Review by Neil Levy
Philosophy in Review XXXIV (2014), no. 1-2, pages 75-77.
"William Hirstein defends a highly novel major claim, in order to defeat what he sees as a dogma in philosophy of mind. The dogma is that consciousness is essentially private; Hirstein believes that defeating it is important because he sees it as the major obstacle to a physicalist account of consciousness."
"The highly novel claim is that what he calls mindmelding is possible. Mindmelding occurs when one person has direct access to the conscious states of another person. In order to defend the possibility of mindmelding and advance his physicalist agenda, Hirstein offers an account of the nature of consciousness and of how agents have access to their content states that is heavily driven by recent work in cognitive neuroscience."
"It is possible to dispute how much explanatory power neuroscientific accounts of consciousness have, but it is fair to say that they have not yet bridged the explanatory gap.
The progress of science may yet bridge that gap, and something in the ballpark of the account of consciousness Hirstein offers has a fair claim to be regarded as the best hope to emerge as truly satisfying explanation of its nature. Hirstein's book should not be seen as offering the last word--as he would concede, its details await further scientific development--but the provocative and systematic account it offers must be taken seriously by physicalists and their opponents alike."
About the Author
William Hirstein is Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Elmhurst College, in Elmhurst, Illinois, USA. He received his PhD from the University of California, Davis, in 1994. His graduate and postdoctoral studies were conducted under the supervision of John Searle, V. S. Ramachandran, and Patricia Churchland. He is the author of several books, including On the Churchlands (Wadsworth, 2004), and Brain Fiction: Self-Deception and the Riddle of Confabulation (MIT, 2005).