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Archive for 'philosophy of mind'

new book – ‘Transformative Experience’ by L.A. Paul

December 31, 2014

Transformative Experience

Transformative Experience by L.A. Paul (Oxford University Press, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

As we live our lives, we repeatedly make decisions that shape our future circumstances and affect the sort of person we will be. When choosing whether to start a family, or deciding on a career, we often think we can assess the options by imagining what different experiences would be like for us. L. A. Paul argues that, for choices involving dramatically new experiences, we are confronted by the brute fact that we can know very little about our subjective futures. This has serious implications for our decisions. If we make life choices in the way we naturally and intuitively want to–by considering what we care about, and what our future selves will be like if we choose to have the experience–we only learn what we really need to know after we have already committed ourselves. If we try to escape the dilemma by avoiding an experience, we have still made a choice.

Choosing rationally, then, may require us to regard big life decisions as choices to make discoveries, small and large, about the intrinsic nature of experience, and to recognize that part of the value of living authentically is to experience one’s life and preferences in whatever way they may evolve in the wake of the choices one makes.

Using classic philosophical examples about the nature of consciousness, and drawing on recent work in normative decision theory, cognitive science, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind, Paul develops a rigorous account of transformative experience that sheds light on how we should understand real-world experience and our capacity to rationally map our subjective futures.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website, Edge.org talk

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new book – ‘Minds without Meanings: An Essay on the Content of Concepts’ by Jerry A. Fodor and Zenon W. Pylyshyn

December 17, 2014

Minds without Meanings

Minds without Meanings: An Essay on the Content of Concepts by Jerry A. Fodor and Zenon W. Pylyshyn (MIT Press, 2014)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

In cognitive science, conceptual content is frequently understood as the “meaning” of a mental representation. This position raises largely empirical questions about what concepts are, what form they take in mental processes, and how they connect to the world they are about. In Minds without Meaning, Jerry Fodor and Zenon Pylyshyn review some of the proposals put forward to answer these questions and find that none of them is remotely defensible. Fodor and Pylyshyn determine that all of these proposals share a commitment to a two-factor theory of conceptual content, which holds that the content of a concept consists of its sense together with its reference. Fodor and Pylyshyn argue instead that there is no conclusive case against the possibility of a theory of concepts that takes reference as their sole semantic property. Such a theory, if correct, would provide for the naturalistic account of content that cognitive science lacks — and badly needs. Fodor and Pylyshyn offer a sketch of how this theory might be developed into an account of perceptual reference that is broadly compatible with empirical findings and with the view that the mental processes effecting perceptual reference are largely preconceptual, modular, and encapsulated.

Google Books preview:

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Amazon Bargain Book – $5.90 for ‘Perception and Basic Beliefs: Zombies, Modules and the Problem of the External World’ by Jack C. Lyons

December 5, 2014

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new book – ‘The Biological Mind: A Philosophical Introduction’ by Justin Garson

November 20, 2014

The Biological Mind

The Biological Mind: A Philosophical Introduction by Justin Garson (Routledge, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

For some, biology explains all there is to know about the mind. Yet many big questions remain: is the mind shaped by genes or the environment? If mental traits are the result of adaptations built up over thousands of years, as evolutionary psychologists claim, how can such claims be tested? If the mind is a machine, as biologists argue, how does it allow for something as complex as human consciousness?

The Biological Mind: A Philosophical Introduction explores these questions and more, using the philosophy of biology to introduce and assess the nature of the mind. Drawing on the four key themes of evolutionary biology; molecular biology and genetics; neuroscience; and biomedicine and psychiatry Justin Garson addresses the following key topics:

  • moral psychology, altruism and levels of selection
  • evolutionary psychology and modularity
  • genes, environment and the nature-nurture debate
  • neuroscience, reductionism and the relation between biology and free will
  • function, selection and mental representation
  • psychiatric classification and the maladapted mind.

Extensive use of examples and case studies is made throughout the book, and additional features such as chapter summaries, annotated further reading and a glossary make this an indispensable introduction to those teaching philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology. It will also be an excellent resource for those in related fields such as biology.

See also: Author’s webpage

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new book – ‘Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy’ by Evan Thompson

November 11, 2014

Waking, Dreaming, Being

Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy by Evan Thompson (Columbia University Press, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

A renowned philosopher of the mind, also known for his groundbreaking work on Buddhism and cognitive science, Evan Thompson combines the latest neuroscience research on sleep, dreaming, and meditation with Indian and Western philosophy of the mind, casting new light on the self and its relation to the brain.

Thompson shows how the self is a changing process, not a static thing. When we are awake we identify with our body, but if we let our mind wander or daydream, we project a mentally imagined self into the remembered past or anticipated future. As we fall asleep, the impression of being a bounded self distinct from the world dissolves, but the self reappears in the dream state. If we have a lucid dream, we no longer identify only with the self within the dream. Our sense of self now includes our dreaming self, the “I” as dreamer. Finally, as we meditate — either in the waking state or in a lucid dream — we can observe whatever images or thoughts arise and how we tend to identify with them as “me.” We can also experience sheer awareness itself, distinct from the changing contents that make up our image of the self.

Contemplative traditions say that we can learn to let go of the self, so that when we die we can witness the dissolution of the self with equanimity. Thompson weaves together neuroscience, philosophy, and personal narrative to depict these transformations, adding uncommon depth to life’s profound questions. Contemplative experience comes to illuminate scientific findings, and scientific evidence enriches the vast knowledge acquired by contemplatives.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website, Book on Facebook

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