscious

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

    Categories with Conscious

    What our members say

    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    Start growing with Blinkist now
    25 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    Of Blinkist members create a better reading habit*
    *Based on survey data from Blinkist customers
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 5,500+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial