Review of Metaphysics 36 (3):694-695 (1983)

Jack Furlong
Transylvania University
In the preface of his book Bunge states that his aim is to transform into a coherent, integral theory, compatible with the most recent findings in neurophysiology and psychology, the much discussed but elusive thesis that the mind is a set of brain activities. The first three chapters set up the theoretical machinery through which, in the rest of the book, the author will guide the familiar themes of sensation and perception, behavior and motivation, memory and learning, thinking and knowing, consciousness, personality and sociality. In the first chapter Bunge seeks the most defensible and comprehensive formulation of the thesis referred to in the preface. After briefly dispatching all forms of psychophysical dualism he argues for what he calls emergentist psychophysical monism, which is the position that all "mental" states, events and processes are nothing but emergent brain states, events, and processes whose synergy can be explained by appeal to the interactions of various subsystems of brain and body. The next two chapters, entitled, respectively, "The Organ" and "The Functions," show how these emergent processes can be explained in terms of the overall structure and function of the brain. Relying on space-state mathematical models, Bunge gives a general account of the relation between structure and function which undercuts, presumably, both atomist and holist assumptions. Molar neural events, he urges, can be explained only systemically since current research has revealed that there exist spatially locatable subsystems, as well as a neural supersystem where every stimulus acts on some or all subsystems at once and every response is modulated by "geographically" distinct subsystems. In the ensuing chapters Bunge employs this biosystemic model of total brain function to explain how events that one might be tempted to consider "mental" can be accounted for as systemic events. Hence, in the chapter on sensation and perception Bunge contends that "our perceptions are... events in the plastic part of our own sensory cortex" and offers as evidence for this the work of Bindra and other cell-assembly theorists on the itineracy of perceptual events. And, in the chapter on thinking and knowing, Bunge maintains that cognitive creativity is the activity or an effect of the activity of a newly formed neural system and that, consequently, "all animals endowed with plastic neural systems are creative."
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph198336324
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