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2012-08-16
Seeking Textbook Reccomendations
So here I am teaching yet another version of my senior undergrad Phil. of Mind course. In past years I've had students read two books (as well as a bunch of mostly predictable historical material) - Churchland's MATTER&CONSCIOUSNESS and McGinn's THE MYSTERIOUS FLAME. The kids usually respond well to both of these, and attempts to give them anything much longer or more demanding (E.g. Chalmers' THE CONSCIOUS MIND) have gone over like a lead balloon. But I'm starting to feel a bit like yesterday's man.

Anyone out there able to recommend something more recent than either of the two volumes I mentioned that's about as long, about as digestible for undergrads, and that defends a position rather than merely describing the available options?

2012-08-20
Seeking Textbook Reccomendations
Reply to Mark Silcox
I'll plug the little book I wrote with Robert J. Howell: A Dialogue on Consciousness. Check it out!

2012-08-20
Seeking Textbook Reccomendations
Reply to Mark Silcox
Churchland is a sad choice, almost unphilosophical, but I myself found McGinn's little book workable in teaching Theories of Consciousness at the beginning of this century (along with Nagel's *What Does It All Mean?*). More recent stuff has tended to lose itself in detail or be so perfunctory, trying to be fair to all points of view, that one ends up with a mishmash. I have one suggestion, however — a little book with a definite perspective. It doesn't sum up ALL views on the mind, but it is one articulate voice against neural reductionism, as you can tell by the title. I refer to Alva Noë's 2009 *Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness*.

You can get a taste of it from my own paper on this site: "You Are Not Your Brain: Against Teaching to the Brain".

Respects,
Greg Nixon


2012-08-24
Seeking Textbook Reccomendations
Reply to Mark Silcox
"A dialogue on consciousness" is good; I used it successfully in a course on consciousness.  I use Chalmers's "Philosophy of MInd: Classical and Contemporary Readings" in my philo o' mind course.   From what you wrote, you might think this book is too demanding, but you can go slow, if you want.  Chalmers's PoM book also allows you to defend a position.  So, say, you wanted to defend dualism.  Then Dennett's paper in the book, "Quining Qualia," is great fun, from that perspective, as well as instructive.  I also like Paul Churchland's book.



2012-08-27
Seeking Textbook Reccomendations
Reply to Mark Silcox
I recommend John Heil's introductory Philosophy of Mind book from Routledge. A third edition is forthcoming that includes a much needed chapter on consciousness. But Heil's approach is different from most in that he emphasizes treating philosophy of mind as applied metaphysics. So when he defends his own views, he sets it up with a chapter on options in ontology and then offers a chapter where he applies what he had done in the previous chapter to giving a positive account. My students have found the book accessible and enjoyable.
I also recommend Jaegwon Kim's Philosophy of Mind book. I think it is in its third edition. The prose is not as clear and accessible as Heil's. But that's not to say it is inaccessible. In fact, it is excellent. Heil is just exceptionally clear.

I've also used Kim's Physicalism, or Something Near Enough during the last couple of weeks in my course. Students found it accessible, especially after spending the first twelve weeks of the semester laying the groundwork.

I should note that I teach philosophy of mind in a very Heil-inspired fashion. I don't teach it as a foundations of cog sci course. It's basically part two of my metaphysics course (in which I do ground-level ontology). Some stuff others do in philosophy of mind courses I'll be doing in a foundations of cog sci course starting next year. 

2012-08-27
Seeking Textbook Reccomendations
Reply to Mark Silcox
I recommend either of Searle's two books "The Rediscovery of the Mind" or "Mind: a Brief Introduction".  Both have excellent criticisms of the historical development of the philosophy of mind, and offer alternative methodologies for approaching the field. The position advanced in both is Searle's form of Naturalism (i.e. Biological Naturalism), which I think is a promising philosophical position/methodology. Searle also famously writes about complex subject matter in a very straightforward way, making it palatable, yet challenging for undergrads.  

2012-08-27
Seeking Textbook Reccomendations
Reply to Mark Silcox
Thanks for the suggestions, folks! I've ordered exam copies of the Alter and Noe books; both look very promising.

2012-08-27
Seeking Textbook Reccomendations
Reply to Mark Silcox
My *Mental Causation* (Columbia UP, 2008) does some history (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Huxley, 20C identity, functionalism, etc.) some metaphysics (properties, causation, laws) and a lot on the mental causation problem -- mainly using the metaphysics to solve the problem, not to spend a lot of time on the intricate details. 
--Tony Dardis

2012-09-24
Seeking Textbook Reccomendations
Reply to Mark Silcox

Hello Mark,

Great question!  When I first got started in this field, as a hobbyist, what was I to do when faced with the now way more than 20K peer reviewed works, and even the many text books that have been listed here, let alone all possible best text books.

In addition to the many text books being mentioned here, might I also recommend the just getting started Consciousness Survey Project using the wiki like open survey system at Canonizer.com. A growing number of experts are already participating at various levels, from Dennett to Lehar to Hameroff...  With some surprising evidence emerging from this consensus building system that there may be far more expert consensus in this field than anyone realizes.  The goal with this project is to have concise descriptions, in consistent language and names, of the best theories and arguments for such, along with rigorous quantitative measure of how well accepted each is, compared to all others.

It is very exciting to watch new people first show up to this educational system which is capable of amplifying the wisdom of everyone.  We've had high school students, and world class experts in other fields show up, initially supporting or starting camps based on very initially naive thinking.  It is totally amazing how fast most of them get up to speed and progress to significantly more educated theories while significantly increasing their abilities to understand and defend the important issues.  Even high school students are making significant contributions, since contributions to all camps must be approved by the experts already supporting them before going live.

Obviously, most every text book mentioned here would have a large population that would reject it as terribly biased.  In other words, even the ones that attempt to be unbiased, are still very biased to any individual Author's POV.  And most attempts to be unbiased usually go way to far, giving bad ideas way too much time, usually because way in the past many primitive experts accepted the now falsified for most ideas.  Canonizer.com is a level playing field, where all points of view can be equally represented - although it is tilted towards modern expert current consensus camps which can quickly rise to the top - above all the popular noise and infinitely repetitive rat holes even the peer reviewed literature so often get lost in.

One may argue that one person's expert is another's spiritually blind person, which is why Canonizer.com enables readers to 'canonize', or select their experts any way they want.  This ability can totally neutralize any bias one may have towards censoring anything against their 'world view' (see: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-science-threatens-person-world-view.html#nwlt ).  Even in religious communities, there are experts in their communities that are far more educated, and closer to the truth, than any particular individual's world views biased against such.  And as that phys.org article mentions, when people can hear the new information from their own set of selected experts, they are much more open to trusting it at least enough to study it further.

The best part is, it goes both ways, since you can canonize for both popular consensus, or expert consensus, or any other consensus, and compare the differences.  The lonely experts that really understand everything, that are way ahead of the still primitive general population, need to know, concisely and quantitatively exactly what everyone else still believes and why.  How good are their arguments working?  The evidence the experts know about may have convinced them, but more importantly, they need to know what information is required to convince everyone that is very different than them, and how to say it in others' words, consistently, with all other experts that understand what they do?  And knowing all such amplifies everyone's wisdom and ability to communicate infinitely better.

Getting students to contribute to online wiki like sources such as this is becoming increasingly popular at colleges, and is beneficial to everyone.  For example, Google for news like this: http://www.kalw.org/post/some-colleges-take-chance-wikipedia .

As far as feeling like "Yesterday's Man", all books are out of date before they even reach publication, to say nothing of what happened yesterday.  I want to know what all my chosen experts believe right now, and how this has changed from 5 minutes ago, before the most recent dramatic scientific evidence or great new argument showed up.  That's the kind of state of the theoretical and moral art stuff I, as a mere hobbyist, or less, need to know about.

Brent Allsop

Volunteer - Consciousness Survey Project