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Mind: A Brief Introduction (Fundamentals of Philosophy Series) 1st Edition

28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195157345
ISBN-10: 0195157346
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With characteristic verve and wit, Univ. of California at Berkeley philosopher Searle (The Rediscovery of the Mind) dismantles various competing theories of mind—dualist, materialist, behaviorist and skepticist—in this opinionated overview of the philosophy of mind. His purview includes the relationship of the mind to the body, the role of perception in human understanding and the purported equivalence between mind and brain. On dualism, for example, Searle finds Descartes’s postulation of mind and body as separate spheres leaves no room for consciousness. Searle himself argues for a "biological naturalism" that holds that "conscious states are real phenomena in the real world." Although the language and theory surrounding the philosophy of mind is often technical and complex, Searle’s knack for presenting dense ideas in lively prose makes this book a fine starting point for an investigation into the contemporary philosophy of mind.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Fundamentals of Philosophy Series
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 28, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195157346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195157345
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 0.7 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 75 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a relatively short book by Searle devoted to the philosophy of mind. This book is something of a hybrid. It is intended as a short introduction to the major themes in the philosophy of mind and does contain an introductory material on this topic. It is, however, largely a presentation of Searle's thinking on this topic. Readers familiar with Searle's work will find repetition of ideas he has presented previously, notably his work on consciousness, the Mind-Body problem, and intentionality. These ideas, however, are presented on a background of other approaches to these problems. The core of the book is an explication of the Mind-Body problem and Searle's distinctive approach to this problem. Briefly, Searle claims to have 'solved' this problem, though like many clever solutions to difficult problems, the answer is a less a solution per se than a redefinition that makes the whole situation more tractable to analysis. Searle's central point is that the first person nature of consciousness is not reducible to material events but is part of the natural world in a causal sense. He finds the mind/body dichotomy to be false. As is true of all his work, this book is written clearly, is without a lot of technical language (though readers need to know the meanings of epistemic and ontologic), and he defends his position vigorously. Searle goes on to examine a number of other issues in the philosophy of mind, including intentionality, free will, the nature of self, and perception. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is that Searle highlights certain issues, like the question of free will and the nature of the self, as poorly understood and as targets for future research.

In terms of explicating and defending Searle's point of view, this is an excellent book.
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91 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Herbert Gintis on December 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of my favorite philosophical sayings is from Berkeley: "The philosophers kick up the dust and then complain they cannot see." John Searle is not this kind of philosopher. Rather, he draws on science and common sense to render ostensibly complex issues simple. The central issue of the book is the mind-body problem. He rejects dualism, materialism, epiphenomenological and functionalist approaches, among others. Rather, he argues that the mind is part of nature, a product of biological evolution, and hence part of the physical world. The mind, he says, is simply the operation of the brain from an organizational point higher than the neuron and synapse, the same as we might say that a computer is the operation of electronic devices, viewed at a level higher than the bit and the byte.

How very simple! Why is this pellucid view more acceptable today than a century or a millennium ago? The answer is that modern science has made Searle's answer credible. First, we now can chart the development of mind in animals, and we can be quite certain that many vertebrates are conscious beings. Therefore consciousness and mind are products of biological evolution. Second, modern science is quite at home with the stunning inscrutability of the natural world. Einstein, a Twentieth century scientist with a Nineteenth century aesthetic and morality, never accepted quantum mechanics, considering it just too, too weird. Complexity theory, revealed mathematically and through the power of the computer, allows us to understand the concept of emergence, in which a higher level of complexity supports the emergence of properties that cannot be predicted or analyzed completely from component parts.
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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Hans Beihl on December 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
When Nietzsche said that every great philosophy is the "personal confession" of its author, he pointed to something which many philosophers would rather forget, and some would vehemently deny-the hidden subjectivity of so called rational arguments. If this is a characteristic of great philosophers, then how much more so of thinkers more modest in stature? I preface my review of Searle's book with this comment to point to a general trap in all philosophizing, with Searle's book another example. What are presented as rational arguments are often exemplars of the bewitching power of language, where words like "really" and "actually" slip unnoticed from one meaning to another, or seem to resolve the problem that is at the very core of the issue.

The central conundrum tackled by Searle is the mind-body problem, one which, despite the juggernaut of thinkers who have made their contribution over the centuries, has continued to leave camps divided. Searle argues against the dualist notions of mind and body, and deterministic notions reducing everything to matter. He proposes what he calls "biological naturalism," in which mental events are a higher level manifestation of systemic neurobiological processes. His thoughts regarding the mind-body problem are, I think, the most well laid out and forceful arguments in his book, but in the context of what I said at the beginning of this review, no amount of arm chair thinking, however "rational," can ever give us final answers, can ever solve the great questions of mind-body, free will, perception and causation. Searle's attempt to refute established notions regarding these problems only reinforces the unending back and forth cycling of arguments that typify philosophy, with the problems in question not subject to rational solution.
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