The Philosophy of Mind is a fascinating area of study. It concerns fundamental questions about the nature of the self, issues of how our minds and our bodies interact, and the broader questions about the nature of consciousness.
It links to science, in that we experience ourselves as free and outside the series of physical causes that might suggest that everything is completely determined on the physical level. It links also with religion, in that many religious people believe in some form of life after death or reincarnation. Does that make any sense? Is disembodied life possible? How does it relate to our idea of what it is to be a person?
Click here for a really good review of Julian Baggini's book on Free Will by Terry Eagleton, published in the Guardian on April 4th 2015. The book covers many topics relevant to those interested in the Philosophy of Mind, Ethics, the Nature of the Self, Language and Consciousness.
You can get it at a discount from the Guardian bookshop by clicking here, or click the cover image to get it from Amazon.
The 'Hard Problem' of consciousness...
For the last 20 years, David Chalmers' 'Hard Problem' has been central to the Philosophy of Mind. How exactly does neural activity in the brain relate to out actual experience of being conscious? Click here for some of my thoughts on this and some other resources...
Or, to get it from Chalmers himself, try this TED talk, where he outlines his view that consciousness may be both fundamental and universal...
'The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.' - Plutarch
A good starting point for the philosophy of mind!
Am I extracting urine, or is there a serious point to this?
Click the image to find out.
Freedom, determinism and moral responsibility...
How do we understand the nature of freedom and moral responsibility, particularly in the case of those with mental illness? Are we morally responsible if everything we think and do is (even theoretically) predictable? This is not just a question for ethics, it highlights the basic question of whether a determinist view of the findings of neuroscience is compatible with any realistic notion of free will.
A question on this topic and my response is to be found on my blog. Just click here, to go to my blog entry for 12th April 2013.
Emotions and the Philosophy of Mind
I was prompted to think again about the place of the emotions in our mental life by a reader who complained that there was nothing about them in Understand Philosophy of Mind, and who referred to Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, who spoke of us having two minds – one that thinks and one that feels. Read more...
The Ego Trick by Julian Baggini!
I have enjoyed reading The Ego Trick by Julian Baggini, and can highly recommend it. It tackles the old question of how we can remain the same person through all the changes we undergo in life. What is it that makes us who we are?
Written in a clear and direct way, it includes comments from a whole range of thinkers - not just professional philosophers - to which the author adds his personal evaluations and comments. His quest to understand personal identity takes in people as diverse as theologian Richard Swinburne, neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, a Tibetan lama and the most articulate of western Buddhists, Stephen Batchelor, along with many others who recount their experience of the sense of self through changes that may seem to threaten identity, including having a sex change. Although an easy read, there is serious substance here, based on Baggini's Ph.D. research.
The book explores the old question of what it means to be a you, an individual human being. Baggini reviews and examines both the 'pearl' approach to the self (there is a special, unique 'me' inside here somewhere) and the 'bundle' view (that we are a bundle of mental events, made possible by the brain, which come together to make us who we are - an idea that goes back to early Buddhism), which he favours. The 'ego trick' of the title is the way in which the various parts of this animated, thinking, feeling body, give the sense of being a unique self. He also explores the related issues of life after death and the future of the self.
I've not expressed any of that well, nor done justice to his arguments... Julian does it all far better, and you need to read the book to appreciate the depth that lies beneath his easy style. Click the box on the right to order from Amazon in the UK or here to order it from Amazon.com in the USA.
[Although approaching the subject differently, and suggesting a model (through memory and 'mapping') for the way we develop the 'trick' that is our sense of self, there are some interesting parallels here with my own book Me. Click on the box top right for more information about that book and others in the Art of Living series.]
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