Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Mind and the Machine, The: What It Means to Be Human and Why It Matters Paperback – May 1, 2011
See the Best Books of 2017
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Customers who bought this item also bought
From the Back Cover
Are We More Than Biochemical Machines?
"An engaging and probing exploration of some of the fundamental questions humans ask about themselves: Is a human being just a machine made out of protein? Are humans completely determined by the physical processes going on in their bodies? Is the belief that humans are spiritual just a vestige of prescientific thinking? Dickerson attacks these questions--and many others--with verve and élan. The book is a model of interdisciplinary inquiry, drawing on a deep understanding of contemporary philosophy, science, and computers."--C. Stephen Evans, Baylor University
"[A] complex, thoughtful book."--Publishers Weekly
"Dickerson deftly evaluates cutting-edge cultural implications of physicalist treatments of human persons. Refreshingly, he presents a specific dualist alternative and underscores the important entailments of that alternative. I am glad to recommend this wonderful book."--J. P. Moreland, Biola University; author, The Recalcitrant Imago Dei
"Dickerson is one of the most gifted, clear-headed contemporary writers working on consciousness today. He has a command of the philosophical literature, a love for well-crafted, compelling arguments, and a matchless grasp of the deep wisdom that can be found in the work of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. His latest book is both an accessible introduction to central questions about human nature and a sustained, rigorous argument for recognizing the distinctive, overwhelming value of human persons."--Charles Taliaferro, St. Olaf College; author, Consciousness and the Mind of God
"Whether human minds are machines is a central question not only for philosophers and scientists but also for the future of our culture and of the human race itself. This book is clearer, fairer, more helpful, and more reliable than 99 out of 100 others on the subject. Its author knows both halves of his book's title very well."--Peter Kreeft, Boston College
"I highly recommend this engaging critique of how contemporary popular culture and techno-gurus reduce human beings to machine-like creatures supposedly in the name of progress."--Quentin J. Schultze, Calvin College
About the Author
Matthew Dickerson (PhD, Cornell University) is professor of computer science and environmental studies at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, and the author of From Homer to Harry Potter; Narnia and the Fields of Arbol; and Ents, Elves, and Eriador. He is an internationally known Tolkien scholar and directs the New England Young Writers' Conference at Bread Loaf.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
He discusses common arguments of physicalists, who deny any mental or spiritual reality, pointing out the logical fallacies and circular reasoning, with ample examples from all the major proponents. This is a clear and detailed philosophical discussion, with practical implications for daily personal and social life.
The moral implications and rational conclusions he draws from this indicate that if all that exists is the physical, then we have no reason to trust reason. Physicalism with its attendant theories to explain how everything came to be through random processes, is based on the assumption that there is no order in the universe, only random processes.
The common human experience contradicts this, and the idea of a free society and a right to safety and peace have no foundation. With the whole basis of science that things can be systematically investigated precisely because there is a consistent pattern to the way things happen and the chain of repeatable and demonstrable cause and effect.
He concludes that physicalism is an insufficient philosophy to account for reality and is in fact self-contradictory. On the other hand if we do believe that the mind or personal consciousness is more than just random nerve and synapse energy, there is a basis for personal responsibility, moral and legal accountability and social rules or patterns for the good of society and humanity as a whole.
If there exists only the physical, then whatever happens is indeed natural, including the irresponsible destruction of the world and our environment. If, on the other hand, there is a personal identity associated with the physical body that can be held responsible, and if there is an individual identity operating within the body and brain, we can make decisions that make a difference.
We can hold each other accountable for what we decide and we can expect acts that are "good" and "positive" instead of being at the mercy of a random universe where whatever happens is whatever must be. If only the random physical and its current state exist, then there is no rational basis for "should" or "must," and no reason to trust reason.
If there is an order and pattern, or even intelligence, then we have a basis to trust our reasoning and discernment, which is lacking in the physicalist concept.
This is a thought provoking book. It gives a concise synopsis of historic Artificial Intelligence research, philosophy, and related endeavors. It goes beyond dry technicalities to discuss deeper issues that might be taken for granted:
If my consciousness were somehow copied into a machine, would the machine be me?
If we implement a complex enough thinking machine, is it a person? How do we know?
Do we start from the assumption that humans are biological machines and can be precisely simulated?
Do we start from an assumption that humans cannot be fully duplicated because they have a soul?
What is creativity?
How do we research and dialogue in the face of Big Questions and our implicit or explicit answers?
(These examples are off the top of my head. I am sure I oversimplified.)
Matt gives a synopsis of historical and current findings. He discusses the issues. In addition, he presents
thought exercises. Working through the exercises provides hands on experience with the complexity of these questions and their influence on our research.