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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.

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See also: Author’s website, Book on Facebook

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new book – ‘The Measure of Madness: Philosophy of Mind, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Delusional Thought’ by Philip Gerrans

July 12, 2014

The Measure of Madness

The Measure of Madness: Philosophy of Mind, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Delusional Thought (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) by Philip Gerrans (Bradford Book/MIT, 2014)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

In The Measure of Madness, Philip Gerrans offers a novel explanation of delusion. Over the last two decades, philosophers and cognitive scientists have investigated explanations of delusion that interweave philosophical questions about the nature of belief and rationality with findings from cognitive science and neurobiology. Gerrans argues that once we fully describe the computational and neural mechanisms that produce delusion and the way in which conscious experience and thought depend on them, the concept of delusional belief retains only a heuristic role in the explanation of delusion.

Gerrans proposes that delusions are narrative models that accommodate anomalous experiences. He argues that delusions represent the operation of the Default Mode Network (DMN) — the cognitive system that provides the raw material for humans’ inbuilt tendency to provide a subjectively compelling narrative context for anomalous or highly salient experiences — without the “supervision” of higher cognitive processes present in the nondelusional mind. This explanation illuminates the relationship among delusions, dreams, imaginative states, and irrational beliefs that have perplexed philosophers and psychologists for over a century. Going beyond the purely conceptual and the phenomenological, Gerrans brings together findings from different disciplines to trace the flow of information through the cognitive system, and applies these to case studies of typical schizophrenic delusions: misidentification, alien control, and thought insertion. Drawing on the interventionist model of causal explanation in philosophy of science and the predictive coding approach to the mind influential in computational neuroscience, Gerrans provides a model for integrative theorizing about the mind.

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new book – ‘The Innocent Eye: Why Vision Is Not a Cognitive Process’ by Nico Orlandi

July 8, 2014

The Innocent Eye

The Innocent Eye: Why Vision Is Not a Cognitive Process (Philosophy of Mind Series) by Nico Orlandi (Oxford University Press, 2014)

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

Book description from the publisher:

Why does the world look to us as it does? Generally speaking, this question has received two types of answers in the cognitive sciences in the past fifty or so years. According to the first, the world looks to us the way it does because we construct it to look as it does. According to the second, the world looks as it does primarily because of how the world is. In The Innocent Eye, Nico Orlandi defends a position that aligns with this second, world-centered tradition, but that also respects some of the insights of constructivism. Orlandi develops an embedded understanding of visual processing according to which, while visual percepts are representational states, the states and structures that precede the production of percepts are not representations.

If we study the environmental contingencies in which vision occurs, and we properly distinguish functional states and features of the visual apparatus from representational states and features, we obtain an empirically more plausible, world-centered account. Orlandi shows that this account accords well with models of vision in perceptual psychology — such as Natural Scene Statistics and Bayesian approaches to perception — and outlines some of the ways in which it differs from recent ‘enactive’ approaches to vision. The main difference is that, although the embedded account recognizes the importance of movement for perception, it does not appeal to action to uncover the richness of visual stimulation.

The upshot is that constructive models of vision ascribe mental representations too liberally, ultimately misunderstanding the notion. Orlandi offers a proposal for what mental representations are that, following insights from Brentano, James and a number of contemporary cognitive scientists, appeals to the notions of de-coupleability and absence to distinguish representations from mere tracking states.

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See also: Author’s website

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new book – ‘The Escape of the Mind’ by Howard Rachlin

June 9, 2014

Escape of the Mind

The Escape of the Mind by Howard Rachlin (Oxford University Press, 2014)

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

Book description from the publisher:

The Escape of the Mind is part of a current movement in psychology and philosophy of mind that calls into question what is perhaps our most basic, most cherished, and universally accepted belief–that our minds are inside of our bodies. Howard Rachlin adopts the counterintuitive position that our minds, conscious and unconscious, lie not where our firmest (yet unsupported) introspections tell us they are, but in how we actually behave over the long run. Perhaps paradoxically, the book argues that our introspections, no matter how positive we are about them, tell us absolutely nothing about our minds. The name of the present version of this approach to the mind is “teleological behaviorism.”

The approaches of teleological behaviorism will be useful in the science of individual behavior for developing methods of self-control and in the science of social behavior for developing social cooperation. Without in any way denigrating the many contributions of neuroscience to human welfare, The Escape of the Mind argues that neuroscience, like introspection, is not a royal road to the understanding of the mind. Where then should we look to explain a present act that is clearly caused by the mind? Teleological behaviorism says to look not in the spatial recesses of the nervous system (not to the mechanism underlying the act) but in the temporal recesses of past and future overt behavior (to the pattern of which the act is a part).

But scientific usefulness is not the only reason for adopting teleological behaviorism. The final two chapters on IBM’s computer, Watson (how it deviates from humanity and how it would have to be altered to make it human), and on shaping a coherent self, provide a framework for a secular morality based on teleological behaviorism.

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