Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Consciousness in Action

Consciousness in Action

S. L. Hurley

ISBN 9780674007963

Publication date: 05/03/2002

In this important book, Susan Hurley sheds new light on consciousness by examining its relationships to action from various angles. She assesses the role of agency in the unity of a conscious perspective, and argues that perception and action are more deeply interdependent than we usually assume. A standard view conceives perception as input from world to mind and action as output from mind to world, with the serious business of thought in between. Hurley criticizes this picture, and considers how the interdependence of perceptual experience and agency at the personal level (of mental contents and norms) may emerge from the subpersonal level (of underlying causal processes and complex dynamic feedback systems). Her two-level view has wide implications, for topics that include self-consciousness, the modularity of mind, and the relations of mind to world. The self no longer lurks hidden somewhere between perceptual input and behavioral output, but reappears out in the open, embodied and embedded in its environment.

Hurley traces these themes from Kantian and Wittgensteinian arguments through to intriguing recent work in neuropsychology and in dynamic systems approaches to the mind, providing a bridge from mainstream philosophy to work in other disciplines. Consciousness in Action is unique in the range of philosophical and scientific work it draws on, and in the deep criticism it offers of centuries-old habits of thought.


  • [Consciousness in Action] is worth tackling, even for those who, like this reviewer, are not professional philosophers. Especially useful is the detailed discussion of the contributions of Kant and of Wittgenstein to contemporary philosophers, understanding of the mind, and the way these relate to the latest findings of neuropsychology...Although the chapters may be read as stand-alone essays, the volume has a unity of purpose and a clarity of argument that allow each section to feed into the others. The author suggests that 'the attentive reader will discern an overall plot and several subplots.' It might also be said that the book is an exemplar of its theme: the philosophy and the psychology, the theory and the practice, display an interdependence and mutual support that mirror the writer's claims for perception and action and the unity of consciousness.

    —Anthony Freeman, Times Higher Education Supplement


  • Susan L. Hurley (1954–2007) was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bristol.

Book Details

  • 520 pages
  • 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

From this author