In Out of Our Heads, Berkeley philosopher Alva Noë, "restates and reexamines the problem of consciousness, and ... suggests that rather than being something that happens inside us, consciousness is something we do. Debunking an outmoded philosophy that holds the scientific study of consciousness captive, Out of Our Heads is a fresh attempt at understanding our minds and how we interact with the world around us." Here is an excerpt from a review:
The key assumption behind the science of consciousness is that consciousness is an internal process that occurs in the brain. Noë's chief goal in the book is to show that this highly questionable, yet unquestioned assumption, has led the consciousness research astray; in brief, the search for consciousness has focused on where it isn't. Noë opens by challenging this assumption, and offers an alternative picture. Instead of characterizing consciousness as an internal process (like digestion) Noë proposes a picture which takes consciousness to be an activity (like dancing). To try to understand consciousness by just focusing on the brain's neural activity is tantamount to trying to understand dancing strictly in terms of the muscles. In the latter case, the muscles certainly play a part in the explanation, but they can hardly be the entire story. Analogously for the explanation of consciousness: brain processes are a part of the story, but they are not the whole story, even if they have been given an undue amount of attention.
Today I came across this brilliant talk by Noe in which he explains his key ideas about consciousness to a general audience, and which seem to me exactly right, though I submit that they are not so new as some reviews suggest—perhaps Noe's particular exposition and focus on the topic create that impression. His line of thinking in fact goes back directly (via philosophers like Hubert Dreyfus) to Heidegger, as well as to Wittgenstein. Enjoy the talk—if you like it, check out this conversation and a talk on Edge.org.