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The Mind's I: Fantasies And Reflections On Self & Soul 0th Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465030910
ISBN-10: 0465030912
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ever wondered who you are? Who you really are? This collection of writings and reflections by some of today's most notable thinkers is designed to enliven this most central, and most baffling, question in the philosophy of mind. In some ways, the questions posed and bantered about in this book are at the heart of all philosophical reasoning. They are the ultimate questions about the self. The Mind's I contains an astonishing variety of approaches to answering the question, "Who am I?" Between the covers of this book one encounters the literary erudition of Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges alongside the analytic rigor of John Searle. There are sophisticated metaphorical pieces (such as "The Princess Ineffabelle" by Polish philosopher and writer Stanislaw Lem), intriguing dialogues (like Raymond Smullyan's "Is God a Taoist?"), and serious but engaging philosophical essays from a host of thinkers (see Thomas Nagel's "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?").

Editors Hofstadter and Dennett--leading lights in the study of cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and the philosophy of mind--follow each selection with a short reflection designed to elaborate on their main themes. The Mind's I admirably broadens their fields to a more general audience. The book's essays are grouped into six categories, each successively raising the philosophical stakes by introducing new levels of complexity. Ultimately, one confronts some of the thorniest questions in modern philosophy here, such as the nature of free will, our place in the metaphysical world, and the possibility of genuine artificial intelligence. The book closes with a playful and perplexing piece by Robert Nozick, an adequate summation to The Mind's I. He writes, "Perhaps God has not decided yet whether he has created, in this world, a fictional world or a real one.... Which decision do you hope for?" --Eric de Place


"Ever  since David Hume declared in the 18th century that  the Self is only a heap of perceptions, the poor  Ego has been in a shaky conditions indeed...Mind and  consciousness becomes dispensable items in our  accounts of reality, ghosts in the bodily  machine...Yet there are indications here and there that the  tide may be tuming...and the appearance of  The Mind's I, edited by Douglas R.  Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett, seems a welcome sign  of change."--William Barrett, The  New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (January 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465030912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465030910
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A fascinating tour of fundamental issues too often ignored or finessed.
Philosopher scientists Hofstadtler and Dennett offer an anthology of probing essays along with their own running commentary on the the topics of identity, consciousness, and reductionism vs. holism. More compelling and less of a challenge to read than Hofstadtler's more famous book, Goëdel, Escher and Bach, it none the less guides the reader to reconsider many of his assumptions about what he is and where he fits in the world.
The book unfortunately was written just as complexity theory was maturing and Maturana's autopoetic version of consciousness was appearing in English. [See Capra's Web of Life] Its confidence in the creation of programmed Artificial Intelligence might also not withstand the arguments presented by Winograd and Flores in Understanding Computers and Cognition. I would very much like to know what these authors think of those approaches to the problem, paradigms I find more plausible and useful than anything presented here.
Still, I highly recommend the book to two classes of readers. First, those interested in a slightly incomplete survey of modern thinking about consciousness and, second, those fascinated by mental gymnastics, cerebral cleverness, and the ultimate puzzles of existence. Happily, I am firmly in both classes.
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Format: Paperback
Philosophy, especially cognitive philosophy, can be a rather dull and dry topic, which is a shame given that it directly pertains to questions that we all ask, such as "Who am I?", "What is self?", "What would it be like to be another person?", and so on.
This books takes the innovative approach of presenting an anthology of absolutely fascinating essays and stories that relate to these subjects, with each essay/story followed by commentary from Dennet and Hofstadter (both of whom are heavy hitters in Philosophic circles).
It is especially interesting that a large fraction of the stories are taken directly from the annals of science-fiction, capitalizing on the genres ability to deal with these kinds of deep issues in a manner that's entertaining and accessable.
Nor does the book push any particular agenda. For instance, although Dennet and Hofstadter are both strong AI proponents (in every sense of the term "strong"), they do not hesitate to include essays that argue against the possibility of AI.
Of course, there is a certain point beyond which popularizations cease to illuminate, and anyone seriously interested in these topics would be well advised to turn to heavier treatments (including those of the editors), but, as an introduction to the subject, you could certainly do worse, although you would be hard-pressed to do better, than to read this book.
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Format: Paperback
After writing the magnificent `Godel, Escher, Bach', for which he won a Pulitzer Prize, computer scientist Douglas Hofstadter (a professor at my alma mater, Indiana University) collaborated with philosopher Daniel Dennett on this anthology of essays and stories that explore the areas of human and artificial intelligence.
What is the mind? What is the self? Is there really a soul? Are feelings and emotions artificial constructs of information bits inside of us, and if so, is it possible that machines can think and feel for themselves?
For that matter, do we truly think and feel for ourselves?
Hofstadter and Dennett have selected pieces that approach these questions from many angles, from hard-science observational techniques to spirituality dimensions in stories. Each piece is followed by a reflection that sets the context of the piece in relation to the larger question of intelligence.
Contributors include mathematician Rudy Rucker (`Infinity and the Mind'), philosophers Raymond Smullyan (perhaps best known for logic puzzles) and Robert Nozick, literary figures such as Jorge Luis Borges and Stanislaw Lem, and pioneers in the field such as Alan Turing.
The editors use a section of Turing's early article on `Computing Machinery and Intelligence' from 1950 to set up much of the subsequent discussion. One often overlooked idea from Turing, oddly popular among British scholars of the first half of the twentieth century (and still more prevalent among British scholars and intellectuals than those of other cultures) is the idea of ESP and paranormal abilities. Turing felt that the final difference between machine-thinking, once it had reached full potential, and human thinking would be that humans have the capacity for ESP and other such abilities.
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Format: Paperback
This is a followup to Hofstadter's famous Godel, Escher, Bach (1980)(see my review). Like its predecessor, it is concerned mostly with the foundations of artificial intelligence, but it is composed mostly of stories, essays and extracts from a wide range of people, with a few essays by DH and DD and comments to all of the contributions by one or the other of them.

Much of it is very reductionistic in tone(ie, explain everything in terms of physics/math) but as Hofstadter notes, the quantum field equations of a water molecule are too complex to solve(and so is a vacuum)and nobody has a clue about how to explain the way properties emerge(eg, water properties from H2 and 02) as you go up the scale from the vacuum to the brain, so reductionism, like holism, requires a great deal of faith. There is not only the uncertainty principle, and chaos(eg, no way to predict how a pile of sand will fall) but the logically necessary incompleteness of math, which is now fused at the highest levels with physics(eg, string theory). Godels incompleteness theorem was a central theme of his first book.

This is really a psychology text, though perhaps none of the authors realized it. It is about human behavior and reasoning-about why we think and act the way we do. But(like all such discussion until recently) none of the explanations are really explanations. Nobody discusses the mental mechanisms involved. In fact,like most 'explanations` of behavior the texts here and the comments by DH and DD are often more interesting for what kinds of things they accept as explanations(and omit), than for the actual content.
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