Mind: A Brief Introduction (Fundamentals of Philosophy Series)

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9780195157338: Mind: A Brief Introduction (Fundamentals of Philosophy Series)

"The philosophy of mind is unique among contemporary philosophical subjects," writes John Searle, "in that all of the most famous and influential theories are false." In Mind, Searle dismantles these famous and influential theories as he presents a vividly written, comprehensive introduction to the mind.
Here readers will find one of the world's most eminent thinkers shedding light on the central concern of modern philosophy. Searle begins with a look at the twelve problems of philosophy of mind--which he calls "Descartes and Other Disasters"--problems which he returns to throughout the volume, as he illuminates such topics as the freedom of the will, the actual operation of mental causation, the nature and functioning of the unconscious, the analysis of perception, and the concept of the self. One of the key chapters is on the mind-body problem, which Searle analyzes brilliantly. He argues that all forms of consciousness--from feeling thirsty to wondering how to translate Mallarmé--are caused by the behavior of neurons and are realized in the brain system, which is itself composed of neurons. But this does not mean that consciousness is nothing but neuronal behavior. The main point of having the concept of consciousness, Searle points out, is to capture the first person subjective features of the phenomenon and this point is lost if we redefine consciousness in third person objective terms.
Described as a "dragonslayer by temperament," John Searle offers here a refreshingly direct and open discussion of philosophy, one that skewers accepted wisdom even as it offers striking new insights into the nature of consciousness and the mind.

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About the Author:


John R. Searle is Mills Professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of many books, including The Rediscovery of the Mind, The Mystery of Consciousness, Mind, Language and Society, Philosophy in the Real World, and Consciousness and Language.

From Scientific American:

Many of the most time-honored questions in philosophy center on how to analyze and understand the essence of the mind. What motivates us? What makes us conscious? What makes us ourselves? In Mind: A Brief Introduction, Searle aims to introduce the reader to the historical aspects of the philosophy of mind, deconstruct existing theories, and offer new perspectives using logic, personal experiences and cases from neuroscience and psychology research. The opening chapters provide an engaging, easy-to-follow primer. Searle, a professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, discusses how the work of Descartes and dualism—the idea that mind and body are separate—have colored and discolored the way we define the mind. Searle also examines subsets of monism and materialism, disciplines of thinking that run counter to dualism and became increasingly influential in the 20th century. Searle explains such theories not merely to educate readers but to systematically point out problems in their arguments, then build his proposed philosophy of mind from the debris. He is even-handed, however, admitting that past theories have elements of truth. Searle then sets out to reconcile these beliefs by rethinking specific aspects of the mind, including consciousness, causation and free will. He sharply shows readers his method of analyzing these concepts by applying them to observations of everyday experiences, such as thoughts about his dog. Searle then guides the discussion toward deeper meaning, extrapolating his sensory experience to an internal reflection and logical argument of what his observation says about mental processes. These dialogues eventually flesh out his perspective on the brain versus mind debate. Along the way, Searle ties in examples from neuroscience and psychology to accentuate his ideas, but the book speaks best to readers who want to approach the mind from a primarily philosophical perspective. He fulfills his stated intent of aiding the reader in beginning his or her own reflections on the mind. The historical reviews, coupled with Searle’s own research and perspectives, provide an excellent starting point.

Nicole Garbarini

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