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Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines

Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines

Professor Patrick Grim, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Stony Brook

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Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines

Course No. 4278
Professor Patrick Grim, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Stony Brook
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4.7 out of 5
85 Reviews
87% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 4278
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version is well illustrated and features more than 1,000 animations, live demonstrations, illustrations, and video clips. The animations and illustrations help you visually make sense of concepts ranging from the mind-body problem to the ways robots perceive the world around them. There are live demonstrations and video clips of fascinating thought experiments, including one that uses a horizontal line to probe the relationship between belief and perception. There are detailed maps of the brain, as well as numerous photographs and illustrations of ancient and modern computing machines.
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Course Overview

Nothing in the universe is more mysterious than the inner workings of the human mind. The attempt to understand consciousness is the ultimate imperative in philosophical thought and stems from the ancient Greek aphorism, "know thyself." A simple statement, it nevertheless has vast ramifications for how we understand not only ourselves, but also the people around us.

  • Do other people have a mind like yours and, if so, how do you know?
  • Is your mind something distinct from your body, or do ordinary physiological processes produce minds?
  • Can a machine have a mind?
  • What is consciousness?
  • Do you have free will?
  • Is everything you are now experiencing actually happening, or is that an elaborate illusion created by the mind?

The mind reels at such questions! But philosophy provides powerful tools for investigating the mysteries of thinking, feeling, and perceiving.

What Is Your Mind?

History's most profound thinkers have spent their lives attempting to answer the deceptively simple question, "what is the mind?" including Aristotle in antiquity, René Descartes in the 17th century, and William James in the 19th century.

Questions about the nature of the mind are among the most hotly debated in philosophy today. Today, we are beginning to see the true complexity of this pursuit, as philosophers draw on the latest evidence from neuroscience, psychology, artificial intelligence, linguistics, and other fields to probe still deeper into the inner workings of the mind.

One of the most exciting research partnerships in recent decades has been the interdisciplinary study of the mind called cognitive science. It draws on neuroscience to chart how bundles of neurons create minds, psychology to illuminate how minds function, linguistics to explain how minds generate language, artificial intelligence to attempt to reproduce the output of our minds, and other fields to cover the big picture.

Try Thought Experiments

An amazingly productive technique for studying the mind is the hypothetical scenario, or thought experiment, which helps us grasp these overarching questions and show what a puzzling phenomena the mind is. Some of the fascinating thought experiments you encounter in Philosophy of Mind are:

  • Brain in a Vat: How do you know you are not a brain in a vat, with a completely simulated life? While plausible as science fiction, this picture assumes that the mind could be disembodied. The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio and others, however, seem to have strong evidence that feedback from the body is essential to forming a mind.
  • Chinese Room: Imagine a room in which a non-Chinese speaker follows rules for translating Chinese and produces correct answers without understanding the language. In his powerful critique of artificial intelligence, the philosopher John Searle draws a comparison with computers and argues that they can't have understanding simply by virtue of manipulating rules and symbols.
  • Life as a Bat: We all know what it is like to be us, but what is it like to be a bat? No matter how much we know about bat physiology, says philosopher Thomas Nagel, it is impossible to know the subjective experience of a bat. Perhaps no subjective state, such as consciousness, can be understood objectively.
  • The Changing Taste of Beer: Qualia are qualitative experiences such as tastes and smells, but how real are they? As an example, the philosopher Daniel Dennett cites the typical first reaction to the taste of beer: "What awful stuff!" But suppose you become a beer lover—has the taste of beer changed? Do you have different qualia, or do you have the same qualia but are just reacting differently?

Explore a Panorama of Theories

In Philosophy of Mind, you study all the major theories of the mind, including:

  • Dualism, which holds that body and mind are separate substances
  • Behaviorism and Functionalism, which stress behavior and interactions with the world as clues to the mind's inner workings
  • Idealism, which views the physical world as an illusion and suggests that only the mental realm exists
  • "Antitheories" of the mind, which posit that subjective mental experiences are fundamentally inexplicable and will always remain a mystery.

These and other philosophical positions all have something going for them. One thinker's convincing arguments often diverge radically from another's equally convincing argument, so that a newcomer to the field can't help but get lost among the contending proposals.

Philosophy of Mind expertly sorts out the various approaches to understanding the mind, giving the pros and cons of each in an engrossing survey of complex and often controversial intellectual terrain. The course articulates these intellectual options in service of capturing the excitement of intellectual discussion, never to lay down a single dogmatic position.

What You Learn

Philosophy of Mind begins with three case histories emblematic of issues that crop up throughout the course:

  • Descartes' Dream: In 1619, the young René Descartes envisaged a new science in a series of dreams. The core of the science was a radical distinction between minds and bodies, and it formed the framework for the mind-body problem that stimulates philosophical debate to this day.
  • Einstein's Brain: A strange saga began after the great scientist's death when his brain was removed without official permission. Its eventual analysis showed that an area associated with mathematical thought had taken over an area associated with language, hinting at the extreme plasticity of brains and minds.
  • Babbage's Difference Engine: Designed in the 1800s, this steam-driven device of steel and brass was markedly different from modern computer hardware. It was capable, however, of the same functions as a general-purpose computer, raising the question of whether there is anything about a machine that could possibly make it intelligent or even conscious.

You then proceed through a sequence of lectures that cover the basic concepts, classical theories, and latest hypotheses in the philosophy of mind, ending with a discussion of Functionalism, the dominant trend in current research. The next six lectures pursue the theme of Functionalism, concentrating on perception, our conceptions of ourselves, and minds as they function in the world (real robots play an interesting role in this investigation).

The next six lectures address questions of human versus artificial intelligence: Just how alike and how different are brains and computers? Philosophy of Mind then concludes with a focus on subjective experience and the continuing mystery of consciousness, with a final lecture that returns to the three emblematic examples from Lecture 1.

Probe Your Own Mind

One of the most enjoyable features of Philosophy of Mind is the experiments you can do to illuminate surprising aspects of your own mind. Some mind probes you learn about throughout the course include:

  • An Inner Theater: Imagine a pirate. Now describe him down to the number of buttons on his coat without revising your mental picture. If you had an "inner theater"—a place for fully formed thoughts and perceptions—you should be able to look at your mental image and report everything about it. Chances are, however, you make it up as you go along.
  • Filling In: By looking at a simple diagram in the Course Guidebook that accompanies this course, you can find your blind spot: the region of your eye lacking photoreceptors, where the optic nerve joins the retina. Normally, we're unaware of this "hole" in our vision, since the brain fills in an appropriate background. Professor Grim also plays a recording of an intriguing auditory version of this phenomenon.
  • Phantom Limb: Professor Grim describes an experiment you can perform to fool your mind into thinking that a rubber hand or even a coffee cup is part of your own body. This phenomenon may relate to the similar confusions of "body image" that make some amputees feel sensations in their missing limbs.
  • Belief and Perception: Does belief drive perception? Apparently not. To prove this, draw a two-inch horizontal line, mark the midpoint, and then draw a two-inch vertical line from that point. You will see that the vertical line looks longer than the horizontal, despite the fact that you measured them to be identical. Your justified belief that they are the same length can't override your mind's erroneous perception.

Grapple with Endlessly Interesting Phenomena

A thorough exploration of what we know and don't know about our mental functioning, Philosophy of Mind is an incomparable introduction to the various issues that revolve around the question of what, exactly, the mind is. It makes you think, evaluate your own opinions, and change your mind not a few times as you grapple with the endlessly interesting phenomena of mind.

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24 lectures
 |  31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Dream, the Brain, and the Machine
    Professor Grim previews the range of ideas in the course with three examples: a dream of the philosopher René Descartes in 1619, the saga of Einstein's brain after his death, and a steam-driven computer designed in the mid-1800s. x
  • 2
    The Mind-Body Problem
    How does the mental relate to the physical? One response is Dualism, developed by Descartes, which sees the two as radically distinct. x
  • 3
    Brains and Minds, Parts and Wholes
    The strange case of Phineas Gage, who suffered a horrible brain injury in 1848, sheds light on the brain-mind connection. x
  • 4
    The Inner Theater
    Do we have an inner realm where representations of the world are displayed completely? A range of experiments seem to show that something much more complicated is going on. x
  • 5
    Living in the Material World
    You examine alternatives to Dualism—from the idea that the universe is purely mental (idealism) to the view that it is purely physical (materialism). x
  • 6
    A Functional Approach to the Mind
    Behaviorism and Functionalism take a radically different approach to the body and mind approach. x
  • 7
    What Is It about Robots?
    If Functionalism is right, a machine could have real perception, emotion, pleasure, and pain. Wouldn't it then also have ethical rights? x
  • 8
    Body Image
    Having conjectured how a body produces a mind, we approach the problem from the other side: how a mind produces a body. x
  • 9
    Self-Identity and Other Minds
    This lecture explores our concept of ourselves and other minds—not just human but animal—together with puzzling questions about self posed by "teletransporter" thought experiments and split-brain cases. x
  • 10
    Perception—What Do You Really See?
    What do we really see? What do we really hear? Empiricism argues that what we perceive are not things in the world but rather subjective sense data. x
  • 11
    Perception—Intentionality and Evolution
    The intentionalist view holds that perception is always "about" something. The evolutionary view sees perception as an evolved grab bag of tricks. x
  • 12
    A Mind in the World
    In order to understand the mind, we have to understand the environment in which it functions—the mind in the world. x
  • 13
    A History of Smart Machines
    You trace the fascinating stories of computing machines—from the Antikythera device of 100 B.C., to legends of mechanical calculating heads in the Middle Ages, to Charles Babbage's designs for steam-driven computers in the 1840s. x
  • 14
    Intelligence and IQ
    This lecture looks at attempts to measure intelligence. x
  • 15
    Artificial Intelligence
    In 1950, Alan Turing proposed a test for determining whether a machine displays human intelligence, predicting that such a thinking machine would exist by 2000. x
  • 16
    Brains and Computers
    Computers use binary digits and logic gates. By contrast, brains are built of neurons, which are far more complex. While we know how computers work, we are ignorant of brain function on many levels. x
  • 17
    Attacks on Artificial Intelligence
    The very concept of artificial intelligence has serious critics, including Hubert Dreyfus and John Searle. The latter has a powerful argument called the "Chinese room," which this lecture considers from both sides of the debate. x
  • 18
    Do We Have Free Will?
    Can our actions be free? The compatibilist view holds that free will, when properly understood, is a natural part of a causal universe. x
  • 19
    Seeing and Believing
    This lecture explores how our conscious experience is shaped by background beliefs and expectations. This issue raises an important question for our justice system: Is eyewitness testimony reliable? x
  • 20
    Mysteries of Color
    Is color real or is it something that exists only in the mind? You explore this question with thought experiments and insights. x
  • 21
    The Hard Problem of Consciousness
    If there is a defining problem in philosophy of mind today, it is the problem of accounting for our subjective experience. David Chalmers calls this the "hard problem of consciousness." x
  • 22
    The Conscious Brain—2½ Physical Theories
    How are we to understand conscious experience? This lecture considers two attempts to explain consciousness in terms of physical processes in the brain. x
  • 23
    The HOT Theory and Antitheories
    The philosopher David Rosenthal identifies consciousness with "higher-order thoughts"—HOT. You also survey antitheories. x
  • 24
    What We Know and What We Don't Know
    Professor Grim reviews the high points of the course, focusing on questions raised by Lecture 1. x

Lecture Titles

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Your professor

Patrick Grim

About Your Professor

Patrick Grim, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Stony Brook
Dr. Patrick Grim is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He graduated with highest honors in anthropology and philosophy from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was named a Fulbright Fellow to the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, from which he earned his B.Phil. He earned his Ph.D. from Boston University. Professor Grim is the recipient of several...
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Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 85.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Caution: will induce introspection Audio CD review. Like in his other courses, Dr. Grim is exceptionally engaging and thought provoking. You can place Dr. Grim in the top tier of the Great Courses’ pantheon of outstanding teachers. Dr. Grim introduces aspects of the philosophy of mind “problem”; dilates on different answers to those aspects by drawing from a wide range of disciplines; and then provides you his own thoughts from which you can draw your own conclusions. He announces when he is taking a stance, so as to not bias your interaction with the materiel. Given the unsettled nature of the topic, Dr. Grim provides no answers, but he definitely leaves you with a greater sense of wonder of your own self.
Date published: 2015-12-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from It could have covered so much more The course gives a good but disappointingly superficial summary of the development of the philosophy of mind over the centuries. Its treatment is primarily philosophical, which is reasonable given the title. However I was left feeling that the course would have been so much better if it had included more science. The philosophical positions presented invariably start with an unjustified premise presented as an unquestionable fact which is then shown to lead towards what is usually an absurd conclusion. While it is interesting to see how naive and foolish philosophers were in ages gone by it would have been good if the course had included more about what we now understand about consciousness and mind. The course completely fails to consider how consciousness can be seen to develop as an emergent property of increasing complexity in sensory processing and in the deep layering and nesting of levels of awareness. It does not consider how consciousness starts to develop within a foetus and gradually becomes increasingly complex as we mature, only to fade away slowly as our faculties decline into dementia. While the course gives us a tantalizing glimpse of theory of self in animals such as chimpanzees it misses the obvious conclusions that can be drawn about how consciousness has developed in complexity over millennia. It does not consider the amazing continuum of increasing awareness that stretches from amoeba through to primates. To say that 'consciousness seems to appear only in higher organisms' (lecture 22) begs the question and is completely unjustified.
Date published: 2015-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Deeply thought-provoking I have to admit that when I saw Dr. Grim’s picture, I was a little put off. But the subject sounded so interesting, and the reviews were so good, that I decided to try it. I’m glad I did. You don’t often see men with shoulder-length hair wearing a three piece suit with a gold watch-chain, but when he begins to speak, it’s not a distraction because what he says is so engrossing. Dr. Grim speaks calmly, steadily and with authority. It gives you confidence in his command of the subject (though when he discusses quantum mechanics and some other physics-related topics he reveals a more superficial understanding). First of all, if you are looking for hard answers about what is the mind, and how does consciousness work, you won’t find the answers here. Of course, you won’t find them anywhere else either, because we are far from a full understanding.. In fact, that’s one of Dr. Grim’s points. What he does do is to ask penetrating questions. What is the mind, and how does it interact with the body? How can a three pound mass of neurons exhibit consciousness? Will robots ever truly think? He presents and critiques many theories that have been advanced over the years, and admits that even the best theories we have now are severely flawed. He even wonders if a correct theory is possible. Along the way you will encounter some fascinating things. For example, there is the now common understanding that there is a division of labor in the brain. Different areas govern different functions, and when a part is damaged by injury or stroke, it manifests the damage in a loss of functionality. And then he throws in the story of a man who had lost his sight due to a brain injury. When asked where a particular object was, he would say that he didn’t know because he couldn’t see it. But when asked to take a guess, he would point directly at it. His eyes were apparently functioning, and his brain was able to make the connection to his motor area, but he couldn’t see it. His discussion of color vision was also fascinating. We are all familiar with the visual spectrum, and that the three types of cones in our retinas respond to different parts of the spectrum, producing the sensation of color. But wait! It’s not that simple. He showed two photographs of a Rubik’s cube taken in different lighting conditions. In one picture was a square that looked yellow and in the other picture there was a square that looked blue. However, both those squares were actually reflecting exactly the same colored light! Our perception depends as much upon context as the light itself. I could go on, but you get the idea. All in all this is a fascinating course that will continually challenge your common sense understanding of the mind and broaden your perspectives.
Date published: 2015-04-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, but more science than philosophy The course content is interesting, and the professor competent, but the major problem with this course is that it relies so much on experimental psychology, neurology and the like, that it is somewhat superficial when dealing with philosophy proper. Let's hope a future edition will address this issue, but I still recommend this course to anyone interested in the Philosophy of Mind.
Date published: 2014-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rich, thorough, and entertaining. The course is organized really well, with a specific topic within a larger theme which he never loses sight of. The examples are great, his explanations are very clear and the pace moves right along start to finish. It's my third TGC course that I've gone through and I enjoyed them all but this was probably the most enjoyable delivery I've heard yet. If he's reading it you wouldn't know, and his intonation made me chuckle now and then. But it isn't rambling or repetitive; I think it's because he knows the material so well he has found really clever ways to explain it. It's a primer in philosophy but not so full of technical terms that you can't follow. Really, this is great, you won't be disappointed if the subject matter interests you.
Date published: 2014-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best course from TGC so far I thoroughly enjoyed this course. Having taken a Philosophy of Mind course as part of my undergraduate university education in 1983, I was curious about how thinking about Mind has evolved. Prof. Grim did not disappoint. Of all the courses I've partaken of at The Great Courses, the organization of his course, and indeed each and every lecture, was superb. He covers the history of thought about Mind, the major thinkers and their points of view, and it all comes together in the last several lectures. This course was not as "dense" as some of the others at TGC, nor was it as biased towards the lecturer's point of view. This one is definitely worth the investment of your time.
Date published: 2013-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! I feel like I'm ahead of the game after learning from this teacher. I construct healthier arguments and it turns out I know a lot more than those who haven't taken this course and argue with me about dualism or other kinds of dogmas. Before Patrick Grimm and Steven Novella I used to be very gullible... I've gone through many courses, some of them don't even exist on the website anymore...
Date published: 2013-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WIDE-RANGING, STIMULATING This review is of the DVD's although audio would do just as well since the lecturer essentially remains stationary at the lectern, and the visuals are largely of figures from the past and bullets of topics being discussed. This remarkable series looks at several aspects of responses to the world around us. How it is interpreted by our minds and what is reality are discussed in ways that get one to thinking in different channels, The capabilities of machines at the present state of the art emulating the capacities of our ability to think are discussed within the context of what serious thinkers are considering about them. The capabilities are also compared to the flexibility of our brains. I found this discussion fascinating. There is an interesting summary of the history of IQ and measures of intelligence. Dr Grim points out there appears to be an inner theatre for our thoughts to be projected. He explores the mysteries of color and some aspects of vision. These points are just illustrations of the rich intellectual jewels contained in this delightful series. Dr Grim deals in this series with some of the profound issues of today. This offering by TGC is recommended to everyone wishing to have their minds pushed a little bit.
Date published: 2013-07-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Didn't finish I struggled through the first six lectures (even watching a couple of them twice) before giving up. A little too much esoteric theory for my taste.
Date published: 2013-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Favorite TC Course - EVER I've purchased more than a dozen courses over the years. This is my favorite. The organization of the course is outstanding, the professor is an excellent speaker and engaging, and the topic is fascinating.
Date published: 2013-05-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Heavy on scientistic theories, light on philosophy I thought this course was heavy on discussions of brain & ai research, both theoretical and in the lab, and included lots and lots of the associated historical context. It was relatively light philosophy. The course could have benefitted from greater exploration of the philosophies of experience, e.g. aesthetics, which are much more sophisticated as philosophy than the scientific theorizing offered in the course. The professor at times comes across as snarkey.
Date published: 2013-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from one of the best an eye opening course, guaranteed to significantly widen your world view. awesome professor, superb scientist and great teacher.
Date published: 2012-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from phylosophy of mind Prof. Grim was a little slow on the outset but once the subject became a little more deeper, he related it in a simple and easy manner. He stated complex concepts in ways that the layman can understand. I strongly recommend Prof. Grim and the course.
Date published: 2012-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Philosophy of mind at its best The questions regarding the workings of the mind and the problem of consciousness is my personal candidate for the most fascinating of all the outstanding problems in all of the fields of human inquiry. The insurmountable difficulty of the problem is reflected in the multiplicity of fields devoted to tackling it. As such, it is notoriously difficult to provide a balanced overview of the basics of the field in the course of 24 lectures. Content-wise, this means both discussing a diverse array of relevant fields, from biology to computer science, artificial intelligence, neuroscience and psychology, and essentially going where the question takes you. It also means providing a fair and unbiased description of the current state of different theories and hypotheses in the field. This course achieves both goals. And more. Grim's is not merely outlining what philosophy of mind has to say, but also often providing expert judgements that are incisively analytical and a paragon of clear-thinking. Like any first-rate philosopher of this day and age, Dr. Grim discusses various questions in multiple fields, from multiple aspects with panache and skill. His style of delivery is unique owing to his wry humor and wit, but I do admit that it takes a little getting used to. I have two minor complaints. First, the discussion of free will in lecture 18 was cursory at best and fell short of the standard of the course. More importantly, the seamless flow of the course was compromised as it reached the end, and the lectures reviewing the problem of consciousness verged on becoming a tad repetitive. Minor quibbles aside, this is one of the top 5 courses among the 30+ I have listened to, in the high-quality catalog of the Teaching Company. Despite the fact that as an AI student who has read a thing or two on the subject, I already knew about 70% of the material of the course, and was at least familiar with the rest. Bu that did not keep me from listening to it twice. For people like me, it provides a much-sought concise review of the basics. For people less familiar with the field, I can only give my highest recommendation.
Date published: 2012-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best lecturer Patrick Grim is just fun to listen to period! he's facetiousness is so charismatic. The way he shifts his tone of voice in harmony with the joke makes the story 10 times more vivid & pleasurably perceived. his maneurisms... Him, Steven Novella, and Dr. Restack are so good at keeping my attention at peak, I think anyone will be mesmerised when they start listening to these guys are like my fathers, I don't know how else to explain how grateful I am that they exist as a great example for many tutors in universities. Thank you TTC for making these courses!!!! You have no idea how much I love this educational system... It's the best!!!
Date published: 2012-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from philosophy + a course in philosophy with a lot of neuroscience, psychology, and perceptual phenomena info included. a little different. pretty interesting.
Date published: 2012-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So, this is what Philosophy is al about! Prior to this course, my knowledge of philosophy was limited to what I had understood of two other Teach12 lecture series on the topic. Frankly, I was still wondering what justified the hype. Professor Grim opened my eyes with this course which raises questions that are far from mundane but yet not at all cut off from reality. His presentations are varied and very carefully prepared. They include anecdotes about various brain malfunctions, rather detailed accounts of the history of robots and of artificial intelligence and such elements as thought experiments, actual auditory experiments and multiple references to pertinent Web sites. Concepts such as syntax and semantics or digital and analog models are defined in an enlightening fashion. Professor Grim demonstrates a very high respect for his listeners. He clearly intends, and succeeds, in making them think for themselves. Very pedagogically, he introduces at the beginning of each lecture the topics that will be covered and devotes the whole final lecture to a synthesis of what has been taught. He remains strictly professional and refrains from any personal anecdotes, self-laudatory or other. Some elements are however debatable. There is for instance no reference whatsoever to religious beliefs, a surprising feat when one discusses the mind, by essence spiritual. The definition of consciousness is also rather limited, being conscious being simply the opposite of being unconscious. Thus, bats are considered to be conscious beings, although it appears doubtful to me that they are aware of their own mortality. Disagreeing with Professor Grim on matter he brings up only illustrates what a successful teacher he is! This exceptional course is very strongly recommended to all, including those unfamiliar with the field of philosophy.
Date published: 2012-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Occassionally Mind-Blowing I have complete fifty-three Teaching Company courses, and this is only the second I have given 5 Stars. It is not perfect (I am rounding up from the 4.7 stars I'd have given if I'd had the option), but it's definitely close. The professor does speak slow, but I watched the DVD at 1.2x speed and the pace was good. There is a lecture on robots in fiction that did almost nothing to move the lecture series forward and offered no value in and of itself. And the material got dense in the last few lectures before the concluding one, and was hard to follow. But the good stuff more than outweighed that. He is the first of lecturer to discuss the Theseus' ship analogy in a way that had impact, and he presented the fact of mental images being nothing but firing neurons in a way that had me considering it for several days [I regret that I can't do it justice here]. These may show up in other philosophy lectures, but Professor Grim definitely communicated them with greater clarity and impact.
Date published: 2011-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Flawless teaching Professor Grim is one of the best, if not the best philosophy professor I have ever heard! He makes even the most difficult concepts presentable, enjoyable, and filled with pertinent everyday examples to drive home the point. This is an excellent course which draws much from the latest neuroscience and psychology research. Professor Grim is remarkably updated in all these areas. The result is a very relevant set of lectures that transforms the way you thnik about the mind, philosophy and everyday life. I cannot recommend this course highly enough.
Date published: 2011-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Mind, Beautiful This is the century of the mind. I’m convinced that by 2100 we humans will make a machine that will be understood as a mind. Professor Grimm’s course is the prerequisite to fully appreciate and understand the developments that will come. I highly recommend this course because of both its straightforward treatment and its colorful anecdotes illustrating fundamental questions of mind. Grimm reviews numerous surprising insights into sensory perception, perception of time, models of the mind, mind-body interaction and machines that would imitate the mind. He discusses thought experiments of all kinds that serve to isolate the critical questions that need to be answered before we can fully understand the workings of the mind. He provides valuable observations and insights into consciousness. My only criticism is that some of the theories don’t get the critical examination that they warrant. The Chinese room is the most obvious of these. It was presented as a critique to Artificial Intelligence. This thought experiment seems obviously flawed. It makes a logical leap that results from a lack of appreciation for the concept of emergent properties. We now know clearly that the brain uses simple rules and straightforward architecture along with massive complexity to create behaviors far beyond the type of naïve explanation used for the Chinese room. There is nothing “extra” that the mind does that the Chinese room doesn’t do. The mind just does massively more of it. A quantitative difference results in a qualitative change. I think we will make a mind sometime in mid-century. Grimm’s summary of what we know and what we don’t know makes it clear that we won’t fully understand it before we make it. Maybe the machines will explain it to us one day.
Date published: 2011-09-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear and absorbing presentation I purchased this lecture series because I was so impressed with Grim's "Questions of Value" course. Again, I was impressed. It has been 40 years since I sat in a university philosophy class. I found Grim's lectures to be both an outstanding summary of the old mind-body (dualism) problem as well as well-presented (and fascinating) discussions regarding the current thinking about human consciousness. Grim conveys enthusiasm for the subject. Well done professor.
Date published: 2011-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course This was my first course from The Great Courses, and I loved every minuite of it. Each lecture builds upon the previous one, and I feel that Prof. Grim did a great job in designing the course. I only hope that other courses I purchase will leave me this satisfied.
Date published: 2011-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sad It Was Over I'm a voracious reader and professional speaker on human behavior, so I have a decent understanding of the subject. Still, I thought this was an awesome set of lectures. When I read the reviews before purchasing, a few of the reviews mentioned "the repetition" as a fault. I thought it was just right. I want to remember the things I learn, not just hear about them. Also, Professor Grimm added just enough humor to make me smile several times. He has a clear, deep pleasing voice. I listened to the audio series so I can't comment on the video. The thought experiments and case studies (even though I already knew about a few) helped spread new light on my understanding of what we do and don't know about consciousness. The sound illusions, which were used to show we often don't hear what's really there, were intriguing, and though I tried not to fall for their "tricks" they still got me! Made me think about reality, and what is it really? I've listened to many other lectures and this was one of the few I was sad was over. Usually, after a bit, I'm anxious to move on to another topic or speaker; not this time. For me, it was well worth the money.
Date published: 2011-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well done I found the course content and Prof. Grim's delivery to be very engaging. It's a very good overview of the basic concepts of Philosophy of the Mind. Definitely recommended to anyone interested in this topic
Date published: 2011-07-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from not for the feint of heart - audio download I was somewhat surprised at the depth of philosophical theory that was covered off. Most of the earlier lectures were entertaining with relevant historical references, however I found the last several a little hard to take. I fully realize that philosophy is intended to make you think outside your comfort zone, and look at life from different perspectives. Perhaps it was the limitations of the audio only, coupled with listening in my car and as such not being able to pay full attention to the course at times. Regardless of those limitations, my personal experience with this course was somewhat disappointing and I cannot in good faith recommend it to a friend.
Date published: 2011-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Provocative, wide-ranging introduction I took a chance on this offering because of my ongoing interest in cognitive science. For me, the risk was well worth taking. If you're fascinated by the interwoven issues that arise when trying to understand cognition, as in artificial intelligence, this is a fine and stimulating introduction. Artificial intelligence is that modern day renaissance field that requires both broad and deep sources of information and inspiration. Professor Grim performs a credible service in delivering a survey of significant intellectual depth and breadth, and he does it with the right amount of enthusiasm (but avoids over-zealousness). He's personable, but also rigorous as he sets up theory and challenges. I did appreciate that he manages any biases well; I believe he was fair to all sides, and that's a pleasant surprise. Even in currently discounted approaches students should still appreciate that there were good reasons at the time to hold particular views. For example, Dualism is an old and generally discarded theory, but I was pleased that the topic was exhumed in order to contrast to the modern consensus. I was initially concerned that I would find Descartes redux boring. But Grim's re-introduction, and then dismantling of dualism, set a solid logical foundation and style for all the following material. Although I'm roughly familiar with the field, I'm still hungry for more breadth and depth. So I was gratified to learn new ideas to compliment what I had already encountered from Descartes, Darwin, Turing, Searle, and others. Here I found new thought experiments and approaches. I especially appreciated the "Mary problem" on restricted perception, the review of Functionalism and its descendants, and "anti-theories". I used the CDs on my commute, and found them satisfying enough to listen to some of them two or even three times. I found Grim's lectures compatible with--but more satisfying than--Robinson's "Consciousness and Its Implications." However, I'm still hungry for more. I'd certainly consider a good series that delves deeper into AI research areas, evolutionary algorithms, Turing test variants, and real-world applications of AI. So, Teaching Company, if you're listening...
Date published: 2011-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This one hooked me I borrowed these CDs from a friend & I was so pleased, I placed an order for 4 more titles! It is full of provocative ideas, fascinating discoveries, and irresistable anecdotes. I was driving 500 miles with my 17-year-old son & he got hooked, too. Now that's saying something, right? We have continued to discuss & debate the ideas we encountered in this set, so it gave us a fine common platform to connect. My recommendation - schedule a road trip with YOUR teenager & play these discs.
Date published: 2011-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Grim does a stunning job I just finished watching the 12 hours of lectures associated with this course. I expected to watch them over several weeks but ended up watching them in about 3 sittings. I was heartbroken when he concluded the last lecture as he had me wanting more. This is a survey course about a very challenging subject. Grim covers a dazzling amount of material, some of which I was already familiar with. Even so, Grim is completely engaging as a lecturer and presents complex ideas in a straightforward and accessible fashion. I also very much appreciate his being direct about his own biases. While I personally disagreed with a few of his conclusions, I found myself deeply engaged in the learning process and felt like I walked away from the course with a completely new outlook on the philosophy of mind. I am going to wait a few days, review my notes and probably sit through many of these lectures again. And I am already assembling a list of additional books to read. I hope Grim gets the opportunity to create other philosophy courses for the Teaching Company. He did a great job. What a trip!
Date published: 2011-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting, entertaining, & thorough The professor was well-organized and communicates flawlessly. This course will show you so many ANGLES of the mind you never even thought of. Arguments and counter-arguments. Great examples and leaves you thinking about it all day long. WELL DONE & thank you!
Date published: 2010-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stimulating Course In the first few lectures of this course, I was thinking what a strange discipline philosophy is. However, once past those lectures, I found the material stimulating, thought-provoking and extremely well delivered. Professor Grim was, I think, extraordinarily balanced in dealing with competing schools of thought, different points of view and the complexities of various thinkers' positions. I came away with much food for thought and the course has challenged me to define my own position on this issue.
Date published: 2010-08-26
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