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The Physiology and Phenomenology of Action [Hardcover]

Alain Berthoz , Jean-Luc Petit , Christopher Macann
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

October 15, 2008 0199547882 978-0199547883 1
Though many philosophers of mind have taken an interest in the great developments in the brain sciences, the interest is seldom reciprocated by scientists, who frequently ignore the contributions philosophers have made to our understanding of the mind and brain.

In a rare collaboration, a world famous brain scientist and an eminent philosopher have joined forces in an effort to understand how our brain interacts with the world. Does the brain behave as a calculator, combining sensory data before deciding how to act? Or does it behave as an emulator endowed with innate models of the world, which it corrects according to the results of experiences obtained by the senses? The two authors come from very different backgrounds - the philosopher Jean-Luc Petit belongs to the philosophical tradition of Husserlian phenomenology. Alain Berthoz has long been interested in the physiology of action (movement, posture, decision-making, perception, etc.).

Drawing on cutting-edge research from the cognitive sciences, the authors have produced a highly original volume showing how phenomenology and physiology can interact to further our understanding of the brain and the mind.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 298 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199547882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199547883
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes frustrating, but worth the time January 20, 2009
A neuroscientist and a philosopher get together and attempt to integrate phenomenological descriptions of action with physiological descriptions of the same.

A few points in its favor:
* Good formulation of the dilemma that has led to the effort to integrate phenomenological and scientific descriptions of experience.
* A sensitivity to both philosophical and scientific audiences.
* A thorough outlining of a borderline novel approach to the issue.

A few criticisms:
* Fire the editor and the translator. This book could have been half as long and the sentences half as labored and awkward.
* Better phenomenology and much better physiology (not to mention with much more clarity) in Berthoz's solo effort The Brain's Sense of Movement.
* Consistent equivocation. For example, the concept of anticipation -- central to the thesis of the book -- is referred to as a mode of being and as a necessary precursor to all modes of being and/or perception.
* They display the irritating tendency to attribute the phenomenological insights developed by others to Husserl. For one, Merleau-Ponty (who graciously gave much credit to Husserl for inspiring insights that were probably better attributed to Heidegger) is absolutely abused.

In spite of the weaknesses, I still recommend it for those who are interested in these kinds of questions. It is a step in the right direction.

For slightly better results from the philosopher/neuroscientist formula, see Ways of Seeing (Jacob/Jeannerod) and What Makes Us Think (Changeux/Ricoeur).
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