231 pages, 6 b/w illustrations
In this highly original work, Teed Rockwell rejects both dualism and the mind-brain identity theory. He proposes instead that mental phenomena emerge not merely from brain activity but from an interacting nexus of brain, body, and world. The mind can be seen not as an organ within the body, but as a "behavioral field" that fluctuates within this brain-body-world nexus. If we reject the dominant form of the mind-brain identity theory – which Rockwell calls "Cartesian materialism" (distinct from Daniel Dennett's concept of the same name) – and accept this new alternative, then many philosophical and scientific problems can be solved. Other philosophers have flirted with these ideas, including Dewey, Heidegger, Putnam, Millikan, and Dennett. But Rockwell goes further than these tentative speculations and offers a detailed alternative to the dominant philosophical view, applying pragmatist insights to contemporary scientific and philosophical problems.
Rockwell shows that neuroscience no longer supports the mind-brain identity theory because the brain cannot be isolated from the rest of the nervous system; moreover, there is evidence that the mind is hormonal as well as neural. These data, and Rockwell's reanalysis of the concept of causality, show why the borders of mental embodiment cannot be neatly drawn at the skull, or even at the skin. Rockwell then demonstrates how his proposed view of the mind can resolve paradoxes engendered by the mind-brain identity theory in such fields as neuroscience, artificial intelligence, epistemology, and philosophy of language. Finally, he argues that understanding the mind as a "behavioral field" supports the new cognitive science paradigm of dynamic systems theory (DST).
"This book is an essential read for those interested in the nature of mind; for those of us already sympathetic to the project, the book enriches the view with historical antecedents from some unlikely places and offers a progressive scientific program for how to explore the new view of mind empirically."
– Journal of Philosophy of Science
"Well researched and well written, this is an excellent introduction to the nascent field of nonlinear neurodynamics. Rockwell has some excellent passages on causality and supervenience, and he is to be congratulated for having extricated himself from the swamps of GOFAI, materialism, and functionalism."
– Walter J. Freeman, University of California, Berkeley, author of How Brains Make Up Their Minds
"Where does the mind end and the world begin? Although the view that the mind is confined to the brain isn't dead yet, Rockwell offers a Deweyan nail for the Cartesian coffin with his answer that the boundary between mind and world is a flexible one. Drawing on embodied and dynamical systems approaches to cognitive science, he proposes an intriguing alternative to the separation of mind and world, which underlies the Cartesian materialism of traditional cognitive science and the philosophical puzzles it spawns."
– Colin Allen, Professor, Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Program in Cognitive Science, Indiana University
"If everything else is governed by dynamics, why not mind? Or is the science of mind outside the natural sciences? In recent times, notions of self-organizing, dynamical systems have begun to permeate the social, behavioral, cognitive and brain sciences. With a few notable exceptions, however, dynamical concepts (which embrace nonlinearity, emergence, interactions and context) remain to be explored. This book, full of scientific wisdom, wit, and understanding, is a pleasure to read. Ward brings the full armamentarium of concepts, methods, and modeling tools of dynamical systems – old and new – to bear on a wide variety of psychological phenomena. By filling dynamics with content from specific fields of cognitive research, he points the way to a far richer cognitive science in which conceptual content, dynamical modeling, and experiments mutually complement each other. This is a ground-breaking book that bridges the cognitive and the natural sciences. And it's two-way traffic. I suspect, were they around after 300 years, that David Hume and Isaac Newton might just smile."
– J. A. Scott Kelso, Glenwood and Martha Creech Chair in Science and Director, Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences, Florida Atlantic University
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W. Teed Rockwell is in the philosophy department at Sonoma State University.