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Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain Paperback – September 7, 1989
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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)
Churchland writes with the authority of an insider.(Philip Kitcher Nature)
Churchland's approach is... refreshing, and it is well carried out.... I am going to use Neurophilosophy as the textbook in my graduate course in cognitive neuropsychology. For anyone interested in the 'real' CNS, this volume is by far the best that has come out of cognitive science.(Karl H. Pribram Contemporary Psycholoqy)
Neurophilosophy is a pioneering work. As our understanding of the brain develops, philosophers will need to know more about the function of its parts, while neuroscientists will increasingly confront philosophical issues. This perceptive, lively and informative book combines both approaches in ail up to date and very readable manner.(F.H.C. Crick, The Salk Institute)
Top customer reviews
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. However, Churchland does provide a very clear introduction to tensor-network theory so the last chapter is worth reading for that.
I read this book over a stretch of almost a year (I moved and all my philosophy books were packed) so I am not really able to summarize the contents adequately. I wanted to write a review anyways, mainly to say: there is much in this book that is still relevant and it is still worth reading despite the fact that it is 24 years old. I learned a lot and I think many of Churchland's arguments are valid and persuasive. That is all.
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.
The book is divided up into three parts, with the first one emphasizing the biology of nervous systems and neuropsychology, the second part an overview of developments in the philosophy of science, and the third part discussing the ramifications of neurobiology for research in artificial intelligence. Although somewhat out of date due to the advancements in both experimental and theoretical neuroscience since then, it could still be of interest, mainly to philosophers, who are interested in applying their talent for logical thinking and organization to difficult problems in neuroscience. The transition from pure philosophical speculation to the rigors of scientific investigation may at first be difficult for the typical armchair philosopher, but their high degree of intelligence and their restless desire to get at the truth will soften it considerably. And in the decades ahead, one will witness the presence of "industrial philosophers": those who have chosen to leave the "proverbial armchair" and apply their abilities to both understand and give rise to intelligent machines.