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- This book is an introductory survey of philosophy of mind, with brief incursions into the overlapping and adjoining field of philosophy of psychology. It covers many of the central issues currently debated in the field in a way that is intended to be accessible to those without a formal background in philosophy.
- But the distance between what one hopes and what one actually has to settle for can be great, and I will have to leave it to the reader to judge to what extent I have been successful. In the course of writing this book, I was constantly reminded of what Sir Peter Strawson once said, namely, that there is no such thing as "elementary philosophy." It has remained my intention – and hope – though, to present the issues, claims, and arguments concerning the mind in a way that will make them intelligible, interesting, and challenging to beginning students of philosophy as well as those who are first coming to the philosophy of mind with some general philosophical background. I hope, too, that those with some familiarity with the field will also find something of interest here.
- A book like this must deal with a number of diverse topics that are closely connected and yet relatively independent of one another. This has affected the structure of the book in two ways:
- First, it seemed to me desirable to make each chapter as self-sufficient as possible so that it could be read as an independent essay on the issues under discussion. To accomplish this I thought it important to preserve, within each chapter, as much narrative continuity and flow of argument as possible.
- Second, in the course of pursuing this goal, I have found it desirable, and sometimes even necessary, to tolerate some overlap and repetition of material from chapter to chapter; for example, issues concerning mental causation1, mind-body supervenience2, content, qualia, and reduction are discussed in various places, and similar or closely related points and arguments make more than one appearance throughout the book.
- Over the past two decades or so, philosophy of mind has been an unusually active and exciting area. The field has grown enormously, and I believe there have been significant advances in our understanding of the issues concerning the mind. A large body of literature has built up during this period, and the rate of research publication shows no signs of abating. In part this boom has been due to the impetus provided by the explosive growth, since around mid-century, of "cognitive science" – a loosely allied group of disciplines, including psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence3, with aspirations to enhance the scientific understanding of mentality. This has, to some extent (some will say fundamentally), changed the character of philosophy of mind, and there are areas where philosophical work on the nature of mind is continuous with scientific work. These include such topics as mental representation, mental imagery, rationality and decisiorimaking, language and language acquisition, the nature of "folk psychology" and its relationship to systematic psychology, and the controversy concerning classical artificial intelligence4 and connectionism. A separate volume devoted to philosophy of psychology and cognitive science is needed to provide proper coverage of these topics (such a volume, I understand, is forthcoming in the Dimensions of Philosophy series). In this book I have tried to stay with the issues that are standardly and traditionally regarded as falling squarely within philosophy of mind rather than those that emerge primarily from the recent developments in the sciences.
- I am indebted to Marian David and Fred Feldman, who have given me helpful comments on earlier versions of various chapters. Lynne Rudder Baker and John Heil, who read the manuscript for Westview, provided me with many useful comments and suggestions that have improved the book. …
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