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Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1405108386
ISBN-10: 140510838X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This remarkable book, the product of a collaboration between a philosopher and neuroscientist, shows that the claims made on behalf of cognitive science are ill-founded. The book will certainly arouse opposition... but if it causes controversy, it is controversy that is long overdue.” Sir Anthony Kenny, President of the British Academy, 1989–93 <!--end-->


“This book was simply waiting to be written.” Denis Noble, Oxford University


“Contemporary scientists and philosophers may not like Bennett and Hacker's conclusions, but they will hardly be able to ignore them. The work is a formidable achievement.” John Cottingham, Professor of Philosophy, Reading University


“Neuroscientists, psychologists and philosophers will be challenged – and educated – by this sustained and well-informed critique.” Paul Harris, Professor, Human Development and Psychology, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University

"This book is a joy to read. It is the fruit of collaboration across disciplines and continents between a neurophysiologist and a philosopher. They have written a polemical work that is a model of clarity and directness. Distiniguished neurophysiologist M.R. Bennett of the University of Sydney, and eminent Oxford philosopher P.M.S. Hacker have produced that rarity of scholarship, a genuinely interdisciplinary work that succeeds. ... This is a wonderful book that will illuminate, provoke and delight professional scientists, philosophers and general readers alike." Australian Book Review

"Bennett and Hacker have identified [conceptual confusions] with clinical precision and relentless good sense.... rich with philosophical insights ... thoughtful and wonderfully useful treatise ..." Philosophy

"careful application in a host of cases ...is precisely what Bennett and Hacker provide in devastating critiques of psychologists and neuroscientists such as Blakemore, Crick, Damasio, Edelman, Gazzaniga, Kandel, Kosslyn, LeDoux, Penrose and Weiskrantz; and they also raise equally disturbing questions for philosophers such as Dennett, the Churchlands, Chalmers, Nagel and Searle. Whether this book leads to a reconfiguring of contemporary neuroscience and the philosophy associated with it will tell us much about the dynamics of contemporary intellectual life." Philosophy

"The vast spectrum of material in philosophy and neuroscience that Bennett and Hacker consider is impressive and their discussion is thorough and illuminating." Human Nature Review


1. ‘[It] will certainly, for a long time to come, be the most important contribution to the mind-body problem which there is.’ G. H. von Wright


2. ‘everyone who thinks about the mind and consciousness should study Philosophical Foundations of Neurtoscience. ... it will ultimately contribute to a far better understanding of mind and consciousness within scientific thought as well as a better understanding of the limits of empirical investigation’, Arthur Collins, The Philosophical Quarterly, 2004


3. ‘Sweeping, argumentative and brilliant, this book will provoke widespread discussion among philosophers and neuroscientists alike’, Dennis Patterson, Notre Dame Philosophical Review, 2003


4. ‘...devastating critiques of psychologists and neuroscientists ... Whether this book leads to a reconfiguring of contemporary neuroscience and the philosophy associated with it will tell us much about the dynamics of contemporary intellectual life’, Anthony O’Hear, Philosophy 2003


5. ‘This book is a joy to read. ... a model of clarity and directedness... [Bennett and Hacker] have produced that rarity of scholarship, a genuinely interdisciplinary work that succeeds. ... This is a wonderful book that will illuminate, provoke and delight professional scientists, philosophers and general readers alike.’, Damian Grace, Australian Book Review, 2003


6. ‘clinical precision and ... relentless good sense ... [a] thoughtful and wonderfully useful treatise’, Daniel N. Robinson, Philosophical Quarterly, 2004


7. ‘mandatory reading for anybody interested in neuroscience and consciousness research. The vast spectrum of material in philosophy and neuroscience that Bennett and Hacker consider is impressive and their discussion is thorough and illuminating.’ Axel Kohler, Human Nature Review, 2003


8. ‘a delicious cake of a book in which Bennett and Hacker guide the reader through a conceptual minefield of confusions repeatedly made by neuroscientists and philosophers alike.’ Constantine Sandis, Metapsychology 2003


9. ‘Anyone who has ever framed a theory or explained one should read this book ‑ at the risk of forever falling silent.’, The Rector, University of Sydney, Obiter Dicta 2003


10. ‘... impressively lucid ... Bennett and Hacker unquestionably succeed in making us challenge our own concepts, examine them for dross, and strive to home in on fundamentals.’ Neil Spurway, Journal of the European Soc for Study of Science and Theology.


11. ‘...the fruit of a unique cooperation between a neuroscientist and a philosopher ... an excellent book that should be read by all philosophers of cognition and all researchers in the cognitive neurosciences.’ Herman Philipse, ABG #2, De Academische Boekengids 2003

12. `...there are, I think, grounds for hope that this book will do an enormous amount of good, both in correcting philosophical confusion within neuroscience and in promoting a new style of dialogue between neuroscience and philosophy' David Cockburn, Philosophical Investigations, 2005

Book Description

In this provocative work, a distinguished philosopher and a leading neuroscientist outline the conceptual problems at the heart of cognitive neuroscience. Writing from a scientifically and philosophically informed perspective, the authors provide a critical overview of the conceptual difficulties encountered in many current neuroscientific and psychological theories, including those of Blakemore, Crick, Damasio, Edelman, Gazzaniga, Kandel, Kosslyn, LeDoux, Penrose and Weiskrantz. They propose that conceptual confusions about how the brain relates to the mind affect the intelligibility of research carried out by neuroscientists, in terms of the questions they choose to address, the description and interpretation of results and the conclusions they draw. The book forms both a critique of the practice of cognitive neuroscience and a conceptual handbook for students and researchers.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (April 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140510838X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405108386
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.5 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Harpur on June 12, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Undoubtedly this book contains both excellence in terms of its review thoroughness and controversey by virtue of its conclusions. It is quite clear from the beginning that Hacker's philosophical stance drives most of the conceptual critique in the book. It is a complicated book, given the vast variety of themes and attendant analyses, and a short review will do it little justice. However, Hacker is a later Wittgensteinian, and to appreciate most of the philosophical input the reader should have reasonable knowledge of the contrast between early and later Wittgenstein, and what exactly characterises the core components of the latter.
The primary criticism leveled at neuroscience is that it is a conceptual shambles due to repeatedly confusing functions of 'selves' with functions of organs (the brain of course). Neursoscience is identified with Cartesian dualism by clumsily shifting talk of properties of persons to talk of brain phenomena and assuming them equivalent. The anvil upon which neuroscience is being philosophically temepered is termed the mereological principle (or fallacy - and you can buy the book for an explanation).
Part of the criticism echoes Wittgenstein's 'if a lion could talk we wouldn't understand him', and most significantly recalls previous critiques of private langage arguments (with a nod to Kripke). It turns out, according to Bennet and Hacker, that neuroscience has been secretly keeping private mental objects alive - presumably in ignorance of philosophical canons.
The book concludes with a well argued and welcome broadside against Dennett's intentional stance (a sacred tenet among cognitve neuroscientists) and, unfortunately, a more toothless critique of Searle on intentionality.
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What are you, a ghost in a machine or a living human being? In this excellent book, the authors, a neuroscientist and a philosopher, answer the question.

They say that Rene Descartes' ideas still cause many muddles. He thought that we were all ghosts in machines, two things in one. This was because he believed that there were two basic kinds of thing, mind and matter (a theory called dualism), and that what we are depends on what our minds do (idealism).

The authors show that commonsense clears up the muddles. We are all living human beings. "The person ... is a psychophysical entity, not a duality of two conjoined substances, a mind and a body."

The authors show that dualism - the ghost in the machine - can never explain how our minds relate to our bodies. Our minds are not things, so they cannot cause changes by acting on our brains.

Often neuroscientists wrongly ascribe to our brains the activities that Descartes and his followers like John Locke ascribed to our minds. But human beings - not our brains or minds - think, see, decide and feel. "The brain and its activities make it possible for us - not for it - to perceive and think, to feel emotions, and to form and pursue projects."

Too many neuroscientists trap themselves in idealism. For example, Francis Crick wrote, "What we see appears to be located outside our body. ... What you see is not what is really there. ... In fact we have no direct knowledge of the objects in the world."

But the authors reply, "What we see does not appear to be located outside us. What we see is necessarily located outside our body, unless we are looking at ourselves in a mirror, or at our limbs or thorax.
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*disclaimer: I am writing this as a philosopher of mind so any parts of the book or chapters not related to this are not what I am addressing.*

I do not mean to say that Bennett and Hacker have all the answers, but their "ordinary language" approach, along with their debt to Wittgenstein, Ryle, Kenny and Strawson, says something about their book. Most contemporary philosophers of mind (Sprague, Strawson and Hacker, among others, excluded) have rightly dismissed the soul, but have decided that there is something "mysterious" about consciousness, or perception or emotion, or what have you. In response, Bennett and Hacker have shown what "consciousness" really is: the conscious acts of people existing in the world. This is why we know that other people are conscious actors: they do conscious things such as watch birds, or play chess, or eat ham sandwiches.

If Michael Tye's or David Chalmers' or Colin McGinn's problems of consiousness (e.g. that I can know that you feel the same pain that I feel, or that you see the same color that I see) are indeed problems for you, you should read this book; if it doesn't prove to you that they are not problems at all, at least it will give you a new way of looking at the problems so that you may come to your own interesting conclusions.
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I claim that with language we are nothing-but jabbering naked apes!

Seriously though, this is the best-written exposition of the Anglo-American analytical philosophical view of the current status of conceptualizing going on surrounding the new sciences of "mind and brain." It is written with extreme clarity. It is very readable in that one can start almost anywhere using the table of contents and the annotations throughout to find points of interest. You can almost read it as if it were web enabled after putting away the first chapter or two. The authors succeed in their goal in making the book very easy to use and understand. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in philosophy of mind, or philosophy of neuroscience. All the arguments are up-to-date. All the major polarizing issues in the field are covered, and all the major players are given coverage. The footnotes and appendices are also well done. The clarity of exposition and good grammar is admirable.

The only problem with the book is that they are completely wrong. The authors' point of view is built almost entirely on a view of meaning that has outlived its usefulness. Ludwig Wittgenstein has the unique distinction of having lead two, going on three, generations of philosophers on two continents into semantic oblivion TWICE in one career, and the authors are bent on continuing that tradition. They criticize neuroscientists (and those philosophers who are tagging along for the ride) primarily for misusing concepts. They have nothing bad to say about the quality of research or the scientific achievements except where the wrong kinds of experiments get done or where results are misconstrued due to continuing conceptual confusion.
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