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Jaegwon Kim

Author of Philosophy of Mind

13+ Works 990 Members 2 Reviews

About the Author

Jaegwon Kim is William Perry Faunce Professor of Philosophy at Brown University. He is the author of Supervenience and Mind; Mind in a Physical World; Physicalism, or Something Near Enough; Essays in the Metaphysics of Mind; and many important papers on the philosophy of mind, metaphysics, show more epistemology, and the philosophy of science. show less
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Works by Jaegwon Kim

Associated Works

Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings (2002) — Contributor — 281 copies
Knowledge: Readings in Contemporary Epistemology (2000) — Contributor — 74 copies
Materialism and the mind-body problem (1971) — Contributor — 70 copies
Mind and Consciousness: 5 Questions (2009) — Contributor — 10 copies


Common Knowledge



It's hard to really go into a ton of detail of an overview like this; by necessity, it's all over the place and doesn't delve into specific detail or make a drawn-out argument for a specific conclusion. While Kim's in favor of a physicalist-ish approach personally, he doesn't let that overwhelm the book in any way, only briefly and tangentially mentioning it toward the end of some chapters. I do think he treats each of the approaches pretty fairly: following the development of the field as each new school emerged to solve the problems of the pre-existing solutions, laying out the reasons to favor and disfavor each specific approach, and ultimately indicating their relative popularity in the state of the field as it stands.

But beyond a certain point, disputing the arguments is left as an exercise for the reader, and I found myself pulled various ways by the examples throughout. Rejecting some appraches was easy—Cartesian Dualism will always be a silly idea that creates more problems than it solves.

Yet others have more subtle issues. For example, the usual formulation of identity physicalism (saying the mind is the brain, and nothing more complex than that) seems to imply that there can be only one mental state correlated to a single feeling at any given time. But that seems patently absurd: at any given times we can describe a multitude of feelings fighting for their attention. And it seems like we can reformulate that same identity relationship without boiling things down to a unitary relationship, or without resorting to some of the more abstracted approaches like functionalism or behaviorism.

Kim will lay out some of the canonical arguments against the different approaches, but it can be hard to tell how those map against specific lines of reasoning like the one above. That said, he'll often pick up those reservations (or similar ones) in later chapters; for example, the argument I just outlined is in some sense picked up by non-computational functionalism.

I really shouldn't give Kim too much grief about this. Beyond being a limitation of philosophical writing itself, it's certainly asking too much of an overview. But there are some significant omissions that would tackle other aspects of the problem. The biggest example I noticed was the total lack of Bayesian reasoning in the chapter on mental content (i.e. beliefs). Without it, Kim can't really broach the problem of uncertainty, or even begin to tackle how our account of whether beliefs have external content will depend on whether we believe perceptions have inherently external content.

In any case, this is an excellent way in to the field, and the one I chose to re-enter philosophy after over four years away from the subject. You'll get a sense of why this kind of thinking is so exciting, but without being so abstract that the concerns seem too insubstantial to warrant further study (which can be a huge problem outside of political and moral philosophy). And the writing is both precise and accessible, a difficult balance to reach in philosophy, and one that is immeasurably kind to the reader.
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gregorybrown | 1 other review | Oct 18, 2015 |
t29 | 1 other review | Feb 12, 2018 |

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