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Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology

3.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262540377
ISBN-10: 0262540371
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The problems that Daniel Dennett addresses in his essays are crucial ones for philosophy and contemporary science. With a sure touch and a great deal of insight, he has subjected to analysis questions that lie at, or perhaps just beyond, the frontiers of the scientific study of mind and brain. Dennett's work should help guide progress in the understanding of the profound and troubling issues that have intrigued and perplexed critical minds for many centuries. His work is stimulating and impressive....

(Noam Chomsky)

About the Author

Daniel C. Dennett is University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. He is the author of Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology, Brainchildren: Essays on Designing Minds, Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness, all published by the MIT Press, and other books.
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Product Details

  • Series: MIT Press
  • Paperback: 377 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (July 13, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262540371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262540377
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #293,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By I. Maryanovsky on December 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
Daniel Dennett's first major work, Brainstorms, is collection of essays relating loosely in subject matter, that is to say, artificial intelligence, consciousness, philosophy of the mind and biology, and philosophy of action; and totally independent in written structure. The essays are each written as a stand alone work. His infamous "On giving libertarians what they say they want," the very essay that began the near half decade debate between the author and libertarian Robert Kane, first appeared in this collection. The work is fantastic, in that it achieves precisely what it attempts to; it inspires, by agreement or otherwise, a new intensity and illuminates new horizons in any reader interested or involved in the study of the subject matter. Highly recommended for intermediate students of Philosophy of Mind; the else should consider reading something more accessible.
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Format: Paperback
I am in general a big fan of Dennett's work as a philosopher of science and his work in the philosophy of mind. He has been an ardent defender of science and especially evolution during a problematic time for science education in this country. Overall, I agree with much of what he says in this book.

I have just one problem with this book which I discuss in detail below. But I don't want the reader to get the impression I don't like Dennett. It's just that in this case I think there are better answers already available from the sciences themselves. I am referring to Dennett's well known proposal of the two stage theory of decision making. Dennett writes:

"The model of decision making I am proposing has the following feature: when we are faced with an important decision, a consideration-generator whose output is to some degree undetermined produces a series of considerations, some of which may of course be immediately rejected as irrelevant by the agent (consciously or unconsciously). Those considerations that are selected by the agent as having a more than negligible bearing on the decision then figure in a reasoning process, and if the agent is in the main reasonable, those considerations ultimately serve as predictors and explicators of the agent's final decision."

Well, right off the bat I can see several issues here. The first is that this much at least was understood when Dennett was a young undergraduate. Whether an exact two-stage process is correct, no competent psychologist even 50 years ago would have disagreed with the fact that decision making involves discriminating between multiple inputs and multiple outcomes.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is easily my personal favorite out of all the Daniel Dennet work that I've read. Fantastic insights into psychology in particular. Brainstorms is a challenging but rewarding read.
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Format: Paperback
I dislike this book on 2 grounds: One is style, the other content. His style is way too verbose, much of the time saying essentially nothing while filling pages with excess verbiage. He often begins with what I initially assumed to be a prelude to some significant point, such as some boring anecdote. The trouble is, the point never seems to arrive. It was a tedious detour to nowhere. He uses ridiculously long sentences to say what could could be said in much shorter sentences. Ditto paragraphs and whole chapters. "Never use a paragraph where 3 chapters will suffice", to quote another commentator's view on his writing style. Regarding content, many of his positions (if you can identify what his position is) seem absurd. For example, he dedicates a whole chapter titled "Are Dreams Experiences?" Does not this question itself seem absurd, i.e., Is it not obvious that dreams ARE experiences ? That is, they are in fact subjective states we call "experiences". He rambles on with tedious quibbles about dreams, their ability to be remembered, questions of function, rather than the bare fact of experience itself. It is in this, and in many of his writings, that he never faces up to David Chalmer's "Hard Problem of Consciousness".
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