KINDS OF MINDS by Daniel C. Dennett

KINDS OF MINDS

Toward an Understanding of Consciousness

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Dennett wears his philosophical hat in this short volume, based on lectures given at University College, Dublin and Canterbury University (New Zealand). As a result, there is more intellectual gameplay here than late news from the neuroscience front, making for a volume that is sometimes stimulating, but often frustrating. Dennett (Center for Cognitive Studies/Tufts Univ.) is a clever writer and has written insightfully about mind matters in Consciousness Explained (1991) and evolution in Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995). But in assuming the philosopher's stance here he admits to raising more questions than answers. At the same time he introduces into these lectures a welter of specialized languages and theories, including the vocabulary of ontology, epistemology, and a string of associated concepts, such as intentionality; the notion of an agent or doer or a ``mind-haver''; physical and design stances; associationism, behaviorism, and connectionism (as in neural networks), referred to as ABC learning and so on. To what avail? Simply, it seems, to come to some conclusions about where in the Darwinian scheme of things thinking and consciousness (and self-consciousness) come into being. In the end, Dennett strongly supports the notion that only with language comes thought. Further, we only arrive in the abstract multidimensional world of ideas by means of written language and the ability to extend our intelligence through the artful inventions of culture and its representations in books, computers, and records (our external mental ``prosthetic'' devices). So nix on intelligent chimps and dolphins, but maybe a kind word for dogs as having been bred to respond to humans. Not a book that will be embraced by animal champions. And not Dennett at his best.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-465-07350-6
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996




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