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Hardcover | Out of Print | 528 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 24 illus. | March 2001 | ISBN: 9780262011815
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Mind in Everyday Life and Cognitive Science


Although cognitive science has obtained abundant data on neural and computational processes, it barely explains such ordinary experiences as recognizing faces, feeling pain, or remembering the past. In this book Sunny Auyang tackles what she calls "the large pictures of the human mind," exploring the relevance of cognitive science findings to everyday mental life. Auyang proposes a model of an "open mind emerging from the self-organization of infrastructures," which she opposes to prevalent models that treat mind as a disembodied brain or computer, subject to the control of external agents such as neuroscientists and programmers. Her model consists of three parts: (1) the open mind of our conscious life; (2) mind's infrastructure, the unconscious processes studied by cognitive science; and (3) emergence, the relation between the open mind and its infrastructure.

At the heart of Auyang's model is the mind that opens to the world and makes it intelligible. A person with an open mind feels, thinks, recognizes, believes, doubts, anticipates, fears, speaks, and listens, and is aware of I, together with it and thou. Cognitive scientists refer to the "binding problem," the question of how myriad unconscious processes combine into the unity of consciousness. Auyang approaches the problem from the other end—by starting with everyday experience rather than with the mental infrastructure. In so doing, she shows both how analyses of experiences can help to advance cognitive science and how cognitive science can help us to understand ourselves as autonomous subjects.

About the Author

Sunny Y. Auyang holds a Ph.D. in physics and has written many books on the philosophical significance of quantum field theory and on complex-system theories.


“A brilliant and deeply original work. Auyang's argument for what would be required for an adequate theory of mind—i.e., for a coherent and self-consistent solution to the 'binding problem' that currently plagues cognitive science—is a tour de force.”
Evelyn Fox Keller, MIT, author of Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors and Machines
“This is a scholarly book. Written in an accessible and direct style, it undertakes a comprehensive review of current theories of mind. Drawing on a wide range of examples rooted in common sense, Dr. Auyang provides a powerful argument for the view that the mind is an emergent property of complex physical entities—its infrastructures.”
Mriganka Sur, Sherman Fairchild Professor of Neuroscience and Head, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT