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The Character of Mind by
Publication Date: 1997-04-10
Of what nature is the mind? So Colin McGinn starts his first chapter, and this is his guiding question. He pursues the answer with a boldness and provocativeness rarely encountered in philosophical writing. As he explains, my aim has been to give the reader something definite and stimulatingto think about, rather than to present a cautious and disinterested survey of the state of the subject.The Character of Mind provides a general introduction to the philosophy of mind, covering all the main topics: the mind-body problem, the nature of acquaintance, the relation between thought and language, agency, the self. In particular, Colin McGinn addresses the issue of consciousness, and thedifficulty of combining the two very different perspectives on the mind that arise from introspection and from the observation of other people. His aim throughout is to identify the recalcitrant problems clearly, and to suggest fruitful approaches to their solutions, always avoiding facile answers.The second edition of this classic book adds three completely new chapters on consciousness, mental content, and cognitive science, bringing it abreast of current developments. A distinctive viewpoint is adopted, stressing consciousness, but the intention is still to come to grips with theunderlying philosophical problems, accessibly articulating the deep difficulties we face in theorizing about the mind.From the reviews of the first edition: `a very good introduction to the philosophy of mind. . . . written with confidence and authority . . . a fine text for an undergraduate course.' Jonathan Lear, The Times Literary Supplement`a lucid and impressive discussion . . . to be recommended to students and professionals alike . . . brilliant book.' Brian O'Shaughnessy, London Review of Books`clear, stimulating and thought-provoking.' Bernard Harrison, Philosophy`an impressive piece of worktough, elegant, ingenious, argumentative and controversial.' Nicholas Everitt, Times Higher Educational Supplement
The Soul of the World by
Publication Date: 2016-03-22
In The Soul of the World, renowned philosopher Roger Scruton defends the experience of the sacred against today's fashionable forms of atheism. He argues that our personal relationships, moral intuitions, and aesthetic judgments hint at a transcendent dimension that cannot be understood through the lens of science alone. To be fully alive--and to understand what we are--is to acknowledge the reality of sacred things. Rather than an argument for the existence of God, or a defense of the truth of religion, the book is an extended reflection on why a sense of the sacred is essential to human life--and what the final loss of the sacred would mean. In short, the book addresses the most important question of modernity: what is left of our aspirations after science has delivered its verdict about what we are? Drawing on art, architecture, music, and literature, Scruton suggests that the highest forms of human experience and expression tell the story of our religious need, and of our quest for the being who might answer it, and that this search for the sacred endows the world with a soul. Evolution cannot explain our conception of the sacred; neuroscience is irrelevant to our interpersonal relationships, which provide a model for our posture toward God; and scientific understanding has nothing to say about the experience of beauty, which provides a God's-eye perspective on reality. Ultimately, a world without the sacred would be a completely different world--one in which we humans are not truly at home. Yet despite the shrinking place for the sacred in today's world, Scruton says, the paths to transcendence remain open.
What Makes Us Think? by
Publication Date: 2002-02-24
Will understanding our brains help us to know our minds? Or is there an unbridgeable distance between the work of neuroscience and the workings of human consciousness? In a remarkable exchange between neuroscientist Jean-Pierre Changeux and philosopher Paul Ricoeur, this book explores the vexed territory between these divergent approaches--and comes to a deeper, more complex perspective on human nature. Ranging across diverse traditions, from phrenology to PET scans and from Spinoza to Charles Taylor, What Makes Us Think? revolves around a central issue: the relation between the facts (or "what is") of science and the prescriptions (or "what ought to be") of ethics. Changeux and Ricoeur ask: Will neuroscientific knowledge influence our moral conduct? Is a naturally based ethics possible? Pursuing these questions, they attack key topics at the intersection of philosophy and neuroscience: What are the relations between brain states and psychological experience? Between language and truth? Memory and culture? Behavior and action? What is a mental representation? How does a sign relate to what it signifies? How might subjective experience be constructed rather than discovered? And can biological or cultural evolution be considered progressive? Throughout, Changeux and Ricoeur provide unprecedented insight into what neuroscience can--and cannot--tell us about the nature of human experience. Changeux and Ricoeur bring an unusual depth of engagement and breadth of knowledge to each other's subject. In doing so, they make two often hostile disciplines speak to one another in surprising and instructive ways--and speak with all the subtlety and passion of conversation at its very best.