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Paperback | $20.00 Short | £13.95 | ISBN: 9780262660747 | 154 pp. | 6 x 8.8 in | August 1991

Representation and Reality


Hilary Putnam, who may have been the first philosopher to advance the notion that the computer is an apt model for the mind, takes a radically new view of his own theory of functionalism in this book. Putnam argues that in fact the computational or functionalist analogy cannot answer the important questions about the nature of such mental states as belief, reasoning, rationality, and knowledge that lie at the heart of the philosophy of mind.

Putnam asserts that the "old" computational view that "our function is more important than our matter" needs new interpretation: mental states cannot be identified with physical-chemical states, or with functional states. He tackles the difficult question of whether there is a physical/computational "equivalence" between the structures of all possible systems containing a physically possible organism which holds a particular belief. If such an equivalence relation existed, Putnam notes, it would be undiscoverable. Not just undiscoverable by human beings, but undiscoverable by any possible physically intelligent beings.

A Bradford Book.

About the Author

Hilary Putnam is Walter Beverly Pearson Professor of Mathematical Logic at Harvard University.


"Representation and Reality is one of the most thorough and careful criticisms of reductionism in the philosophy of mind that we have yet seen, and all future discussions of the computerhuman analogy will have to take account of it."
Richard Rorty, University of Virginia
"This clear, powerfully argued, and thoroughly accessible book is fascinating, and no one with a serious interest in the philosophy of mind or the philosophy of language can afford not to study it."
Stephen Schiffer, City University of New York
"With striking candor, Putnam exposes the factors that have shaped his thinking about intentionality. Since that thinking has had a great influence, this book is full of valuable insights into current philosophical methods, foibles, and aspirations. As usual, he sets a hard task for his colleagues: figuring out how to agree with just 90 percent of what he says."
Daniel Dennett, Tufts University