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Matter and Consciousness: A Contemporary Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind Revised Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262530743
ISBN-10: 0262530740
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Anyone interested in using a contemporary approach to philosophy of mind in an introductory course will find Paul Churchland's Matter and Consciousness a useful text.... Churchland has a wonderful talent for linking ideas together.

(Kathleen Gill Teaching Philosophy)

About the Author

Paul M. Churchland is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul, Matter and Consciousness: A Contemporary Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (both published by the MIT Press), and other books.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; Revised edition (January 22, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262530740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262530743
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.5 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It is quite ridiculous that someone should use Paul Churchland's Matter and Consciousness for a graduate class in philosophy of mind. Paul Churchland, for one, never intended it to be so, and certainly was not writing for such an audience. Having said that, Matter and Consciousness qualifies as one of the best brief introductions to pertinent issues in philosophy of mind. Do note, however, that Paul Churchland's focus is philosophical rather than psychological or cognitive. The book begins with a discussion of the mind-body problem and various standard proposed solutions, i.e. various forms of dualism, mind-brain identity theory, functionalism and the like. Each school of thought is presented in an orderly fashion, beginning with a brief outline of the general solution with a couple of examples, then proceeding to sections on the advantages and disadvantages of the school of thought in question.
Now, as with all truly introductory surveys of academic disciplines, the discussions in Matter and Consciousness are superficial from the perspective of more mature students. However, its brevity and clarity make it probably the best introductory text to philosophy of mind around. I read Matter and Consciousness in a single sitting over a cup of tea, and vouch for its accessibility.
Matter and Consciousness also has sections on the psychological, computational and neuroscientific side of things, and although much of the scientific material is dated, these sections still give the uninformed reader a general flavor of ongoing work in those areas, and much to contemplate.
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Format: Paperback
The mind-body problem, as it is called in Western philosophy, still has the attention of philosophers, despite centuries of debate. It will no doubt occupy more of philosophers time in the upcoming decades due to the resurging interest (and advances) in artificial intelligence. But the goal of most research in A.I. is now geared towards computational algorithms that are able to learn and can discover new knowledge or data patterns. The "hard A.I." problem, that of creating conscious machines, is not top priority it seems.
But philosophers will continue with the analysis of the nature of conscious intelligence, and the author is one of these. Interestingly though, and correctly, he asserts that progress in this analysis has been made, and he notes that philosophy has joined hands with psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, ethology, and evolutionary theory in making this progress. And this will no doubt continue as advances in these fields are made, and the 21st century will see the advent of the "industrial philosopher". Once thought to be a purely academic profession, the ethical considerations behind genetic engineering and the legal rights of thinking machines will require the presence of philosophers in the rank and file of engineers, technicians, and managers. And because of this, these philosophers, and their coworkers will themselves have considerable knowledge outside their own field.
Again, the refreshing feature of this book is that the author believes that philosophy has made considerable process on the nature of mind.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book does its job fairly well. It is meant to be a basic introduction to debates within the philosophy of mind. I am not sure how up to date it is. My copy was printed in 2001, but I imagine that things are happening fairly fast in the world of cognitive science, philosophy of mind, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, philosophy of mind is not really my area of expertise so I am not qualified to determine whether it is totally up to date or not. The books that are listed in the "Further Reading" sections at the end of each chapter are rarely, if ever, more recent than the eighties, so that is one draw back to the book.

However, I do not think it really matters all that much how up to date it is. People who are looking for cutting edge theory should not be reading this book in the first place. That is not its function. The function of this book is to introduce readers to some of the major debates in the philosophy of mind, and most of the major positions within those debates. It is not meant to be a detailed analysis of the best current arguments for or against various positions, but rather a schematic outline of the major positions within the philosophy of mind. As a number of the reviewers have pointed out, many of the arguments presented for and against various positions are quite superficial and, I suspect, some of them are of the straw-man variety. But, like I said, I do not see that as a huge flaw since I do not think this book was meant to be at the cutting edge of current debates. Those who are looking for the best current arguments for or against various positions should probably look elsewhere.
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