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Matter and Consciousness: Contemporary Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (Bradford Books) [Paperback]

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Book Description

1 Jan 1988 Bradford Books
In Matter and Consciousness, Paul Churchland clearly presents the advantages and disadvantages of such difficult issues in philosophy of mind as behaviorism, reductive materialism, functionalism, and eliminative materialism. This new edition incorporates the striking developments that have taken place in neuroscience, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence and notes their expanding relevance to philosophical issues. Churchland organizes and clarifies the new theoretical and experimental results of the natural sciences for a wider philosophical audience, observing that this research bears directly on questions concerning the basic elements of cognitive activity and their implementation in real physical systems. (How is it, he asks, that living creatures perform some cognitive tasks so swiftly and easily, where computers do them only badly or not at all?) Most significant for philosophy, Churchland asserts, is the support these results tend to give to the reductive and the eliminative versions of materialism. A Bradford Book

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Product details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 Jan 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262530740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262530743
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 14.7 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 113,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Anyone interested in using a contemporary approach to philosophy of mind in an introductory course will find Paul Churchland's Matter and Consciousness a useful text... Churchland has a wonderful talent for linking ideas together." Kathleen Gill, Teaching Philosophy

About the Author

Paul M. Churchland is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul, Matter and Consciousness: A Contemporary Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (both published by the MIT Press), and other books.

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The curiosity of Man, and the cunning of his Reason, have revealed much of what Nature held hidden. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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26 of 39 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Churchland provides a good overview of classical philosophy of mind but there are some disapointing omissions. Little information is provided regarding Wittgenstein's critique of that which leads to Cartesian dualism.Churchland remains silent about the moral element, there is no discussion about fear of otherness. There is also very little said about phenomenology, the section that refers to it is weak, this is a serious challenge to dualism and needs more focus to give context to the arguments that make up philosophy of mind. If more time been spent on Husserl and Merleau-Ponty the book would have been much stronger, but the thoughts of these thinkers are under represented and the books suffers for that. Still, it is recomendable on the grounds that it is accessible and provides a good opoint of departure.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not for a graduate philosophy of mind class 28 May 2000
By whywong - Published on Amazon.com
It is quite ridiculous that someone should use Paul Churchland's Matter and Consciousness for a graduate class in philosophy of mind. Paul Churchland, for one, never intended it to be so, and certainly was not writing for such an audience. Having said that, Matter and Consciousness qualifies as one of the best brief introductions to pertinent issues in philosophy of mind. Do note, however, that Paul Churchland's focus is philosophical rather than psychological or cognitive. The book begins with a discussion of the mind-body problem and various standard proposed solutions, i.e. various forms of dualism, mind-brain identity theory, functionalism and the like. Each school of thought is presented in an orderly fashion, beginning with a brief outline of the general solution with a couple of examples, then proceeding to sections on the advantages and disadvantages of the school of thought in question.
Now, as with all truly introductory surveys of academic disciplines, the discussions in Matter and Consciousness are superficial from the perspective of more mature students. However, its brevity and clarity make it probably the best introductory text to philosophy of mind around. I read Matter and Consciousness in a single sitting over a cup of tea, and vouch for its accessibility.
Matter and Consciousness also has sections on the psychological, computational and neuroscientific side of things, and although much of the scientific material is dated, these sections still give the uninformed reader a general flavor of ongoing work in those areas, and much to contemplate.
If Matter and Consciousness is being used for an introductory course on philosophy of mind, I would suggest augmenting the material in Matter and Consciousness by selecting appropriate readings from Lycan's Mind and Cognition: An Anthology. Matter and Consciousness was written quite awhile ago, when work in parallel distributed processing in AI was just being resurrected, and way before the embodied cognition revolution. Therefore, it would be an excellent idea to look at section 4 (Mind as a Computer: Machine Functionalism) of Kim's Philosophy of Mind for a fairly theoretical introduction to the ideas behind artificial intelligence, brief selections from Russell and Norvig's introductory AI text or Winston's AI text for an understanding of standard techniques (i.e. search, neural networks, production systems and the like) in AI, and Andy Clark's introduction to the foundations of AI, "Philosophical Foundations", in Artificial Intelligence (Handbook of Perception and Cognition) edited by Margaret Boden.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good introduction to a vexing problem 2 Nov 2002
By Dr. Lee D. Carlson - Published on Amazon.com
The mind-body problem, as it is called in Western philosophy, still has the attention of philosophers, despite centuries of debate. It will no doubt occupy more of philosophers time in the upcoming decades due to the resurging interest (and advances) in artificial intelligence. But the goal of most research in A.I. is now geared towards computational algorithms that are able to learn and can discover new knowledge or data patterns. The "hard A.I." problem, that of creating conscious machines, is not top priority it seems.
But philosophers will continue with the analysis of the nature of conscious intelligence, and the author is one of these. Interestingly though, and correctly, he asserts that progress in this analysis has been made, and he notes that philosophy has joined hands with psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, ethology, and evolutionary theory in making this progress. And this will no doubt continue as advances in these fields are made, and the 21st century will see the advent of the "industrial philosopher". Once thought to be a purely academic profession, the ethical considerations behind genetic engineering and the legal rights of thinking machines will require the presence of philosophers in the rank and file of engineers, technicians, and managers. And because of this, these philosophers, and their coworkers will themselves have considerable knowledge outside their own field.
Again, the refreshing feature of this book is that the author believes that philosophy has made considerable process on the nature of mind. This was done, he says, by understanding the mind's self-knowledge, by providing a much clearer idea of the nature of the different theories of mind, and by clarifying the sorts of evidence that must be acquired in order to distinguish between these different theories. Empirical evidence, he states, has enabled the making of these distinctions much more rational and scientific. But he is careful to note that the evidence is still ambigious, and much work still needs to be done before the these ideas can be differentiated with more clarity. He discusses in detail the different theories of dualism and materialism. An entire chapter is devoted to discussing substance dualism, property dualism, philosophical behaviorism, reductive materialism, functionalism, and eliminative materialism. The author asks readers to start anew and throw away their convictions while analyzing these conceptions of mind and matter.
For the author, the mind-body problem cannot be solved without considering three problems: 1. Semantical: The meaning of ordinary common-sense terms for mental states. 2. Epistemological: The problem of other minds and the capacity for introspection. 3. Methodological: The proper methodology to use in constructing a theory of mind. Entire chapters are devoted to these, and after reading them the reader entering the debate on the mind-body problem for the first time will have an over-abundance of food for thought.
An entire chapter is spent on the topic of artificial intelligence. If this book were updated, this chapter would probably have to be considerably expanded, in that many advances have been made in A.I. since this book was first published. Research in A.I. has been rocky, and many promises that were unfullfilled were made in the past about it. But now it seems a more rational and realistic attitude is taken about the claims of A.I. Most everyone involved in it understands that it is an enormously complex problem, and have concentrated their efforts on building intelligent machines from a piece-meal, microscopic approach, i.e. from solving the simplest problems first before tackling the more difficult ones.
A chapter is also devoted to neuroscience. Thanks to imaging technologies and other approaches to mapping the brain, this field has mushroomed in recent years. The author only gives a cursory overview of the brain and the nervous system in this chapter, due no doubt to lack of space. The reverse engineering of the human brain has been pointed to by some researchers in artificial intelligence as being the best hope for building intelligent machines. The dramatic increases in chip technology and bus design have made this belief certainly more feasible. It remains to be seen, via actual empirical research, whether the reverse engineering of the human brain, and then its subsequent implementation in electronic devices, will indeed result in the rise of intelligent machines.
Whatever the future of artificial intelligence and neuroscience, the mind-body problem will no doubt be of interest to philosophers for decades to come. It will be fascinating to see what kinds of conceptual frameworks and methodologies will be employed in attempts to solve this problem. Without doubt some new ideas would be welcome in this regard, as proposals for solutions to the mind-body problem seem to be stuck in a local minimum. But, as the author argues well for, the solution will bring in many areas and possibly some radical ideas, all supported by painstaking experimentation.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely accessible introduction 27 Jan 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
"Matter and Consciousness" is a very accessible introduction to basic issues in the philosophy of mind. Paul Churchland divides the book into several sections, with each one serving to give a broad overview of the relevant issues, the main positions and controversies, as well as the major lines of research inquiry that have been developed in the past few decades as ways of approaching the study of brain/mind.

The first problem that Churchland addresses in the book is the ontological one - that is, what is the real nature of mental phenomena and in what relation do they stand to the physical world? He surveys the different types of dualism, including substance dualism, property dualism (a category which subsumes epiphenomenalism, interactionist property dualism and elemental property dualism). He also gives a flavor for the many different species of materialism such as reductive materialism/identity theory, functionalism (which currently serves as the main philosophical position for those involved in the fields of cognitive science and artificial intelligence) and eliminative materialism. Some really important questions are addressed in this first section, such as the feasibility of reducing mental states to neurobiological states. The history of science offers plenty of examples of successful intertheoretic reductions - for example, the theory of optics being reduced to the theory of electromagnetism. However, different arguments have been made (not just by dualists, but also by materialists) as to why mental states will not be capable of reduction to neurobiological states. For the functionalists this is because there are no universal correspondences between physical and mental states (there are many potential physical states that can instantiate mental states) and for the eliminative materialists, this is because our current folk psychological framework is radically wrong. Instead of intertheoretic reduction, the eliminative position holds that there will instead be a full-scale elimination, with our folk psychological concepts going the way of phlogiston in the physical sciences.

Churchland also focuses on the semantic problem -- where do our mental terms derive their meaning from? He suggests that this problem can be resolved by the network theory of meaning in which the meaning of a term derives from the term's embedded status in a larger theoretical framework. He addresses the epistemological problem (the problem of other minds and the problem of self-consciousness) and the methodological problem. What should be the structure of a science of mind? Churchland reviews several traditional approaches - idealism/phenomenology, methodological behaviorism, the cognitive/computational approach and the methodological materialist approach.

In the next two chapters Churchland offers a cursory overview of the fields of artificial intelligence and neurophysiology. These sections are meant to give the reader a flavor of some of the research projects that have been initiated in these fields and the manner in which they bear on the problems discussed in earlier portions of the book. For example, can intelligence be represented computationally? How can we develop programs that simulate aspects of intelligence? Churchland reviews fundamental concepts such as universal Turing machines in a very readable manner. However, it should be noted that Churchland sometimes seems to conflate consciousness and intelligence -- intelligence need not imply consciousness, though he sometimes seems to use these two terms almost interchangeably.

The last chapter of the book is devoted to some thoughts on the possible distribution of intelligence in the universe at large. Overall this book should serve as a highly readable introduction to some very difficult problems. Given the amount of the material covered, it is to be expected that many issues will be dealt with in a cursory manner. Some of the author's biases are reflected in the work. However, Churchland does a decent job in trying to present the main arguments and he also provides suggested reading lists at the end of the chapters for those who would want more in-depth coverage.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligient, interesting and brilliant introduction 24 Sep 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Paul Churchland provides a brief introduction to the philosophical theories of the mind-body problem, analysing each in the process. It is easy to understand and rarely gets boring. After the first fifty pages the author discusses the importance of neuroscience and its relation to Eliminative Materialism (the theory proposed by Churchland). However, as most philosophers (eg. J.Searle, T.Honderich) would agree, "eliminativism" is NOT a credible theory of consciousness, since it eliminates the role and existence of mental states. I agree with Searle that mental states are a REAL feature of the world ("mental realism"). Nevertheless, the book is full of interesting information about the brain and neurones and also self-consciousness.
5.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to the philosophy of mind 2 Aug 2013
By The Professor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Churchland is one of the best thinkers in the philosophy of mind. While I do not necessarily agree with his eliminative materialism, he is a sharp thinker and brings a lot of good ideas to the table. As an experimental (not counseling) psychologist with an emphasis on neuroscience, I definitely appreciate his emphasis on the brain. This book is old, but it covers the basics of the philosophy of mind, introducing them with the benefit of the doubt, then turning to criticisms (including his own) of the views. He never comes across as forceful with his opinions.

I recommend it with the book A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind: Readings With Commentary (ISBN 1551118521 for the newest, or 1551110873 for the first edition which frankly doesn't differ much). This text is full of snippets of writings from the philosophy of mind from the earliest days of philosophy up to modern philosophy and the most recent contemporary issues. The writings are framed in historical context, and there is also commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of the views. Between Matter and Consciousness and the Historical Introduction, you'll be well educated in the philosophy of mind and can move onto such works as Neurophilosophy by Patricia Churchland or Dan Dennett or David Chalmer's books.
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