Embodiments of Mind
Writings by a thinker—a psychiatrist, a philosopher, a cybernetician, and a poet—whose ideas about mind and brain were far ahead of his time.
Warren S. McCulloch was an original thinker, in many respects far ahead of his time. McCulloch, who was a psychiatrist, a philosopher, a teacher, a mathematician, and a poet, termed his work “experimental epistemology.” He said, “There is one answer, only one, toward which I've groped for thirty years: to find out how brains work.” Embodiments of Mind, first published more than fifty years ago, teems with intriguing concepts about the mind/brain that are highly relevant to recent developments in neuroscience and neural networks. It includes two classic papers coauthored with Walter Pitts, one of which applies Boolean algebra to neurons considered as gates, and the other of which shows the kind of nervous circuitry that could be used in perceiving universals. These first models are part of the basis of artificial intelligence.
Chapters range from “What Is a Number, that a Man May Know It, and a Man, that He May Know a Number,” and “Why the Mind Is in the Head,” to “What the Frog's Eye Tells the Frog's Brain” (with Jerome Lettvin, Humberto Maturana, and Walter Pitts), “Machines that Think and Want,” and “A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity” (with Walter Pitts). Embodiments of Mind concludes with a selection of McCulloch's poems and sonnets. This reissued edition offers a new foreword and a biographical essay by McCulloch's one-time research assistant, the neuroscientist and computer scientist Michael Arbib.