This book presents a way of understanding thought as a formal system. It doesn't so much "argue" for that position as teach you a lot of logic, math,This book presents a way of understanding thought as a formal system. It doesn't so much "argue" for that position as teach you a lot of logic, math, AI, and even a little neuroscience and genetics to give you the tools to understand this. That said, GEB is obviously not so much for those who a) already understand the afore-mentioned fields and/or b) already accept the main thesis of the book. I fall squarely within category b), and have some background in the topics mentioned in category a), although not enough that this book wasn't worth reading. Having worked in the past to understand Gödel, I came away from GEB with a much deeper understanding of the proof itself and related concepts in math/logic. And while I didn't need convincing that thought is basically a property of a formal system, Hofstadter's outlook on this is enough to give the most insightful cognitive scientist some food for thought....more
This is the best book I've read all week (never mind that it's the only book I've read this week). While not philosophy, it should be required for allThis is the best book I've read all week (never mind that it's the only book I've read this week). While not philosophy, it should be required for all philosophers who talk about rationality and agency, as well as social scientists, and for that matter everyone. Ariely gives concise and clear descriptions of his experiments going back several years, and extrapolates general forces affecting our choices and motivations. These vary from findings that basically prove what should be common sense (SURPRISE! 20-year old males show impaired judgment when aroused!), to effects that are genuinely surprising (did you know people are almost twice as likely to cheat when the payoff is non-monetary?). Ariely also tries to use these findings to give practical advice for how we can counteract these affects in our decision-making, pointing out that awareness can help but that, like optical illusions, we may not be able to avoid their influence. I picked this up randomly on Saturday and finished 5 days later; if you're not in law school you can probably do it in 2 - and I would highly recommend you do....more
it's hard to say what possessed me to read this book now of all times. some people will know that i've read most of ray jackendoff's Patterns in the Mit's hard to say what possessed me to read this book now of all times. some people will know that i've read most of ray jackendoff's Patterns in the Mind, which covers a lot of the same ground, and i've also taken/audited courses on semantic/syntactic theory with ray, so why read pinker?
while confirming a lot of things any casual student of cognitive/psycho-linguistics will already know by now, pinker is still definitely worth reading, and in this book he's at his finest. he explains the basic ideas with simplicity and grace, in a way that won't be tedious even when the general concepts are familiar (though real linguists might be bored). and of course, this is pop science, so pinker steps back to capture the big picture now and again, tying together the strands of current research (c. 1995) into a coherent picture of mind, brain, language, and evolution.
i'd have to say that the most valuable thing i gained from reading pinker was the way he adeptly handled the most contentious issues in this field. he makes a clear case for the core of chomskyan theory, without hesitating to draw lines where chomsky is wrong. he engages with some of the prevalent speculation about language evolution, challenging a number of widely-held beliefs. he takes a stand against the desire to find human-like language in other animals, noting that 1) it's just not there and 2) to insist that we need to find human language in order to elevate other animals to our stature is chauvinistic in the extreme.
basically, i'm sorry i didn't read this book in fall of 2004, when i first started thinking seriously about these issues and could have gained the most from it. but i have no regrets at all about reading it now....more
Metzinger's work is some of the most exciting philosophy I've read recently. The Ego Tunnel is a short restatement of Metzinger's view of consciousnesMetzinger's work is some of the most exciting philosophy I've read recently. The Ego Tunnel is a short restatement of Metzinger's view of consciousness (first laid out in his massive Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity, bits of which I've read) in a more approachable format. The exposition is broken up by interviews with researchers on different aspects of consciousness, whose views sometimes diverge from the picture Metzinger paints.
What distinguishes Metzinger from other philosophers doing cog-sci influenced philosophy of mind is his openness of the wide implications of these ideas. His last chapters sketch how we could create a new kind of ethics built on our revised understanding of the nature of experience. In this book he only gestures at what this might look like, but the scope of his philosophical outlook is extraordinarily wide....more