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The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of MindReview - The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind
by Brian P. Mclaughlin, Ansgar Beckermann and Sven Walter (Editors)
Oxford University Press, 2009
Review by Kamuran Godelek, Ph.D.
Sep 29th 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 40)

The philosophy of mind is a core area of philosophy. Although it can be traced back to ancient Greece, where the idea that the soul is distinct from the body is originated, it flourished after the groundbreaking work of Descartes on the philosophy of mind in the 17th century. Since the publication of The Meditations on the First Philosophy, philosophy of mind has developed in two dimensions as both of his successors and also opponents publish excessively. Especially after the fall of behaviorism in the late 1950's and early 1960's and with the rise of cognitive science, the research in the philosophy of mind has been booming, with remarkable advances in psychology and neurosciences. The aim of this volume in the series of the Oxford Handbooks is therefore, twofold: first of all, to serve as a sourcebook on philosophy of mind and a passageway into the vast contemporary literature and secondly, to serve as a stimulus to research in the twenty-first century.

Philosophy of mind, as the editors also stated rightly at the outset has a quite a wide range of topics from changing from psychology to neurosciences, cognitive sciences and to philosophy. Thus, the editors designed this volume in the series of the Oxford Handbooks as a complementary addition to the volumes such as The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Psychology, The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Sciences, The Oxford Handbook of Rationality and The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language. After eliminating the topics that are also covered in these volumes, the editors admit to "have a volume covering a cornucopia of core issues in contemporary philosophy of mind" (p. 2). This 815-pages long volume with 45 specially written, previously unpublished essays by an outstanding international team of contributors covers issues such as the place of mind in nature, the nature of consciousness, the nature of intentionality, the relationship between consciousness and intentionality, subjectivity, mental causation, mental content, propositional attitudes, whether thought requires language, our epistemic access to our own and other minds, folk psychology, personal identity, the unity of consciousness and the nature of the self as well as the theories of mind such as dualism, idealism, physicalism, functionalism and panpsychism and also the leading psychosemantic theories--the leading naturalistic theories of how the contents of mental states are determined. There are, moreover, essays focusing on mental abilities such as the ability to think, to remember, to imagine, to feel emotions, to focus our attention on perceived objects and properties, and to engage in intentional action. The topics covered comprise the heart of contemporary philosophy of mind.

The volume is arranged under six main sections. First section titled The Place of Mind in Nature contains eleven essays. The opening paper by Jaegwon Kim explicates how the problem of mental causation is essentially coeval with the mind-body problem. Following this opening paper, David Papineau presents the considerations in favor of the principle of the causal closure of the physical from a historical perspective, examines ways in which the thesis can be more precise, and explores the connections between the principle and the issue of whether two varieties of naturalism are true. After him, E. J. Lowe, in his essay on dualism, points out that mental-physical dualism comes in two varieties: substance dualism and property dualism. And he discusses both. Sven Walter, in his essay on epiphenomenalism, argues that on all the leading approaches to causation either brain events fail to cause mental events or mental events have causal effects; and so the epiphenomenalist's position may turn out to be incoherent. In her essay on anomalous monism, Julie Yoo presents Donald Davidson's argument for token physicalism, and two of his main lines of argument for psychophysical anomalism. According to Lynne Rudder Baker whose essay is on non-reductive materialism, non-reductive materialism is the view that although every concrete particular is either microphysical or made up entirely of microphysical phenomena, it is nevertheless the case that (1) there are mental properties that are distinct from any physical properties, that (2) mental properties depend on physical properties, and that (3) mental properties make a causal contribution to what happens. Following this, Robert van Gulick discusses the historical roots of functionalist approach to the mind and distinguishes a variety of versions of functionalism. Ansgar Beckermann, in his essay on property physicalism, asks how the doctrine of property physicalism should be formulated, and offers two rival answers to this question. Barbara Montero explores what the physical is in the following essay. Then, in his essay on idealism, Howard Robinson points out that idealism is not a theory about the nature of mind, but rather a theory about the nature of the physical world. In the last essay, William Seager introduces panpsychism.

The second section of the volume titled The Nature of Consciousness and the Place of Consciousness in Nature contains seven essays, first of which is written by John Perry about subjectivity. Following this essay, David M. Rosenthal and Michael Tye introduce higher-order theories of consciousness and representationalist theories of consciousness, respectively. In the third essay, Alex Byrne explores the differences between sensory qualities, sensible qualities and sensational qualities. After Joseph Levine's the explanatory gap, Katalin Balog discusses both the various extant theories of phenomenal concepts and the challenges that remain for proponents of the strategy. In the last essay of the section, David J. Chalmer presents the two-dimensional argument against materialism.

The third section titled Intentionality and Theories of Mental Content contains twelve influential essays starting with Daniel Dennett's intentional systems theory. This section also includes two complementary essays one of which is about the idea that mental content is wide by Frances Egan and the other id that mental content is narrow by Gabriel Segal. J. L. Bermudez's essay is about the distinction between conceptual and nonconceptual content. Fred Dretske's essay on information-theoretic semantics is followed by Ruth Garrett Millikan's essay of biosemantics. Robert j. Matthews discusses in detail a measurement-theoretic account of propositional attitudes and its philosophical implications. Ralph Wedgwood discusses the normativity of the intentional, while Tim Crane embraces Brentano's thesis that all mental phenomena are intentional in his essay. Christopher Peacock, on the other hand points out that the nature of concepts is a controversial issue that interacts with the theory of thought and with fundamental metaphysical and epistemological issues. Michelle Montague addresses the question: what is the content of perceptual experience? In the last essay, authors George Graham, Terence Horgan and John Tienson spell out the separatism/inseparatism debate, present a case for moderate inseparatism and address objections to it.

The fourth section titled Self, Unity of Consciousness and Personal Identity includes an essay by Galen Strawson titled "The Self" followed by Paul Raymont and Adrew Brook's essay about the varieties of unity of consciousness. Tamar S. Gendler, in his essay, addresses issues pertaining to personal identity and metaphysics.

Following section is titled A Variety of Mental Abilities. This section starts with Colin McGinn's essay on imagination which is followed by Louise Antony's essay on thinking and John Heil's on language and thought. Then, John Campbell argues explores the relationship between consciousness and reference. Krista Lawlor, in her essay, provides a wide-ranging survey of recent work in the psychology and in the philosophy of memory. Jesse Prinz discusses emotions as motivating feelings. In the last essay of the section Alfred R. Mele writes about the relationship between intentions and intentional actions.

Last section titled Epistemic Issues contains essays on folk psychology by Adam Morton, on other minds by Anita Avramide, on introspection by Cynthia Macdonalds, on semantic externalism and self-knowledge by Jessica Brown and on self-deception by Kent Bach.

The essays are long and substantive, engaging issues in depth. They aim not only to chart the terrain as concerns a philosophical issue, but also often to argue for particular positions. Given the vastness and broadness of the topics covered in this volume, arranging the essays under six main sections is very helpful. By and large chosen essays in each section complement one another, but the essays can be profitably read in any order, since each of them stands entirely on its own. The volume also includes a very helpful supplementary section to the Table of Contents where the editors provide a glimpse of the material in each of the essays as strictly matter-of-fact summaries.

I think this volume is an excellent introduction to the philosophy of mind by the philosophers of mind, since, as editors noted, "the authors, one and all, do philosophy, rather than simply reporting what contemporary philosophical work has been done on a particular topic. The essays are one and all contributions to the philosophy of mind" (p.3). I believe, this book can be perfectly used as a textbook for any level of Philosophy of Mind course. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind will be an invaluable resource for advanced students and scholars of philosophy, and also researchers in neighboring disciplines seeking a high-level survey of the state of the art in this flourishing field.

 

© 2009 Kamuran Godelek

 

Kamuran Godelek (Assoc. Prof. Dr.), Mersin University, School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy, Ciftlikkoy, Mersin, Turkey


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