11 February 2010

Book Review: "Philosophy of Mind"


Philosophy of Mind (Dimensions of Philosophy) is a fantastic introduction to the subject, and to the basic fundamental issues surrounding any topic that relates to the mind, including cognitive science, artificial intelligence as it relates to cognitive science, psychology, etc.

It covers a lot of ground without presuming specialist knowledge of terminologies, and it briefly explains all related concepts that are required to understand the issues at play (eg, concepts from as far afield as philosophy of science, language, or the computing science concept of a Turing machine).

It is also a fairly recent book and goes over briefly the exciting developments in understanding the mind over the past 100 years, going from behaviourism, to psychoneural identity, to functionalism. It also describes some of the open questions and hotly debated issues still in play, and explores some of the consequences of answering them one way or another. In this way, it is an excellent and brief survey of the entire field.

It does assume a good technical reading level as its use of language can from time to time get rather technical, abstract, and dependent on precise definitions it provides, eg:
"Realization Physicalism. If something x has some mental property M (or is in mental state M) at time t, then x is a material thing and x has M at t in virtue of the fact that x has at t some physical property P that realizes M in x at t."
That level of technical language isn't everywhere, but it's important to the understanding of something as difficult to understand as the mind.

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