Brainchildren: Essays on Designing Minds

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Minds are complex artifacts, partly biological and partly social; only a unified, multidisciplinary approach will yield a realistic theory of how they came into existence and how they work. One of the foremost workers in this multidisciplinary field is Daniel Dennett. This book brings together his essays on the philosphy of mind, artificial intelligence, and cognitive ethology that appeared in inaccessible journals from 1984 to 1996. Highlights include "Can Machines Think?," "The Unimagined Preposterousness of Zombies," "Artificial Life as Philosophy," and "Animal Consciousness: What Matters and Why." Collected in a single volume, the essays are now available to a wider audience.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea and Consciousness Explained here collects essays from conference volumes and "specialized journals" that have appeared from 1984 to 1996, with the idea of making them available "for students and other readers." But any reader curious about the nuts and bolts of recent theories of mind and our attempts at modeling it will find even Dennett's technical side accessible enough, given a willingness to be occasionally thrown in medias res. The lead essay, "Can Machines Think?" is a clearly formulated reassessment of current contenders for passing the Turing testthe criterion by which thinking machines are judged. "Speaking for Our Selves" evaluates claims for the legitimacy of multiple personality disorder, and extends the discussion into questioning the notion of selfhood. "Real Patterns," which Dennett calls "utterly central to my thinking," is tougher going, as Dennett seems to be addressing an ongoing dispute among philosophers about what it might mean for a belief to be "real," but the essay rewards repeated reading. A section on animal cognition and one on the philosophical possibility of zombies are further draws, but many of the other essays and reviews will hold interest only for the specialist. Throughout, however, Dennett's careful attention to word choice and definition helps the uninitiated along, and reveals one of our most celebratedand controversialphilosophers of mind at work. (Mar.)
Scientific American
Dennett has got in among my prejudices and changed my mind; this book has opened up new areas of contention for me. This man improves my universe and yours. Enjoy him. - Jack Cohen
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262540902
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 2/6/1998
  • Series: Representation and Mind series
  • Pages: 430
  • Sales rank: 1,051,126
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel C. Dennett is University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. He is the author of Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology, Brainchildren: Essays on Designing Minds, Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness, all published by the MIT Press, and other books.

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Table of Contents

1 Can Machines Think? 3
2 Speaking for Our Selves 31
3 Do-It-Yourself Understanding 59
4 Two Contrasts: Folk Craft versus Folk Science, and Belief versus Opinion 81
5 Real Patterns 95
6 Julian Jaynes's Software Archeology 121
7 Real Consciousness 131
8 Instead of Qualia 141
9 The Practical Requirements for Making a Conscious Robot 153
10 The Unimagined Preposterousness of Zombies: Commentary on Moody, Flanagan, and Polger 171
11 Cognitive Wheels: The Frame Problem of AI 181
12 Producing Future by Telling Stories 207
13 The Logical Geography of Computational Approaches: A View from the East Pole 215
14 Hofstadter's Quest: A Tale of Cognitive Pursuit 235
15 Foreword to Robert French, The Subtlety of Sameness 243
16 Cognitive Science as Reverse Engineering: Several Meanings of "Top-Down" and "Bottom-Up" 249
17 Artificial Life as Philosophy 261
18 When Philosophers Encounter Artificial Intelligence 265
19 Review of Allen Newell, Unified Theories of Cognition 277
20 Out of the Armchair and into the Field 289
21 Cognitive Ethology: Hunting for Bargains or a Wild Goose Chase 307
22 Do Animals Have Beliefs? 323
23 Why Creative Intelligence Is Hard to Find: Commentary on Whiten and Byrne 333
24 Animal Consciousness: What Matters and Why 337
25 Self-Portrait 355
26 Information, Technology, and the Virtues of Ignorance 367
Bibliography 385
Index 401
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