Part Of: Philosophy of Mind sequence
Content Summary: 500 words, 5 min reading time
Let me now review this textbook, which I recently had the pleasure of reading.
My Overall Impressions
A thorough survey of philosophy of mind. I enjoyed the author’s style, particularly his accessible vocabulary and propensity for explicitly communicating premises of the more involved bits of argumentation.
This textbook is unusual insofar as it presents novel content, as opposed to only synthesizing current knowledge. In a surprising move, Jaworski devotes two out of eleven chapters exploring an idiosyncratic version of hylomorphism. While regrettably diverting attention from other under-explored areas, I found Jaworski’s blend of Aristotelian and embodied cognition traditions to be worth reading.
The book opens with a taxonomic bang, sporting a graphical enumeration of different theories of mind, along with their interrelationships and metaphysical assumptions. Here are the ten leading theories, along with their key beliefs.
We can organize these theories into the following taxonomy:
Here Jaworski does the necessary work of painting the philosophical landscape within which all theories of mind reside. He begins by discussing three problems that theories of mind tend to gravitate towards:
- The Problem Of Psychophysical Emergence: “how did mental activity appear within the sparse, particulate sea of the universe?”
- The Problem Of Other Minds: “how do people infer facts about the private mental lives of others?”
- The Problem Of Mental Causation: “how do mental phenomena affect physical phenomena?”
While these problems motivate mental theories, they do not prepare the reader for the breadth of discussions within the literature. In this light, the mental-physical distinction is explored, as are questions of first-person authority, subjectivity, qualia, mental representation, intentionality, and other topics.
Substance dualism is discussed. This chapter was unusually well structured, perhaps on account of the length of time that society has countenances its subject. Supporting arguments, grounded in modal conceivability-possibility links, proved inconclusive. Counter arguments (problems of other minds, of interaction, of explanatory impotence) extract the following concessions:
- Denying knowledge of the mental states of others.
- Discarding conservation of energy *or* mental-physical causation.
- Rejecting the need to explain mental-physical correlations.”
The physicalist worldview is introduced, with some overlap with philosophy of science giants like Hempel. Only eleven pages are devoted to exploring theories of consciousness, including first-order-representation, higher-order-perception, higher-order-thought, and sensorimotor ideas.
Reductive, non-reductive, and other specific physicalist theories are treated. The author was not shy about marshalling arguments against the current philosophic consensus that is realization physicalism. Multiple-Realizability arguments prominently featured in the discussion; I especially enjoyed the typology-based reductivist responses to the MRT.
Dual-Attribute Theory, and other specific non-physicalist theories are treated. An interesting discussion of Dennett’s and Wittgenstein’s arguments against qualia spiced the presentation.
Jaworski’s brand of hylomorphism is presented, along with a related hylomorphic theory of mind. While Aristotelean approaches are becoming more popular within philosophy – notably philosophy of biology – there exists an uncomfortable lack of exposition into its tenets which these chapters help to fill. I found the connections with Morleau-Ponty’s empirical phenomenology, and modern embodied cognition theorists like Noe and Regan, to be a helpful inspiration for future research.
Despite the few targeted criticisms above, I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to efficiently absorb philosophy of mind material.