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Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain Hardcover – April 29, 1986

4.2 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This profound, exhaustive, and well-written scholarly work is an excellent introduction to neuroscience from a philosopher's point of view. It traces the history of neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, and neuropsychology, then treats issues in the philosophy of science, such as the mind/body problem and non-dualistic reductionism. Finally, it reviews and discusses interesting current developments in neurobiology and artificial intelligence. In demonstrating the relevancy of neuroscience to philosophy, Churchland (Philosophy, Univ. of California, San Diego) argues that mental processes are brain processes, that the theoretical construct blending neuroscience and psychology surpasses folk psychology, and that detailed knowledge of the organization and structure of nervous systems is necessary for the evolution of an adequate theory of the mind/brain. Highly recommended. Robert Paustian, Wilkes Coll. Lib., Pa.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Neurophilosophy is exactly the introduction to the neurosciences that philosophers need, and exactly the introduction to philosophy of mind that neuroscientists need, and only someone who knew both fields very well could write it. This is a unique book. It is excellently written, crammed with information, wise, and a pleasure to read."
- Daniel C. Dennett, Tufts University

"The book represents a unique synthesis of neurobiology in a philosophical context, put in truly exquisite language that is easy to read. A definite must for philosophers interested in neuroscience and for neuroscientists interested in the philosophical issues of their fields."
- Rodolfo Llinas, Chairman, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, New York Medical Center

"While many people in cognitive science are beginning to look at relations among pairs of related disciplines, Patricia Churchland's book is the best yet at elucidating the key issues that underly the enterprise."
- Jerome A. Feldman, University of Rochester

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Product Details

  • Series: Bradford Books
  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 2nd prt. edition (April 29, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262031167
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262031165
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,924,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 13, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Published over 17 years ago, this book was one of the first examples of the now accelerating trend to make philosophical investigations into the mind/brain problem accountable to modern science. Pure speculation once dominated any discussion of the mind (or the brain) and therefore progress in the field by any measure was non-existent. There are of course still purely philosophical investigations into the mind/body problem, but these will no doubt decay rapidly with time as scientific investigations continue to lay to rest various "impossibility" claims philosophers have made about the physical brain. Indeed, in this century, the rise of machine intelligence will hammer the last nail in the coffin of mind/brain philosophical speculation.
The author of the book is a materialist, and in this book she has given an excellent justification of her position, and expresses at all times fairness to those who disagree with her positions and conclusions. She also expresses a rare intellectual honesty about the scientific evidence supporting her claims, informing the reader at every place in the book where it is not available or weak at best. Without a doubt the author was not happy at the state of philosophy at the time the book was published, holding that it completely omitted neuroscience, and embraced in her words "a novel and sophisticated form of dualism". She explains this was ample reason for her to take the plunge into a more scientific/empirical framework. The book is an excellent example of what can result when a philosopher decides to do this.
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Format: Paperback
This book begins with a complete and somewhat dry but useful tour of the history of neuropsychology, complete with major discoveries and the arguments that predated them, showing their conclusions and how it has led to the construction of an in-progress model of human intelligence. This is followed by a summarization of general epistemological arguments from the discipline of philosophy, concluding with a general understanding of how our world functions relative to our own intelligences. In the process, the author argues convincingly for a materialist - or "limited to the physical world only" - understanding of human consciousness and how thoughts are generated, avoiding un-politically-correct conclusions entirely but thoroughly debunking any religious, dualistic or overly idealized conclusions about human individuality. Rough reading at times but an excellent compendium of information.
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Format: Paperback
This book is now a bit dated, so its importance is much more historical. This book was intended to show philosophers some neurobiology and neurobiologists some philosophy. It follows from Churchlands strict scientific view of philosophy, and her at that time eliminitavist position - the belief that all folk-psychological concepts can and should be replaced by scientific concepts of neurobiology. So the book introduces neuroanatomy, function, etc... but that maeterial is somewhat dated. There is an introduction to philosophy of science. But the core argument is that philosophy of mind should use neurobiological insights in theorizing, and the belief that it will be at the end neurobiology all thet there is to it.
For some reasons, this is no place to critique the books views. This was the first serious and very ambitious attempt into integrating neurosicience and philosophy of mind to tackle problems like cosnciousness, perception, action, etc.. Elimitivism is not highly regarded nowdays, and the fuzz about connectionist models is fading away. Some proposals were naive, even. But the book is still a classic in the field of cognitive neuroscience, philosophy of mind, and well, neurophilosophy.
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By A Customer on February 9, 1997
Format: Paperback
Churchland's primary goal is to demonstrate that the problem of mind-brain is reducable through neuroscience. She gives a brief history of the study of the brain, basic neuroanatomy, and talks about recent developments in the philosophy of science.

Tremendous job ! Very detailed, hard reading, but extremely worthwhile
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Neuroscience is one of the fastest moving fields in science so a book written 24 years ago is bound to be a bit out of date. However, I think there is still a great deal in this book that is of philosophical value. It serves as a good introduction to Churchland's eliminative materialism and the final chapter provides a very readable introduction to tensor network theory and connectionism (at least the general principles behind them).

In the first part of the book Churchland discusses the basics of the theory of neurons, functional neuroanatomy, and various techniques for studying the brain. There is probably a great deal in the first section that is somewhat out of date (unfortunately, I am not knoweldgeable enough in neuroscience to know what is or is not out of date; I doubt much of the neuroanatomy is out of date though I am sure we know more than we did when the book was written).

The second part of the book delves into issues relating to philosophy of science. In this section Churchland summarizes all the main arguments made against materialism and reductionism and provides excellent and well though out responses to those arguments. The book is worth reading for the second section alone. There is almost nothing that is out of date in the second section. People are still making essentially the same arguments today as they were when the book was written and Churchland's spirited defense of materialism is still well worth reading.

The final section is mostly about tensor network theory and connectionism. I know there has been a lot of work done on connectionism since this book was published and the introduction to connectionism in this volume is pretty sketchy. If you are interested in connectionism I would recommend looking elsewhere.
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