In Natural Minds Thomas Polger advocates, and defends, the philosophical theory that mind equals brain—that sensations are brain processes—and in doing so brings the mind-brain identity theory back into the philosophical debate about consciousness. The version of identity theory that Polger advocates holds that conscious processes, events, states, or properties are type- identical to biological processes, events, states, or properties—a "tough-minded" account that maintains that minds are necessarily identical to brains, a position held by few current identity theorists. Polger's approach to what William James called the "great blooming buzzing confusion" of consciousness begins with the idea that we need to know more about brains in order to understand consciousness fully, but recognizes that biology alone cannot provide the entire explanation. Natural Minds takes on issues from philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and metaphysics, moving freely among them in its discussion.
Polger begins by answering two major objections to identity theory—Hilary Putnam's argument from multiple realizability (which discounts identity theory because creatures with brains unlike ours could also have mental states) and Saul Kripke's modal argument against mind-brain identity (based on the apparent contingency of the identity statement). He then offers a detailed account of functionalism and functional realization, which offer the most serious obstacle to consideration of identity theory. Polger argues that identity theory can itself satisfy the kind of explanatory demands that are often believed to favor functionalism.
HardcoverOut of Print ISBN: 9780262162210 324 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 15 illus.
Paperback$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262661966 324 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 15 illus.
The book samples extensively the current gamut of views on the embodiment of consciousness, including a chapter-long rebuttal of some arguments about zombies due to Daniel Dennett. No doubt many of the issues remain unsettled, but this book should give mind-brain identity theory a new lease on life.
The Quarterly Review of Biology
Perhaps even harder than coming up with a new theory of mind is saying something new and important about older theories of mind. This Polger does with remarkable clarity. His book should challenge philosophers of mind to wonder why they ever thought functionalism could serve as an adequate theory of mind while the identity theory could not.
Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Tom Polger's Natural Minds is the latest—and a welcome and important—addition to the surging chorus of voices urging a more serious and rigorous form of physicalism as against the orthodox nonreductive varieties. Polger argues for his claims effectively and innovatively, and with admirable clarity. Especially noteworthy are his insightful discussions of functionalism, the concept of 'realization,' and the merits of the identity theory, or type physicalism, vis-à-vis functionalism. Strongly recommended to anyone with a serious interest in the metaphysics of the mind.