I've been meaning to do some posts about a number of recent interesting books on consciousness and related topics, but I haven't gotten a chance. So rather than do a series of separate posts, I thought I'd do a single post here about a number of books that are worth checking out. I'll devote this post to collections, and save single-authored books for another post somewhere down the line.
The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness, edited by Max Velmans and Susan Schneider. This is a really impressive volume containing about 55 substantial articles, roughly evenly divided between the philosophy and the science of consciousness, written by many of the leading people in the field. I've read a number of the articles already, and they are terrific. For someone wanting a comprehensive yet in-depth guide to the field, there probably isn't a better single source.
The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness, edited by Philip Zelazo, Morris Moscovitch, and Evan Thompson. A similar volume, but containing 31 chapters mostly on the science of consciousness. This has especially strong coverage in psychology and cognitive science, although it's somewhat lighter on neuroscience and philosophy (just four overview articles on the philosophy of consciousness). I haven't read many of the chapters yet, but the quality seems to be high.
(Completing a triumvirate, there is also an Oxford Companion to Consciousness, edited by Tim Bayne and Axel Cleeremans, forthcoming in a year or two. This will probably have the most comprehensive coverage of neuroscience, philosophy, and psychology of the three, in a format of around 250 shorter articles, encyclopedia-style.)
Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Mind, edited by Brian McLaughlin and Jonathan Cohen. This consists of ten pairs of articles, taking each side of central topics in the philosophy of mind: e.g. Tye vs Shoemaker on representationalism, Jackson vs McLaughlin on a priori physicalism, Kim vs Loewer on mental causation, Fodor vs Heck on nonconceptual content, Segal vs Sawyer on narrow content, Prinz vs Peacocke on nonperceptual consciousness, and so on. The debates center around consciousness, intentionality, and physicalism, so a lot of the material will be relevant to readers of this weblog. From what I've read, most of the articles are excellent. There is also a related companion volume, Contemporary Debates in Cognitive Science, edited by Rob Stainton.
Apart from these general collections, there are also at least four excellent collections devoted to specific topics related to consciousness that appeared in 2006. I've already posted about the superb Alter and Walter collection, Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge: New Essays on Consciousness and Physicalism. Three others:
Self-Representational Approaches to Consciousness, edited by Uriah Kriegel and Kenneth Williford. This collection is devoted to the recent revival of the important view, which goes back to Aristotle and Brentano, that conscious states represent themselves. Some theorists (e.g. Horgan et al, Lehrer) here argue for the idea, others (e.g. Levine, Hill) argue against it, while others (e.g. Hofstadter, Kriegel, van Gulick) try to use it as the basis of a theory of consciousness. A number of the papers here were presented at the highly stimulating Arizona conference on this topic in 2005. I had meant to post about this conference earlier, but didn't get around to it (but here are the photos and the Powerpoint for my wrap-up talk).
Perceptual Experience, edited by Tamar Gendler and John Hawthorne. A collection of papers on perception and consciousness, by a top-notch collection of philosophers. A number of these papers (e.g. those by Mark Johnston, Mike Martin, and Susanna Siegel) have already been quite influential.
Boundaries of Consciousness: Neurobiology and Neuropathology, edited by Steven Laureys. A collection of 31 papers mainly on the neuroscience of consciousness, arising from an ASSC workshop in 2004. Most of the papers focus on disorders of consciousness in patients with brain damage, especially patients with persistent vegetative state. This has become a highly active area with obvious social and medical relevance, and the book gives a good introduction to the state of the art.
Then there are four interesting quasi-books that are reissues of special issues of the Journal of Consciousness Studies. Two center on a single article, with commentary and response: Consciousness and its Place in Nature: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism, centering on an article by Galen Strawson, and Radical Externalism, centering on an article by Ted Honderich. Two others are collections of papers on a focused topic: Artificial Consciousness, edited by Antonio Chella and Riccardo Manzotti, and The Interplay Between Concepts and Consciousness (forthcoming), edited by Rocco Gennaro.
I should also mention two highly relevant 2006 collections in the philosophy of language: The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Language, edited by Ernie Lepore and Barry Smith, and Two-Dimensional Semantics, edited by Manuel Garcia-Carpintero and Josep Macia. These two books are pretty clearly the definitive guides to their respective subject areas.