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Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  171 ratings  ·  18 reviews

How is life related to the mind? The question has long confounded philosophers and scientists, and it is this so-called explanatory gap between biological life and consciousness that Evan Thompson explores in Mind in Life.

Thompson draws upon sources as diverse as molecular biology, evolutionary theory, artificial life, complex systems theory, neuroscience, psychology, C

Hardcover, 1st edition, 568 pages
Published April 28th 2007 by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
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The questions being asked in this fascinating volume are "what kind of entity can be said to be a mental entity" or "what has a mind and what doesn't", but also "where is mind - where does it begin and end?" Evan Thompson sets out to show that living things are synonymous with mental things drawing from molecular biology, evolutionary theory, neuroscience, complex systems theory, psychology, phenomenology, and analytic philosophy. Following Gregory Bateson and Francisco Varela before him, Thomps ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
This book combines the neutral monist position for the mind-body problem which I think is a rather neat solution for the hard problem and the concept of goal seeking autocatalytic networks for life and consciousness to be possible. It restrains neutral monism and phenomenology to right candidates sufficiently complex systems like glorious mammals such as ourselves. The concept is autopoiesis which limits consciousness and keeps the idea consciousness from sliding into something like panpsychism. ...more
Bob Nichols
Jul 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Thompson argues against “genocentrism” and also against those cognitive scientists who overly separate the mind from the body. In the former perspective, life is more or less a passive vehicle, acted upon by forces outside the “self.” Behavior is determined by random mutation and natural selection, and information related to the outside world is encoded genetically. In the latter, the self is isolated from “intersubjectivity” and culture.

In contrast to this implicit determinism, Thompson stress
Nati S
I have read a handful of books regarding the study of mind, brain, body and their interactions. This one was unique. It was academic, well structured, comprehensive and ambitious. I can't say I understood it all, but I'm glad that I read it as it exposed me to a comprehensive way of looking at consciousness.
Karim Kadry
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Intellectual Thunderbolt
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book does a fantastic job at dissolving mind-body dualism in a way that is not only philosophically satisfying, but also scientifically so. In dissolving this dualism, it also succeeds at giving a rigorously naturalistic account of mind that supports phenomenological theories, especially those of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. These philosophers' existential claims about intersubjectivity, emotions, and culture might seem feathery and romantic, but Thompson gives them a new grounding in qualita ...more
Chant Cowen
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It is almost if Merleau-Ponty had taken his phenomenology and mixed in more biology, you would get this book! A fantastic philosophy of mind/cognitive science book for anyone wanting a book that doesn't just touch on the typical anayltic philosophy of mind topics but also delves into the world of biology/neuroscience and phenomenology!
steven caro
Fascinating subject, tortuous writing. Admittedly, I don't care for the way systems thinkers present their thoughts. I prefer Neurophilosophy by Patricia Churchland.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Phenomenal book, though difficult, about mind, consciousness and awareness. It covers the philosophical tradition of phenomenology dominant before computers, and the latest in computer-intensive modern neuroscience, with its reliance on MRI and fMRI.

This covers an area that I have studied for years, so I have a background in much of the science, but it was slow reading, though rewarding. I've never had anyone explain phenomenology in an understandable way, indicating that they don't really unde
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book offering detailed accounts of an embodied and enactive mind. Thompson brings to life his theory of autopoeisis and combines it with a dynamical systems view which coupled to our environment, brings mind to life as a coupled experience. Truly revolutionary thought, insights and explanations.
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book for everyone interested in consciousness, biology, dynamic systems, and the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty. Very well explained and detailed, but still a philosophy book with big words. Anyone concerned with duality and the explanatory/consciousness gap will be rewarded.
Oct 19, 2012 rated it liked it

Very intense, scholarly work. At times, I was completely lost in analysis of philosophers and philosophies that I thought I knew. A number of times I simply moved on. Can't recommend it more highly, simply because I feel I did not grasp many of the finer points that true students of philosophy probably got on first reading.
Jul 19, 2011 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
so far, really great!
Ted Stark
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wide ranging, large in scope, richly supported,rigorous. I was delighted with it and will be likely to refer to it again.
Aug 22, 2009 added it
An excellent compilation and review of the latest thinking and literature on phenomenology, consciousness. Possibly panpsychist?
Eli Brooke
Oct 12, 2012 marked it as did-not-finish
Little bit too academic in tone, couldn't hold my attention, though the subject matter is definitely intriguing.
Apr 06, 2010 marked it as to-read
great think on consciousness and embodiment; recommended by John Kowalko
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