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This is an excellent collection of contemporary papers in philosophy of mind. It is well suited for undergraduate courses in philosophy of mind and may even serve as one of the texts for introductory graduate courses. Especially, in the former case, it should be supplemented with some good introductory text.
1. What draws one's attention to the book immediately is the choice of four main issues that have been the focus of contemporary discussions: (i) the nature of the mind (dualism, behaviorism, type-identity theory, functionalism, eliminativism and instrumentalism), (ii) theories of mental content (LOT, externalism, causal/covariance theories, conceptual role theories, teleological theories), (iii) mental causation (the problem of supervenience and causation and the problem of epiphenomenalism) and (iv) consciousness (including papers by Nagel, Jackson, Chalmers and Flanagan). The selections are usually balanced by at least one dissenting paper, though the discussions rarely come close to covering the whole spectrum of responses.
One is so enchanted by the selection that one is almost willing to forget that philosophers of mind have also discussed emotions, the unconscious, psychopathology, agency, neural networks, introspective knowledge, the interpretation theory of the mental, etc. etc. But this is not a drawback. Such topics can be dealt with in other courses and, in some cases, there is enough material in the texts as they are to allow for a cursory/parenthetical mention of those topics. Everyone will no doubt want to add some of their favorites pieces anyway. No collection could be reasonably expected to prevent that. Some of the papers would require some more editing though. On p. 589, for example, Chalmers refers to "Chapter 1" but he does not mean either Meditation II or VI, I think. (Incidentally, the omission of Meditation I is pedagogically disconcerting.)
2. Jack Crumley, aside from selecting, organizing and editing the papers also contributes (1) a general introduction, (2) introductory essays to each of the four parts, (3) introductory paragraphs to each of the papers, (4) reading questions and (5) a glossary. I approached these in an enthusiastic mood, initially thinking that the only drawback is the lack of introductory essays to the sections grouped within a part (say, it would be helpful to have a few words about dualism, which would relay not only the major points of the three selections included in that section and possibly sketch the terrain more broadly, but would also explain very briefly how some other selections in the book bear on the issue.) But my enthusiasm waned quickly.
I found the introductory essays in general rather disappointing. With exceptions, they seemed to lack a clear organization and focus. Sometimes the discussion would meander at crucial points (this happened in the middle of a basic characterization of the concept of physicalism, for example). One could also raise some serious questions about the content. I will focus on one such issue later (see section 4, below). One virtue of the essays is that Crumley seems to be in tune with the beginner's state of mind and language, which is extremely rare in this profession. For example, he comments on the peculiar technical meaning of concepts such as logical possibility and even the concept of a state of mind. (However, he forgets to note the peculiar lack of the expected terminological connotations of the term 'intentionality'.)
The idea behind the introductory paragraphs preceding each paper was by and large good. They are to give students a succinct description of the general point and structure of the paper in question as well as to explain any concepts they might not be familiar with. The first function is realized much better than the second. The paragraphs are no more than paragraphs and the essays are rich in difficult concepts. Moreover, some additional editorial work would be helpful. For example, Selection #14 contains an extensive discussion of the Chinese Room problem, which already presupposes some acquaintance with it. While it might be a little hard to present a good enough description of the problem in one paragraph, it is easy enough to mention that the Chinese Room argument is in fact clearly presented by Searle himself in Selection #30.
The glossary is poor. It contains 33 entries, which is astonishing in a book with 51 selections on over 600 two-column pages. The choice of entries appears to be arbitrary, dictated by extraneous factors and at any rate oblivious to the old pedagogical wisdom that one of the best ways to explain a concept is by contrast. And so, for example, the glossary contains such terms as 'type-identity theory' but not 'token-identity theory', 'physicalism' but not 'idealism', 'dualism' but not 'monism', etc. I suspect that my ism-phobic students would develop a phobia peculiar to this glossary as did I when I failed to find such terms as 'epiphenomenalism', 'reductive materialism', 'non-reductive materialism', 'instrumentalism', and so on and so forth. Aside from obvious additions that would be required, it would be particularly helpful (and certainly a big surprise to all students who took at least one course with reprinted papers by contemporary authors) to have a glossary of all technical and "strange" terms appearing in all the papers. It would be best if they were marked by the convention Crumley uses in his introductory materials, viz. by boldface (by the way, the convention ought to be explained somewhere).
3. I want to turn to what I consider to be a structural, substantive and pedagogical shortcoming of the collection, viz. its treatment of the token-identity theories of the mental and Davidson's anomalous monism in particular.
Crumley introduces the problem of mental causation as a separate issue - divorced from the discussion of Davidson's anomalous monism. I remain unconvinced that this is a good idea. After all, the discussion centers around the specter of epiphenomenalism for which Davidson's theory is responsible. (Incidentally, Frederick Stoutland's "The Causation of Behavior" was the first to raise this objection to Davidson's theory. His work is neither cited nor acknowledged in any of the selected works not even by the editor.) Of course, the problem of mental causation has been there for a long time. However, the form it takes for a Cartesian dualism, say, is very different from the form it takes for a Davidsonian monist. One might reasonably claim that they are different problems.
The structure that seems to be most natural is to include anomalous monism under the various responses to the problem of the nature of mental states and include the discussion of epiphenomenalism and mental causation as a response to that theory. Whatever other reasons there may be for the existing separation, the suggested alternative ought to be at least acknowledged in one of the introductory essays.
4. In fact, I have serious questions about Crumley's more detailed treatment of token-identity theories in his introductory essays. He is under the impression that he covers token-identity theories by covering functionalism. (He says at one point that "virtually all functionalists are token-identity theorists" (16). Well, many are. But many are not - including very prominent ones as e.g. David Lewis, whose paper is included in the collection.) While this might explain why token-identity theories are not given a separate subsection in the progression of the views on the nature of the mental, it does not excuse the cursory introduction to the very idea (and a very difficult idea at that) of such a theory.
After a discussion of the type-identity theory where Crumley makes the distinction between types and tokens and assures the reader that type-identity theories are concerned with identities between mental and physical types, Crumley ventures into the discussion of functionalism. The term 'token-identity theory' is first introduced in the already quoted sentence on p. 16. What follows hardly begins to provide a pedagogically lucid explanation or even a proper explanation. In the two sentences that follow the concept of a mental state seems to merge imperceptibly with the concept of a mental property, and the concept of a type with that of a token.
What raised my hair is the following exemplification of the thought that mental types need not line up with physical types: "Thus, my dog and I both may have the same type of visual sensation, yet (thankfully) have very different brain states" (16). I am not trying to put down attempts to liven up philosophical prose (many of the selections are wonderful pieces of writing in addition to being close to impeccable) but here I just fail to understand.
The most charitable way to interpret this is as a task that Crumley gives to an intelligent student. After having (not fully) explained that various claims may be ambiguous between referring to types and to tokens, he invites the student to ask herself: Does he mean "very different brain state" types or tokens?
Suppose that he means "very different brain state types". A worthwhile hypothesis since this would seem to exemplify the preceding claim. So, "my dog and I may have the same type of visual sensation, yet (thankfully) have very different brain state types." But why exactly am I to be thankful? Charitable person that I try to be, I don't think that Crumley means to appeal to species chauvinism. And in any case, token-identity theories are surely not only committed to the possibility of type-mismatches across species lines. Type-identities may not even survive temporal lines within the same person: the same type of visual experience my be realized by distinct types of states in my brain. So, I am with the student if she does not get the humor.
Try the alternative hypothesis. Suppose that Crumley means "very different brain state tokens": "My dog and I may have the same type of visual sensation, yet (thankfully) have very different brain state tokens." Thanks indeed! I think I would be really scared of the very task to conceive of a metaphysics that would allow a token-identity between any bodily state of mine and my dog's. (I don't even like the fission and fusion metaphysics much.) But exactly who claims that this would be a possibility? Since the intelligent student may have been informed in class that token-identities are weaker, she may reasonably come to the absurd conclusion that this a commitment of type-identity theories. "What? I am so confused!"
It goes without saying that I am fully sympathetic with that reaction. My advice to the students would be not to read the introductory essays at least until I could filter out such treacherous paragraphs. But then the value of such an agglomerate would be questionable.
5. This is a valuable collection and will find many willing to adopt it in their Philosophy of Mind courses. In its second edition, however, the editor must completely rewrite the introductory essays. Such texts are a valuable source to the students. As they stand, they are at best unhelpful.
Katarzyna Paprzycka is a full-time mother, teaching part-time at the University of Southern Mississippi.Buy this book from Barnes & Noble.com: click here!.