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Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again Paperback – January 9, 1998

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Editorial Reviews


Clarks' book is a very good read. Its major strength is that it provides an easily accessible introduction to some of the hottest approaches in the 'science of mind' -- neural network research, embodied cognition, autonomous agent robotics. What makes these approaches hot and novel has to do with the fact that they are radical, but already showing their promise in practice. Clark is a first-rate thinker, always at the cutting edge, able to synthesize seemingly disparate ideas, and, most importantly, able to make us think about the 'mind' in new and better ways.

(Owen Flanagan, Professor of Philosophy, Psychology, and Neurobiology, and Chair of Philosophy, Duke University)

Being There develops Clark's vision of the present and future of cognitive science. It moves ahead of the current state of the field to anticipate the next stages of cognitive science, a science of the embodied mind, and mind embedded in the world. An excellent and unique book.

(Dan Lloyd, Department of Philosophy, Trinity College)

This is Andy Clark's best book yet. It is a fast-moving but highly accessible synthesis of several of the most radical and cutting-edge research programs within cognitive science and the philosophy of mind. As a wise summary alone, it would be welcome to readers in a half-dozen academic disciplines. But Clark -- ever just, ever patient -- knits the work together into a coherent unity. It is a fertile and compelling vision, and a real intellectual achievement.

(Paul M. Churchland, Professor, Department of Philosophy; Institute for Neural Computation; Cognitive Science Program; and Science Studies Program, University of California, San Diego)

Andy Clark's Being There is a beautifully written, very accessible roadmap to the shifting territory of contemporary cognitive science. He weaves a clear, unifying vision of cognitive science of truly impressive scope, giving coherent shape to the many changes happening in the disparate parts of the field. This is a must-read book for every researcher and student in every corner of the cognitive science.

(Edwin Hutchins, Professor of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego, and author of Cognition in the Wild)

In Being There, Andy Clark explores the nature of consciousness and intelligence in a refreshingly new light. Discarding the Cartesian dualism of mind and body, he fashions an interactive view of intelligent action that forces us to see the brain as situated not only in the body's complex physiological environment, but also in the real world of phsyical entities and complex situations to which it must continually respond. In short, he presents a view of consciousness of a process of constant feedback loops between the brain, the body, and the material world in which the organism -- including overselves -- lives.

(Garland E. Allen, Professor of Biology, Washington University)

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' sounds good to lots of cognitive scientists, but not to Andy Clark. In Being There, he argues that today's cognitive science indeed is broken: by neglecting body and world, it has paid the price of having to do too much with too little. Clark's fix is to recouple a dynamic brain to its body and world. He leads us on a magical mystery tour of a new research landscape populated by artificial termites, Tetris-playing humans, and many other wondrous beings.

(William Bechtel, Editor, Philsophical Psychology)

Writing in highly readable and entertaining style, Andy Clark gives his perspective on key developments in the science of mind over the last decade, and offers his own compelling arguments for how further research should proceed. This very enjoyable book should be essential reading, and deserves to become a classic.

(Dave Cliff, University of Sussex)

When people think about thinking, they often think of Rodin's Thinker: an individual in quiet contemplation. Even cognitive scientists fall into this trap; too often, they view thinking as an isolated mental function. This book provides a much richer and more accurate image. Clark's Thinker thinks through action and interaction with the environment, combining brain with body and world.

(Mitchel Resnick, Associate Professor, MIT Media Laboratory)

Clark's book is an excellent introduction to this new movement in cognitive science. It is clear, wide ranging, well informed, and full of fascinating examples. And, unusually, it manages to be both eminently sensible and highly provocative.

(Margaret A. Boden Nature)

About the Author

Andy Clark is Doctor of Philosophy at the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences at the University of Sussex.

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Product Details

  • Series: Bradford Books
  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book; Reprint edition (January 9, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262531569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262531566
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #729,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Stephaan Vanryssen on October 17, 1998
Format: Paperback
Clark develops in a very clear way the main threads of contemporary mind-body research. He argues for a non-dogmatic approach to the very difficult questions that epistemology, brain research and artificial life have put in the last twenty years. His position is with those who are not trying to explain everything from a single source or with single set of tools. Not reductionism, not holism or not only emergence or cognitivism or connectionism. Still, he sees the advantages of each theory and he gives a very subtle and insightful overview of what each strand has to contribute. I have read maybe twenty books on the subject in the past few months, from Varela to Jackendorf and from Minsky to Harré, but only Clark seems to be able to make the field transparent and coherent. If he sometimes loses in boldness, he certainly wins in promise. A book that should become a compulsary reading for anyone who wants to be introduced in the field.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Christopher R. Calvi on April 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Andy Clark provides us with a new framework for thinking about the mind. Gone are the old notions of a clean boundary between the thinker and the world. Clark does a great job of making the point that our brains are essentially embodied agents that profit profoundly from the local environmental structure. He introduces this new movement in cognitive science to study the brain, body, and world together as a complex system of interactions and dependencies and calls for a cognitive science of the embodied mind.
Clark is not proposing a radical idea. In fact, he defends at some length that his work is in fact a solution to the radical ideas that currently dominate the field. Clark suggests refining the tools of study used, and finding a middle ground between competing theories. I personally question whether a middle ground is appropriate in science. When anomalies exist in current models, does it serve us well to take the best of all available theories and smooth them together as Clark does? Perhaps in the case of the brain, this is a good idea, even though many other sciences (like physics) fair better with simpler one-size-fits-all solutions. Due to the brain's complexity unmatched anywhere in the known universe, maybe a simple (radical) way of studying it isn't possible (or at least within human capabilities).
Clark certainly builds a strong case, particularly by applying examples and comparisons throughout the book. His ideas are well thought out, his writing is clear (though perhaps a little repetitive), and the book as a whole is well worth reading.
Being There definitely gets you thinking.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
For those dissatisfied with both dualism and West Coast eliminative materialism, Andy Clark's philosophy of mind offers readers an alternative: an embodied mind. Here's a philosophy that embeds the human mind in its environment, its culture, and its history. And and author who writes like a dream! For a revitalized philosophy of mind, read it together with Alicia Juarrero's Dynamics in Action: Intentional Behavior as a Complex System and Merlin Donald's Origins of the Modern Mind!Enjoy!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Bolaji on September 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
Besides this being a very creative and unique home-work assignment, the point of this review is to help you decide if this book is what you want to read for your neuroscience assignment in the upcoming semesters. Plenty of authors have tried to give rational explanations for the ideas behind recent research. Clark is no different. He lays down the foundation of the phenomena in the field of "Artificial Intelligence." At first a person may wonder how robotics ties into neuroscience, but it becomes clear as we reason and look at the way this field of research was carried out that it has everything to do with neuroscience. In fact the whole purpose of "artificial intelligence"(AI) is to get the product, whichever form the robot takes, to perform, react, and control itself just like a human being. But just how easy is that to do? Well first, it's important to understand how the human brain performs, reacts and controls itself in various scenarios. And then understand how it responds to new scenarios it has never encountered before. And not to forget to understand how the brain responds when a particular reaction is not working out so well and when it is working well. All this would need to be the basis for building a machine that could think like a human. So Clark delves into the complex human brain and then does a fantastic job of linking it to the research field. He starts by underlying the pattern of cognition that the human brain exhibits. He describes the brain as "controllers for embodied activity". In context with this book it means that the brain is very flexible in its controlling the many activities or scenarios that come its way. And he cites some great research examples in which controlling the embodiment of activity was implemented.
Personally I feel that Clark is a great writer.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey A. Johnson on September 30, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am reading Clark's book to learn how the understanding of mind, brain, and action has changed since I got a doctorate in cog. psych many decades ago. I am learning a lot from it. Being There clarifies several complex issues by, among other things, providing vivid examples.

My only criticisms are minor:
- About halfway through the book, it started to get a bit repetitive. I didn't need to be told again and again that perception and cognition are active and use the world as its own memory.
- There are a few errors. E.g., page 29 puts the area of high visual resolution (i.e., the fovea) at "0.01 percent" of the retina. It's 1 percent (0.01) of the retina, not 0.01 percent.
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