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Kinds Of Minds (original 1996; edition 1997)
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0465073514, Paperback)In Consciousness Explained, Daniel Dennett embarks on the audacious task of explaining human consciousness. He sets his sights even higher for Kinds of Minds, attempting to provide a more general explanation of consciousness. But don't be put off: the book is short, easy to read, and makes a good introduction to Dennett's richly interdisciplinary oeuvre. While beginners will appreciate Dennett's appeals to intuitive moral considerations to emphasize the importance of investigating consciousness, there is much in the book to hold the attention of readers already familiar with his previous work.
At the beginning of Kinds of Minds Dennett asks, "What kinds of minds are there? And how do we know?" These two questions--the first ontological, the second epistemological--set the agenda for the book. Intuitions untutored by theory are not capable of answering these questions, Dennett argues, making it necessary to pursue insight from the evolutionary point of view. Accordingly, subsequent chapters are devoted to phylogenetic speculations about agency and intentionality, sensitivity and sentience, and perception and behavior. Particularly charming is the series of squiggly amoebas--the Darwinian, Skinnerian, Popperian, and Gregorian creatures--that illustrates the hierarchy of cognitive power. In the final chapter, Dennett returns to the original two questions, ending not with their answers, but, he hopes, with "better versions of the questions themselves." --Glenn Branch
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:49 -0400)
"In Kinds of Minds, Dennett asks the ultimate metaphysical questions: What is a mind and who else (besides the questioner) has one?" "Combining ideas from philosophy, artificial intelligence, and neurobiology, Dennett leads the reader on a fascinating journey of inquiry, exploring such intriguing possibilities as: Can any of us really know what is going on in someone else's mind? What distinguishes the human mind from the minds of animals, especially those capable of complex behavior? If such animals, for instance, were magically given the power of language, would their communities evolve an intelligence as subtly discriminating as ours? Would they be capable of developing the uniquely human ability to theorize about the world they inhabit? Will robots, once they have been endowed with sensory systems like those that provide us with experience, ever exhibit the particular traits long thought to distinguish the human mind, including the ability to think about thinking?" "Dennett address these questions from an evolutionary perspective. Beginning with the macromolecules of DNA and RNA, whose evolution was determined by Darwinian natural selection, Dennett shows how, step by step, animal life moved from a simple ability to respond to frequently recurring environmental conditions to much more powerful ways of beating the odds, ways of using patterns of past experience to predict the future in never-before-encountered situations. He argues that a series of small but revolutionary steps moved us from there to the unique human capability to frame and execute specific long-range intentions. These changes included first the emergence of speech, then, because of situations in which the ability to keep secrets conferred an evolutionary advantage, a skill in conversing with ourselves, and finally, the creation of artifacts that permit us to expand our minds into the surrounding environment."--Jacket.
(summary from another edition)
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