- This is a book of thirteen essays, eleven of which were previously published between 1979 and 1993. Divided into four groups – Mind, Matter, Meaning, Truth – the unifying theme is understanding or "making sense of things." John Haugeland is one of the most thoughtful philosophers in cognitive science. Although he is sympathetic with the aim of understanding the mind scientifically, he is by no means formulaic. Taking inspiration from Kant and Heidegger, he proposes a "new existentialism," a philosophy of mind and of science that focuses on people, whose cognitive capacities are assumed to differ in kind, not just in degree, from those of other mammals and machines (so far). People are distinguished from non-people by existential commitment, i.e., their ability to recognize and take responsibility for the norms and skills with which they cope with things. Existential commitment is the condition for the possibility of understanding. Together, these essays add up to a deep exploration of the nature of understanding and of how people are capable of understanding.
- Since I cannot do justice to the subtlety and richness of these essays in the space available, I shall remark briefly on the four most recent essays, those in the last section, "Truth."
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