The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul: A Philosophical Journey into the Brain

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Overview

A new picture of the mind is emerging, and explanations now exist for what has so long seemed mysterious. This real understanding of how the biological brain works -- of how we work -- has generated a mood of excitement that is shared in a half-dozen intersecting disciplines. Philosopher Paul Churchland, who is widely known as a gifted teacher and expository writer, explains these scientific developments in a simple, authoritative, and pictorial fashion. He not only opens the door into the ongoing research of the neurobiological and connectionist communities but goes further, probing the social and moral dimensions of recent experimental results that assign consciousness to all but the very simplest forms of animals.In a fast-paced, entertaining narrative, replete with examples and numerous explanatory illustrations, Churchland brings together an exceptionally broad range of intellectual issues. He summarizes new results from neuroscience and recent work with artificial neural networks that together suggest a unified set of answers to questions about how the brain actually works; how it sustains a thinking, feeling,
dreaming self; and how it sustains a self-conscious person.Churchland first explains the science -- the powerful role of vector coding in sensory representation and pattern recognition, artificial neural networks that imitate parts of the brain,
recurrent networks, neural representation of the social world, and diagnostic technologies and therapies for the brain in trouble. He then explores the far-reaching consequences of the current neurocomputational understanding of mind for our philosophical convictions, and for our social, moral, legal, medical, and personal lives.Churchland's wry wit and skillful teaching style are evident throughout. He introduces the remarkable representational power of a single human brain, for instance, via a captivating brain/World-Trade-Tower TV screen analogy.
"Who can be watching this pixilated show?" Churchland queries; the answer is a provocative "no one." And he has included a folded stereoscopic viewer, attached to the inside back cover of the book, that readers can use to participate directly in several revealing experiments concerning stereo vision.A Bradford Book

This fast-paced, entertaining narrative, replete with examples and numerous explanatory illustrations, brings together an exceptionally broad range of intellectual issues, summarizing new results from neuroscience and recent work with artificial neural networks that together suggest a unified set of answers to questions about how the brain actually works. 89 illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Luciano da Fontoura Costa
...[U]ndeniably a well motivated and clearly written book.
Psyche
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262531429
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/1996
  • Series: Bradford Books Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 343
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
1 Introduction 3
2 Sensory Representation: The Incredible Power of Vector Coding 21
3 Vector Processing: How It Works and Why It Is Essential 35
4 Artificial Neural Networks: Imitating Parts of the Brain 57
5 Recurrent Networks: The Conquest of Time 97
6 The Neural Representation of the Social World 123
7 The Brain in Trouble: Cognitive Dysfunction and Mental Illness 151
8 The Puzzle of Consciousness 187
9 Could an Electronic Machine Be Conscious? 227
10 Language, Science, Politics, and Art 253
11 Neurotechnology and Human Life 299
Selected Bibliography 325
Index 327
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2000

    Lacks convincing thesis of phenomenal qualia

    I read Churchland's book recently as part of his 'Philosophy of Mind' course at UCSD, so I benefited from extensive lectures and conversations with the author. 'Engine of Reason...' offers an excellent overview of current neuroscience and does a suitable job of explaining how the brain processes sensory information and gives rise to various brain states. What Churchland does not do, however, is provide a convincing account of WHY these brain states are _experienced_ in a particular way. That is, he can explain neurobiologically how the brain detects and differentiates colors, but not WHY the experience of the color red is like THIS rather than like THAT. These 'phenomenal qualia' are the elusive element of consciousness that cognitive science and philosophy are struggling with, so far without much success. Read 'Engine of Reason', then read another point of view (perhaps David Chalmer's 'The Conscious Mind') to get some idea of the wide variety of approaches to the problem of consciousness.

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