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Mindsight: Image, Dream, Meaning

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ISBN-13: 978-0674015609
ISBN-10: 0674015606
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Editorial Reviews

Review

This book contains the most innovative and important work that Colin McGinn has done in the course of his distinguished career. It has the potential to be an extraordinarily influential book, and to create, almost single-handedly, a new area of systematic study in analytic philosophy of mind: the philosophy of the imagination. Work done in this new area could provide a foundation for work done in many other areas, including the epistemology of perception, the metaphysics of intentionality, the scientific understanding of dreaming, psychosis, and the creativity of our linguistic abilities.
--Ram Neta, Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina

McGinn's book is first rate, manifesting all the qualities of incisive argument, original thought and clear, direct, lively, pithy writing for which he is celebrated.
--Malcolm Budd, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, University College London

[An] innovative little book...McGinn leads us to speculation far more stimulating, far more imaginative, than most of what passes for evolutionary psychology...It is rare and wonderful to end a book with a new idea.
--Ian Hacking (New York Review of Books 2005-04-07)

Written in a lively style, Colin McGinn's Mindsight is a philosophical investigation of the faculty of imagination that will appeal to a wide audience...Mindsight will be essential reading for philosophers with an interest in the imagination...It will also amply reward any reader with an interest in the mechanisms of the mind.
--Phil Joyce (Science 2005-05-20)

[A] splendid book about the imagination...This interesting and gracefully written book serves as a counterexample to the claim that analytic philosophy is dry, technical, and boring. Readers will find it enjoyable and should learn a lot from it.
--D. Haugen (Choice 2005-04-01)

About the Author

Colin McGinn is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Miami. He is the author of many books, including Consciousness and Its Objects and The Character of Mind.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (November 22, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674015606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674015609
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,914,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William J. Deangelis on February 11, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Colin McGinn is best known for his view that the mind/body problem and other problems in philosophy are - in a special sense all his own - mysteries. His radical claim is that the questions philosophers ask, while legitimate, have answers that are beyond the reach of human cognitive capacities. We are, MGinn says, "cognitively blocked" from finding the answers to philosophy's questions. Human beings cannot solve philosophical problems. We cannot solve them just as cats cannot play chess (McGinn's own example). The most readable expressions of this view for non-philosphers, are THE MYSTERIOUS FLAME and (somehat more technical) PROBLEMS IN PHILOSOPHY - THE LIMITS OF INQUIRY. McGinn's conjecture, which he calls "Transcendental Realism", by its nature cannot be proved. To do so one would need to step outside one's own cognitive limitations in order to gain a view of their geography. McGinn is well aware of this. Still he offers what might be thought of as "plausibility arguments" for his view. One might well wonder, if McGinn is right, whether there is anyting left for philosophers to do. Among the tasks McGinn thinks philosophers can still profitably pursue is phenomenology.

The book MINDSIGHT might be thought of as an exercise in analytic phenomenology. I think it is a creditable piece of work, a book which offers important and plausible claims, penetrating distinctions and interesting thought experiments. This is phenomenology that is mercifully devoid of the bombast with which that subject is too often addressed. Quite the contrary, McGinn, as always, writes in a most lucid and reader-friendly matter.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Henry Cohen on November 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
I have no degree in philosophy, but, for an amateur, I am very well-read in the field. Colin McGinn is, along with John Searle, the clearest writer I know among analytic philosophers, and if you enjoy linear, logical, step-by-step writing, then you will find this book a pleasure to read, whether or not you find the subject of the book of great interest. McGinn states in the introduction that "the book should be accessible to non-philosophers (at least up to Chapter 10)," and it is, and even chapters 10 through 13, although more difficult, are not inaccessible to amateurs. My only caveat is that McGinn forgets that non-philosophers may not know the meaning of "intentional" in its philosophical sense; he uses the word repeatedly, so look it up before you begin the book if you're not familiar with it. There is a bit more jargon starting with chapter 10, and I wish that McGinn had explained the meaning of "modal."

As for the substance of the book, McGinn explains the difference between perception and imagination, and discusses which category phenomena such as dreams and hallucinations fall in. He starts by evicerating Hume's view that images are a weak form of perceptions; they are in fact animals of a different species. One cannot control one's perceptions, as one sees or hears what is presented to one, whereas one can control one's images, because one creates them. One can learn from one's perceptions, but one cannot learn from one's images, because, again, one creates one's images. One's perceptions exist in space (a particular distance from one's body), but one's images do not. And so on. McGinn also shows how images interact with perceptions, as when, for example, one perceives Wittgenstein's duck/rabbit drawing and imagines it either as a duck or a rabbit. And McGinn discusses how imagination consists not just of images, but of ideas, as in "X imagines that p" rather than "X imagines p."
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