Friday, August 24, 2012
Review: Mind: A Brief Introduction
Mind: A Brief Introduction by John Rogers Searle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
While this book was not what I expected nor what the title seems to advertise, I was pleasantly surprised and immensely enjoyed reading it. Based upon the title (and no additional research), I assumed that this book would indeed by "a brief introduction" to the philosophy of mind. I expected something like a "Philosophy of Mind for Dummies" approach as is typical of such books and set out to introduce myself to the topic. Within the first chapter, however, I encountered the lament of the author that he is not able to simply inform his students and readers of the truth (as he sees it, though he wouldn't acknowledge that point) but instead must tell them about the other opinions and the history of those opinions. Any introduction that starts that way is no longer an introduction. That said, Searle does, in a sense, and certainly with a great deal of bias, introduce us to many of the most important issues in the philosophy of mind. He does so, of course, in a way that will lead us to his own opinion and, he hopes, convince us of it, but he does introduce nonetheless.
Having said all of that, I do think that Searle's approach is a very interesting one that is perhaps one of the best (that is, one with the fewest problems) approaches within philosophy of mind today. He seeks to overcome the historical categories and diametric opposites such as "dualism" and "materialism" and instead posit a sort of "third way" which he views as the common sense approach in between the two extremes. While this is clever and, as I've already said, leads us out of many of the problems of dualism and materialism, I think that it also brings his ideas into an area which suffers from many of the same problems as dualism and materialism. That is, while avoiding certain problems of each philosophy, he has taken on certain problems from both.
Overall, this book is an excellent and very readable read (which is saying a lot for a book on the philosophy of mind; "readable" is rarely an apt description for works on such a subject). I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the philosophy of mind and especially anyone who wasn't lost the child's ability to question things that everyone else just takes for granted.
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