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Comment: Publisher: Princeton University
Date of Publication: 1999
Binding: soft cover
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Description: Excellent condition. Clean, crisp pages. Tight binding. [R96]
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Conversations on Mind, Matter, and Mathematics Paperback – 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Princeton University (1999)
  • ASIN: B002Z94262
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Grant on April 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
It's taken me about a decade to finish reading this relatively short book. I'm a mathematician with a modest interest in philosophy, so I thought I'd find something worthwhile in this dialogue between a prominent mathematician and a prominent neuroscientist, but it just didn't click for me.

I have learned some things through this prolonged reading experience, though:

(1) Being a fly on the wall during an unrehearsed conversation between two intellectual heavyweights is overrated. Connes' and Changeux's thoughts are often disorganized, and when they disagree they usually seem to end up speaking past each other.

(2) People with profound knowledge in one field don't necessarily have a lot of deep insights to share when speaking outside of that field.

(3) If the final chapter is representative of the views of elite scientists, then scientism has a stronger foothold than I'd thought. In particular, I found Changeux's vision of science's role in the future of human society to be rather disturbing. If nothing else, this book was a good wake-up call, I suppose.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
There are many "dialogue" books of this sort, but personally I haven't read anything matching the brilliance of this one. The two men featured in this book, both true masters in their fields, represent two very different philsophical views, which become quite obvious immediately, yet they manage to engage in an intellectual dialogue free of the venom characterizing so much academic polemics nowadays, true to the spirit of those "pre-modern" French intellectuals, even reminiscent of Socrates & company. This is a minor masterpiece.
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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
When reading this account of a series of conversations between Jean-Pierre Changeux and Alain Connes, two main themes emerge. The first is how little progress there has been made in the philosophy of mathematics and knowledge since the time of Plato and the second is how much fun it is to discuss it. Changeux is Director of the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Institut Pasteur and Connes is a previous winner of the Fields Medal for mathematical excellence. His prime areas of work are in analysis and geometry. These two superb minds jointly explore the realm of consciousness, knowledge, and the inherent ambiguities in the search for truth and understanding.
As the conversations progress, many of the main themes of philosophy are covered, with an emphasis on mathematics and the abstract nature of the human mind. My favorite chapter was "The Neuronal Mathematician", where the neural basis of understanding theorems is discussed. If it were possible for Plato to eavesdrop on the conversation, he would be baffled by the references to computers, but the discussion on the "forms" of mathematics would seem like old news. One very profound question raised in this book bears repeating, "Is it necessary for a computer to experience pain and suffering to be considered conscious?"
A book that should be thought of as a primer only, this is one work that can keep you thinking and pondering for years.

Published in Journal of Recreational Mathematics, reprinted with permission.
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