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Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines Lecture

Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines

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Publisher's Summary

The quest to understand the mind has motivated some of history's most profound thinkers. But only in our own time are we beginning to see the true complexity of this quest, as today's philosophers draw on the latest evidence from neuroscience, psychology, artificial intelligence, linguistics, and other fields to probe deeply into the inner workings of the mind.

These 24 stimulating lectures from an award-winning teacher and honored scholar present a clear, systematic, and compelling introduction to the philosophy of mind, exploring all of the major theories, including: Dualism, which holds that body and mind are separate substances; Behaviorism and Functionalism, which stress behavior and interactions with the world as clues to the mind's inner workings;. Idealism, the view that the physical world is an illusion and that only the mental realm exists; and the "antitheories" of mind, which posit that subjective mental experiences are fundamentally inexplicable and will always remain a mystery.

Examining the most intriguing questions and influential theories in what can often be a complex and often controversial intellectual terrain, Professor Grim sorts out the different approaches to give you the pros and cons of each.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses

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  •  
    Paul Hylander Plano, TX 06-16-16
    Paul Hylander Plano, TX 06-16-16 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not much meat to this course"

    The narrator was good and I enjoyed listening to him. But at the end I did not feel I got much out of the course. It really just seemed to be a series of comparisons between various theories with much time spent on theories that have been for the most part thrown out. I was hoping that the course would spend most of its time delving into the most current theories and really explaining what the state of the art is on thinking, mind, and consciousness. But if that is what you area looking for, you will be disappointed.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert H. Stier, Jr. Cape Elizabeth, ME USA 06-21-17
    Robert H. Stier, Jr. Cape Elizabeth, ME USA 06-21-17 Member Since 2012
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    "One of the best courses ever"
    What did you love best about Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines?

    Few courses are able to combine such a thorough investigation of the subject matter, accessible and fascinating explanations of complex ideas, and an engaging lecture style. This is one. Highly recommended.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Placing the investigation of consciousness at the end of the lectures was very helpful. By that time, we had already investigated the important background subject matter.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. Way too dense for that.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    michael 05-18-17
    michael 05-18-17
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    "WOW...!!!"

    I tend to listen at close to double speed...
    This was a Great course that I completely enjoyed...
    I truly feel changed by the things that I learned
    I will be listening again... and again and again 🎵🎶🎵🎹🎹🎵🎶🎼and again...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 12-12-16
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 12-12-16 Member Since 2015
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    "THE A.I. FRONTIER"

    Patrick Grim cogently describes the frontier of artificial intelligence in his “Philosophy of Mind”. The concluding lectures note that the closest we have come to defining consciousness is the “Hot (acronym for higher-order-theory) Theory” proposed by David Rosenthal. Though Grim has reservations about Rosenthal’s concept, he suggests it is the nearest functional definition with an inferential suggestion that computers can pass a Turing test.

    To back up a bit—Grim goes through the history of mind-body theories from Aristotle through modern times. History shows philosophical theories of mind revolve around duality, materiality, thought, and in more modern times, functionality. Some theorist postulate consciousness is made up of the relationship between mind and body.

    Whatever the answer is about computer consciousness, little question remains about the impact computers have had, and are having in the world. Quantum computing adds another dimension for potential computer consciousness.

    Professor Grim’s lectures are excellent. He provides a clear explanation of the history of “…Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines.”

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    wbiro 09-22-16
    wbiro 09-22-16 Member Since 2011
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    "Expansive and Stimulating, but Still Clueless"

    The Value
    This course was 'expansive' for me as I 'expand' into what is and has been in philosophy (to compare it all to what I have independently developed), and it was mentally stimulating (as the length and breadth of this comment attests).

    The Cognitive Psychology
    As well as philosophy, the book was heavy on cognitive research in psychology (exploring how the brain and our senses surprisingly work) most of which I personally had heard before, but there was enough new (expansive) material for me here, too. Just to note, I consider it valuable because my philosophy on philosophy is that an ideal ethically-objective philosophy (that identifies universal values) (which incredibly does not exist yet) will have considered ALL current verified knowledge (and failing that (for it will), at least an adequate amount, resulting in at least an adequate life-guiding philosophy).

    The Artificial Intelligence
    Intriguing for me was the author's foray into Artificial Intelligence, of which I have long had a technical interest (dating back to the 1980's) and now have a philosophical interest (being more important). Most of the AI history was already familiar to me, but I did have new detailed thoughts stimulated by the content that was new to me. The archaic thinking was evident, however - for most of the 'problems' mentioned (such as the 'algorithmic problem' and the 'halting problem') assumed that only one program would be running at once, when in an actual AI entity, many programs would be running simultaneously, and checking on one another, and especially when a body is involved, and especially when body systems are regulated.

    The Philosophy
    On the down side, the philosophy is dead. Archaic, obsolete, irrelevant, and just plain silly. It reflects a generation that was still misdirected by religion and by the deficient paradigms of their time (I call it 'wrongheaded baggage'), and sometimes by speculation-cum-dogma, so hopefully the professor's generation will be the last generation to be so misdirected.

    - Philosophy as 'Just Plain Silly'
    The author (typically) becomes lost in thickets of lexicon ("do we hear the oboe, or the sound of the oboe?"), the answers which can easily arrived at by a simple agreement on terms. I categorize this kind of 'mental struggle' as 'silly', though the reigning generation of academic professorship thinks it is being deep and profound (it isn't).

    - Philosophy as 'Misdirected by Religion'
    The professor grew up when religion still held significant sway (in a more ignorant time), so the professor, for example, gives weight to (does not dismiss) the "Mysterion's" - philosophers who think consciousness will never be unraveled, being too 'mysterious' - a notion directly influenced by the misguidance of religion (which is pure make-believe, or, as I like to put it, "the preposterous imaginings of primitive minds institutionalized by social manipulators and domineers, which is then used as a venue by people to indulge in self-delusion and fatalistic thinking, and where the only value is the incorporated wisdom hard-won over many lifetimes - the credit then being claimed by the incorporating religion". Pan-consciousness and anti-theories of consciousness (mentioned in the lectures) are other victims of religious misdirection. They are entertaining speculation when there is still little to no data, but the tragedy is they are not treated as such, but as 'truth' by 'believers' (with no data, or little data, and even that contrary). Another example is "The Hard Problem of Consciousness" - i.e. how consciousness arose from physical matter. It is only hard because of religion's misdirection - the path to the answer clearly goes through microbiology - which is difficult if not impossible to realize through the haze of religion.

    - Philosophy as Misdirected by Deficient Paradigms
    The professor, like the deficient paradigms that surrounded his life, failed, at every point, to ask "Why Bother?" (which would have led him into truly deep and profound territory). So he is complacent (a result of deficient paradigms) with the superficial depth of common views (such as saying "the aim of science is a better grasp of reality", while not bothering to add the answer to "why bother?") - which is a clear illustration of the failings of philosophy to date, being complacent with 'just because' (and which is why I rolled-up my sleeves and asked, and then answered "Why bother?").

    The Result
    What results is that most of the philosophical content covers, and sometimes takes (equally clueless) issue with past and present clueless philosophers. To defend my 'clueless', note that past philosophers had an excuse - with little verified knowledge to work with, they had to do a lot of guesswork - they were 'shooting in the dark', and were predictably wrong, and religions and their deficient paradigms only served to further misdirect them. To excuse present philosophers (which to date I have not done, usually angrily), they are, although still 'existing', now tied to the past - having had far less verified knowledge to go on than what exists today, and (as can be expected) they still hold on to their personal formative (now old and erroneous) dogma, as misdirected by religion and deficient paradigms.

    ist's and ism's
    Entertaining for me (in a tragic way) were the 'impressive academic labels' (ist's and ism's) given to the various modes of wrongheaded thinking that have existed. For example we have the label "Illuminative Materialists' for those philosophers who hold that there is no 'mental', only the physical (as opposed to the 'idealists' who hold that the mental exists independent of the physical) (the Mumbo-Mumboist's if I had to label them). Just a side note on labels, academic philosophers will try to beat you down by name-dropping them ('labels of vapid thinking' as they will be known) as if they were impressive and relevant (they are neither) - if beating you down with their credentials alone fails (when they are losing an argument). So be prepared.

    Other 'Deficient Paradigm' Influences
    Most people's concept of consciousness is "still in the shadow of Cartesian dualism" (where mental exists independent of the physical world) as misdirected by religion. This leads to another mistake the professor made - the professor refers to things like thoughts and memories as 'things' (like I just mistakenly did - my being subsumed in the current sea of philosophical stupidity), when they are actually 'processes', not 'things'. Such misperceptions are attributed to the bad influence of deficient paradigms.

    Another illustration is when the professor asks, "Is consciousness a scientific matter, or a matter of technology, or a conceptual matter?" You can see the lack of thought concerning science and technology - the latter is but a branching result of the former, and should not have been mentioned separately. As for 'a conceptual matter' - this is where the misguidance of religion steps in, resulting in mountains of mysticism which are great for dopamine high's, but for absolutely nothing else.

    As for deficient paradigm's misguidance in AI, the professor notes that some philosophers hold that "AI will never equal human intelligence" - and what immediately hit me here was the lack of definition for 'intelligence', the nebulous and vague nature of the term having been accepted - complacently.

    Plethora of Off-the-Mark Terms
    I did like the term (new to me) "evolutionary definition of consciousness" (as opposed to other perspectives, such as 'neural' and 'micro' biological definitions), a term which I can now apply to my (what I call a) 'Potentially-Useful Perspective' - where consciousness developed to enhance the obtaining of nutrients (a goal which humans still have not advanced beyond - though religions, to their credit, have offered advances, though red herrings - based on pure make-believe). Off-the-mark terms include 'creative consciousness' and 'state consciousness' (which mistakes the mind's ability to multitask with separate individual states, such as when we drive on automatic - mistaking that 'state' for a separate state of consciousness rather than mere multitasking). Other terms of mental convolutions include "HOT" (higher-order thinking) and 'explanatory gap' - which uses the present explanatory gap between (our understanding of) the physical and the mental as 'proof' for their separateness, rather than as an indication of our present ignorance.

    Noteworthy
    The professor noted that one philosopher noted that we needed a field of complementary study to epistemology (and a colorful label, maybe 'con-epistemology') to study why we do not know things (and religions, deficient paradigms, and speculations which, for whatever reasons, become academic dogma, will top that list).

    Summary
    A cruel future would call the content of these lectures 'laughable', and 'a good book from a mental fossil'. A sympathetic future would deem it a noble attempt to elevate the deficient paradigm of its time. I would call it a cavalcade of past and present wrongheaded thinking, and as such, they are valuable as historic evidence of the mental state of humanity to date.

    Also, the professor, like philosophers of the past (and many of the present) still mistakenly thinks that discovering aspects of physical reality is within the purview of philosophy (for example the professor wastes a lot of time speculating on neural biology (like a bad color commentator), such as philosophically trying to answer 'how does vision work', when it is better left to empirical science). The professor does sense speculation's role in science - during the phase when there is still little to no data, and where speculation provides possible avenues of further investigation.

    The professor's physics was lacking - he did not describe the molecular basis for light correctly, which brings up the issue of the basis for philosophy itself - where the 'ideal' philosophy (objective ethical) will have considered 'all' current verified knowledge, and lacking that (inevitable), an adequate amount (for an 'adequate' philosophy). An inadequate philosophy will have considered an inadequate amount of verified knowledge, with religions at the bottom (which ignore all verified knowledge).


























    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry W Brasfield 07-23-16 Member Since 2012
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    "Outstanding!"

    One of the most compelling courses ever heard! I would welcome more courses by Dr. Grim!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    wilbert 06-02-16
    wilbert 06-02-16
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    "Very interesting!"

    Professor Grim brought up some amazing psychological research and philosophical ideas that makes me think about my mind and brain in a whole new way.

    He was very clear and easy to listen to.

    He also is sure to bring up the problems and open questions from each theory that he discusses.

    My only objection is that sometimes he dismisses a theory with arguments that don't seem completely solid. But overall a very good course.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tommy D'Angelo North Providence, RI United States 03-12-16
    Tommy D'Angelo North Providence, RI United States 03-12-16 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good Topics but Execution Didn't Rope Me In"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    I purchased this course after listening to "Exploring Metaphysics". I was intrigued by its initial lectures on philosophy of mind and the various theories on the relationship between the brain and the mind so when I discovered this course I envisioned it as a way to continue the learning. While the content is interesting and some topics were thought-provoking, for some reason this course just didn't capture my attention and intrigue like others. The professor for the most part made the topics easy to understand but there was just something dry or uniform about his approach.

    This may just be me and what I hope for in a professor (someone who is easy to listen to but also has a little personality or down-to-earthness about him/her). The organization of the material also seemed a little off to me. It felt like at times the professor was jumping around different topics and it lacked a cohesiveness form. For example he followed up on a lecture about the history of smart machines with human intelligence instead of going deeper into the artificial intelligence discussion (which he then did in another lecture). And a lecture on free will seemed oddly placed. Again this may just be me since I do not have extensive background in philosophy or science so please if you are interested in this topic or a fan of the professor then by all means give this course a shot. While it may not have done it for me it may be a treasure for you.

    If you are looking for a cursory look at philosophy of mind that hits on all of the interesting points and theories and whether artificial intelligence can be built to possess what we all define as a "mind" then I would suggest "Exploring Metaphysics". If you are interested in going deeper, blending over into psychology, and learning more about evolutionary theories on consciousness and the history of AI then this course may be right for you.

    High Points for me:
    • Lecture 8’s discussion on how the mind/brain produces an image of your body when interacting with it and the phenomena of “phantom limbs” provided a number of insights
    • Lecture 9’s exploration of the problem of identifying personal identity: if our bodies are physically changing every so many years (cells replacing themselves), our personalities changing, and in some cases we lose our memories through amnesia then are you the same person (as a unique identity) you were 30 years ago?
    • Lecture 16’s comparison of how a brain operates and how a computer operates

    Low points for me:
    • This course just didn't capture my attention and intrigue like others. The professor for the most part made the topics easy to understand but there was just something dry or uniform about his approach
    • The organization of the material seemed a little off to me at times like the professor was jumping around different topics and it lacked a cohesiveness form; For example he followed up on a lecture about the history of smart machines with human intelligence instead of going deeper into the artificial intelligence discussion (which he then did in another lecture) and a lecture about free will seemed oddly placed


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    serine 02-03-16
    serine 02-03-16 Member Since 2011
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    "There are better philosophy of mind courses"

    If you like dualism, you will like this lecture series. If, like me, you think many of the arguments in support of dualism amount to pseudoscience founded upon truly bad logic, then the focus of this lecture series will annoy you, to a very large degree. There are extremely simple, and readily available, arguments that easily dispute the nonphysical nature of "mysterious" epiphenomenal aspects of subjective experience. Grim is quick to speak up when he feels an argument needs a critical eye. Unfortunately, he is not in possession of a critical eye when it is most needed.

    If Mary, Frank Jackson's expert in neuroscience, gains something new through her subjective experience of seeing red, that does *not* in fact mean that science fails to capture that. If she gains something new from observation, than her observation is indeed part of the science of seeing red. Observation has long been part of scientific discovery. He is far too enamored with Jackson's argument (and similar arguments) to call up his ability to think critically. The logic was so bad. If he had said, (fill in philosopher's name) posits (fill in what they posit), then it would have been balanced. Instead, he doubts science, much like a creationist, and is in love with arguments that suffer from lack of logic.

    As a cognitive neuroscience major, I took philosophy of mind. The course covered everything in this lecture. However, there was no attempt to indoctrinate the student. The professor was able to provide various arguments and critiques without becoming too invested in arguments that were easily destroyed by science. I truly hope this course is not representative of how courses are being taught at typical universities.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Zoetebier 01-30-16 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "very interesting views about how the brains works"

    Author describes many different theories about reality and how humans perceive reality.
    Philosophical and scientific view are presented

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Chris
    4/23/15
    Overall
    Performance
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    "Absolutely loved it!"

    A thoroughly engaging listen. I had not studied philosophy of mind for around 17 years since studying the subject at university and wanted a good overview/ refresher as I will be teaching the subject next term at AS level. The course was in a good level of depth and the professor had such an enthusiasm for the subject that I was left wanting more after each lecture. The thought experiments were particularly fun, I will certainly be using them with my students. I would certainly listen to more audio books in this series and more by this professor.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Gery Lynch
    GLASGOW, United Kingdom
    3/26/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wonderful"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, especially for anyone interested in the human condition


    What did you like best about this story?

    It is course of lectures, I have studied psychology and found this to be a fascinating tangent from standard psychology. It certainly puts some of the psychological ideas into a different perspective


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    AI


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No best at one lecture a day- let it sink in


    Any additional comments?

    These Great Courses are great, well worth multiple listens. The lecturers are certainty amongst the best I have heard.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Faon
    6/23/16
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    "An excellent overview"

    I am a psychiatrist who is interested in Philosophy and neuroscience, I really enjoyed this series of lectures I thought it covered a lot of ground quickly and clearly,I like the speaking voice

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Johnny
    Dublin
    2/14/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Loved it"

    I need to listen to it again so I can process this information. Not because it's hard to understand ! A subject as big as this for me can not be understood as a whole in one listening which makes it great, a history of the mind should not be taken lightly

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Booka
    England
    1/15/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great course!"

    I've done a Philosophy of Mind course at the London School of Philosophy and this audible covered all the interesting bits in a clear and concise way.
    If you want to know about the ways philosophers (both past and present) think about the mind and brain then I recommend this course.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Blue Reviewer
    London
    6/21/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliant"

    One of the best in the Great Courses series. Well explained and thoroughly enjoyable. would recommend

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Cian O'Byrne
    6/9/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "fascinating"

    loved all of it, a wealth of insight. would recommend to anyone interested in learning about the self and others

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • David
    7/16/15
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    Performance
    Story
    "David."

    A very interesting review of the philosophy of the mind with an accessible but not patronising approach. I enjoyed very much. David

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • CFye
    2/21/15
    Overall
    "Exceptional"

    I've thoroughly enjoyed the previous three Great Course lecture series I listened to - but 'Philosophy of Mind' is in a class of it's own.
    Each lecture felt like an adventure story, without losing any academic rigour, and the whole series tied beautifully from beginning to end.
    I finished the course filled with 'where to from here' questions - what neuroplasticity and theories of network intelligence could add to the debate - and a much satisfied love of learning.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • abi
    2/5/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Such a waste of time"
    Would you try another book written by The Great Courses or narrated by Professor Patrick Grim?

    by this professor, of course not.


    What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    It would be better to work more on cohesion of the issues. This course is almost like a reading a dictionary.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    He narrates it like a bedtime story.


    You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Not really. I would not buy it if I knew the quality of that.


    2 of 8 people found this review helpful

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