Consciousness and Mental Life

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Columbia University Press, 2008 - Psychology - 243 pages

In recent decades, issues that reside at the center of philosophical and psychological inquiry have been absorbed into a scientific framework variously identified as "brain science," "cognitive science," and "cognitive neuroscience." Scholars have heralded this development as revolutionary, but a revolution implies an existing method has been overturned in favor of something new. What long-held theories have been abandoned or significantly modified in light of cognitive neuroscience?

Consciousness and Mental Life questions our present approach to the study of consciousness and the way modern discoveries either mirror or contradict understandings reached in the centuries leading up to our own. Daniel N. Robinson does not wage an attack on the emerging discipline of cognitive science. Rather, he provides the necessary historical context to properly evaluate the relationship between issues of consciousness and neuroscience and their evolution over time.

Robinson begins with Aristotle and the ancient Greeks and continues through to René Descartes, David Hume, William James, Daniel Dennett, John Searle, Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, and Derek Parfit. Approaching the issue from both a philosophical and a psychological perspective, Robinson identifies what makes the study of consciousness so problematic and asks whether cognitive neuroscience can truly reveal the origins of mental events, emotions, and preference, or if these occurrences are better understood by studying the whole person, not just the brain. Well-reasoned and thoroughly argued, Consciousness and Mental Life corrects many claims made about the success of brain science and provides a valuable historical context for the study of human consciousness.

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Consciousness and mental life

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In this short yet engaging book, Robinson (philosophy, Oxford Univ.) examines past and current theories on consciousness to see what we have accomplished in understanding the relationship between the ... Read full review

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I absolutely enjoy reading and listening to Dr. Robinson on the wide range of various, eclectic subjects he likes to speak or write about.
There is no doubt that this man is a genius. But the real
beauty of his intellect lies in the ostensive and genuine MODESTY for which he carries forth in all his academic endeavours.
That assesment rings true, as well, in his book, CONSCIOUSNESS AND MENTAL LIFE. It is such a breath of fresh air to read a scholarly work not riddled and wrought with pedagogical tautology and narrowminded certainty.
The gist of Dr Robinson's argument is simple, despite the elaborative analysis and extravagant vocabulary he is in custom of using. Simply put, the book argues, when it comes to consciousness and mental life, we should be ever more modest and reserved when we study the mind and brain, not falling into a pit of dogmatic certainty that we are accustomed of doing when science presents us with facts we tend too eager to accept as irrevocable truths. To keep us in check from falling into that intellectually egregious pit, and help us maintain an acceptable degree of modesty and integrity, we should turn to the ancients (e.g. Aristotle) and reasses formerly denounced Philosophies (e.g. Cartesianism)
I think the very last part of the book sums up perfectly the integrity of this intellectual reassesment of consciousness:
"It is for others to end their declarative sentences with exclamation points. Ours should end with a semicolon;"
HIGHLY recommend this book and anything Dr. Robison writes! Be warned: his writing is not for the weak at heart, and the inept vulgar who resist sophisticated writing - for them, I recommend Twilight.

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About the author (2008)

Daniel N. Robinson is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University and a member of the philosophy faculty at Oxford University. Producing almost fifty volumes of work, he has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the History of Psychology division of the American Psychological Association, the Distinguished Contribution Award from the Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology Division of the same organization and the 2011 Gittler Award from the American Psychological Association. He was principal consultant to PBS and the BBC for the award-winning series The Brain and The Mind, and his 110 lectures for The Teaching Company are among its most successful.

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