Introduction to Philosophy/Philosophy of Mind

The philosophy of mind is about the form and content of our thoughts, and how and why we come to think them. Understanding the philosophy of mind gives us some fairly universally applicable rules to understand ourselves, other people, animals and even computers.

Philosophy of mind covers similar domains to psychology, artificial and non-artificial (synthetics) intelligence, developmental and non-developmental psychology, evolutionary and non-evolutionary psychology, evolutionary and non-evolutionary developmental psychology, forensics and non-forensics-based developmental psychology, developmental and non-developmental neuropsychology, epistemology, etymology, phenomenology, anthropology, ethnography, sociology and psychiatry, and helps us look at these disciplines within a specifically philosophical context. There is now growing evidence of a computational theory of mind.

You can either look at things in a hermetic (closed) or empirical (open) way.

Philosophy of mind is closely connected to cognitive psychology. It is connected also to neuroscience, which is still attempting to sort out (once and for all) whether our minds and our brains are separate.

Questions one may ask are: 'What is the difference between reality and illusion?', 'How is the mind related to the body, or to physical things in general?', 'How do I know that other minds exist?' In studying these questions one might start with Descartes' Meditations, then go on to study George Berkeley, Edmund Husserl and Gilbert Ryle, to mention just one or two.

Further questions include: 'What, if anything, is the "subconscious"?' If this cannot be put on a sound footing, how do we talk about 'self deception'? 'What, if anything, is "mental illness"?'

Another area of philosophy of mind that grew during the second half of the 20th Century is artificial intelligence. The Turing test challenges us to say whether we are talking to a human being or to a computer. People have been developing computers to the point where these tools could be said to have minds. Perhaps they will think autonomously.

Philosophy of mind can be expressed as 'thoughts about thoughts'.

Reading List


Wikibook on Consciousness Studies : pursues the problem of mind from Aristotle to fMRI.

Descartes, R. Meditations on First Philosophy

Kim, Jaegwon. "Philosophy of Mind" Westview, 2006.

Ryle, G. The Concept of Mind 1949

Turing, A. 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence' Mind 1950, pp. 433-460

Searle, J. The Rediscovery of the Mind 1992

Sternberg, E. Are You a Machine? 2007

also see Thinking And Moral Problems [[1]] Further Inquiries into Philosophy of Mind involve questions of whether specific thoughts or activities of the mind such as perception of color or feeling pain can be identified, in a strict sense, with the physical brain event which corresponds to such mental activities, or whether there is a distinction between the two. See Saul Kripke's "Naming and Necessity".