Things and Places: How the Mind Connects with the World, by Zenon Pylyshyn. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007. Pp. xiv + 255. H/b £25.95, $34.00 [Book Review]
Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||A new book by Zenon Pylyshyn is always a cause for celebration among philosophers of psychology. While many hard-nosed experimental cognitive scientists are attentive to philosophers’ concerns, Pylyshyn stands alone in the extraordinary efforts he takes to understand, address, and struggle with the philosophical puzzles that the mind, and perception in particular, raises. Pylyshyn’s most recent work, Things and Places: How the Mind Connects with the World, does not disappoint. It is philosophically rich. Indeed, the approach to object perception that Pylyshyn develops in this book takes inspiration from Evans’s (1982) and Perry’s (1979) work on demonstratives and indexicals, draws on Dretskean (1981, 1986, 1988) ideas about representation, and tangles with Strawson (1959), Quine (1992), and Clark (2000, 2004) over how to understand the role of concepts in perception. In short, it is just the kind of book philosophers of psychology should lavishly slather with clotted cream and joyously devour at their next tea party. The main focus of this review will be Pylyshyn’s theory of FINSTs (an acronym for Fingers of INSTantion, for reasons to be soon clarified). FINSTs are the primary subject of the first three chapters of Things and Places, after which they basically disappear for about eighty pages, to reappear in the final and lengthiest fifth chapter, where they are put to use in a speculative (and, to my mind, slightly incredible) explanation of data from mental imagery experiments. The fourth chapter is an engaging polemic against using subjective experience as a source of evidence about psychological processing and, in particular, the danger in assuming that because mental images appear to have spatial properties, they must be represented spatially. This chapter stands alone and would be of interest to followers of the imagery debate or, for that matter, to instructors looking for counter-examples when..|
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