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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Course No. 4278
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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
 |  Average 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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  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 192-page printed course guidebook
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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 192-page printed course guidebook
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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 96.
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
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Should be a required course in every college. What a breadth of subjects covered! Philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, physics...and the list goes on. These lectures piqued my interest in so many subjects that I will surely be up to my ears in TC courses for a decade.
Date published: 2010-08-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointing This was the first time I have been disappointed by a purchase from this company. The content was often interesting but the professor's voice and pedantic delivery decreased my enjoyment of even the good lectures. I would not recommend it.
Date published: 2010-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascainting Course I really haven enjoyed this course immensely! The material was arranged so one idea progressed smoothly to the next, ever facet explained (and often demonstrated) so it was well understood before moving to the next. I was great to discover what earlier philosophers thought and discovered about "mind", how they zeroed in on the details, etc. And I was fantastic the way moderns ideas, neurobiology, and discoveries about consciousness were worked in. A very well done course, with organized information, explained so it was easy to understand, and presented in an interesting way. I wish we could force the world to watch and learn from it.
Date published: 2010-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mind Expanding With a relaxed , avuncular style , professor Grimm, along with professor Daniel Robinson and professor Luke Timothy Johnson, is one of my top handful of TTC favorites. If at times professor Grimm betrays his biases on philosophical issues, the content of his lectures is always utterly engrossing. The main thesis of the series is, foremost, to identify that species of intelligence which gives humans their distinctive competence within the animal kingdom, namely, that of conscious intelligence. This serves the several auxiliary purposes. For one, to identify the essential criteria incumbent on developers of AI. Second, to treat of areas of consciousness not yet fully explained by science and philosophy, for example, the phenomenon of perception. And third, to explore what consciousness itself implies best concerning the type of beings we are via the mind/body problem. My sole gripe is that the lecture series is too short; it should be enlarged to 48 lectures to afford topics the greater scope they so richly deserve.
Date published: 2010-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought Provoking Wow! Professor Grim has done it again. This course is as good as "Questions of Value."... The material and the delivery are both outstanding; put them together and you get education and entertainment in the same package.... Plenty of memorable arguments and examples.... My own conclusion: the mind IS an incredible thing.
Date published: 2010-07-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointed Like others, I was excited about this serise. It had some decent content here and there, but the presentation was poor. If another professor provided the lectures, it might worth the time.
Date published: 2010-06-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Philosophy of Brain Puts Mine to Sleep I was really excited about this one for the first 5 lectures and then I was totally lost. The Prof. basically stands there reading and doesn't make the material accessible to someone without a background in this field. Needs more metaphors.
Date published: 2010-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Good Prof. Grimm lays out the subject matter very well in his 24 lectures. I'm not quite sure how the TC decides how many lectures a topic is going to get - it seems rather arbitrary to me - but this broad subject gets only 24. That said, it makes the course fast paced. He's engaging and presents well, always using interesting examples - though you do at times get the impression you're listening to one of those Sci-Fi/Matrix geeks (especially when artificial intelligence is the subject). The overlap between this subject and psychology is significant, and you can find yourself hearing material that you're already familiar with, but it's still worth listening to again if only to remind yourself how psychology, until quite recently, was considered a branch of philosophy. Definitly worth purchasing, especially if you're really new to the study of the mind.
Date published: 2010-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Grim Is Delightful on Mind! This is a wonderful course on the philosophy of Mind - from historic to contemporary, and Professor Grim is one of the best! His clear, organized, insightful, confident, fast paced and wryly humorous delivery is perfect for such a difficult subject. This course makes a great compliment to TTC's other mind courses (the more brain/neurological based, Biology and Human Behavior, and the more general psychological, Origins Of the Human Mind). While Professor Grim is brilliant in presenting a wide range of philosophical and logical arguments, the course's scope isn't exhaustive or even conclusive - the emphasis is clearly Western (materialistic) vs. other more Eastern (or spiritual) ideas of Mind - so sometimes it seems Mind (the actual experience of our consciousness/awareness) has been reduced right out of the discussion! An example of this is in the discussion of 'thinking machines' and the difficulty of explaining how a machine (or mechanistic model of mind) can possibly make the shift (perhaps quantum leap would be more apt here) from understanding sentence structure (syntax) to sentence meaning (semantics). There is no clear idea how this could possibly happen... This is a great strength of this course, we are left with many unanswered questions, yet other concepts of mind could perhaps have been presented to show a different solution. Another example of the limits of mechanistic/logical thinking is seen when serious discussion is given to when and how machines will be able to do all a human mind can do. It is easy to understand how this can happen for logical tasks, but how could we possibly imagine this for more subtle and individualistic qualities of human creativity expressed by concepts like "art" and "taste"? These kinds of subtle and very alive expressions of mind appear glossed over (or perhaps beyond the scope of this course). To Prof. Grim's credit though, we are clearly shown a wide array of ideas, reasons and counter reasons to explain many aspects of what we think and perceive and all too often take for granted. I'd like to see The Teaching Company round out their "mind studies" courses with an in depth philosophical look at Eastern/spiritual systems (such as Mahayana Buddhist Madhyamaka and Yogacara philosophy) which begin with the assumption that consciousness is primary, and that our physical universe/experience is more illusory and subtle than it appears to our senses. It is easily as rich and varied as the Western schools ideas...
Date published: 2010-05-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Helpful Many sections I found tedious and boring! However there were some very good sections. His section on Free Will or Determination was great. The concluding sections were the best. I think this class could have easily been presented in 12 lectures. There was just a lot of extraneous material used to fill up space. I would have enjoyed it better if it had been short and to the point. I felt I was having to wade through a lot of pointless information to get a few nuggets of gold. I would not recommend this class unless you are very interested in this material.
Date published: 2010-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great for Artificial Intellengence Discussions AUDIO CD: I appreciate BG1's review, but this course still has much to recommend it. Prof. Grim's lectures on computers and Artificial Intelligence alone are worth the price of admission. I appreciate how Prof. Grim strikes a balanced position between ideological poles. He lectures in such a way that he gives balanced critiques of all positions. His discussion of the hard problem of consciousness is excellent, and he invokes both Dennett and Serle in a balanced way. Although I love the likes of Douglas Hofstadter (his Goedel, Escher, and Bach is a 20th century classic), I for one have always found some profound disconects in the arguments of those who favor extreme Soulness. I also appreciate the perceptual illusions that come with the course, especially the fascinating audio illusions. Teh several lectures that deal with how perception works and what all that implies about perception are excellent. I love Prof. Grim's style, and because I know I will keep this and listen to it again, I give the course 5 stars.
Date published: 2010-03-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Neuroscience of Interest; Philosophy Not So Much Another minority opinion - not a particularly worthwhile course. As has been noted, this is not simply a philosophy course. It includes a great deal of neuropsychology and neurophysiology. This is a good thing, and I found these portions of the course to be by far the most interesting. As for the philosophy - The very first, and astonishingly candid, sentence (from the Course Guidebook) is "Many of our questions about brains, minds, and machines are not only questions for which we do not have answers, but questions for which we do not even have approaches for finding answers." Prof Grim then goes on, again with extraordinary candor, to note that "As time went on, philosophy progressively gave birth to mathematics, astronomy, physics, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, and psychology as specialized scientific disciplines. Once we think we have the techniques needed to answer specific questions, they become scientific questions rather than philosophical questions." In other words, philosophy is that part of the pursuit of knowledge which is left over after we separate out all of those areas in which we have at least some idea of what we are doing. Prof. Grim reaffirms this in the penultiimate sentence of the Course Guidebook: "Philosophical questions are often those we do not even yet know how to ask." One might be forgiven here for wondering why, considering all of this, anyone ought to have any interest in philosophy at all, of the mind or otherwise. My own answer is that speculation for its own sake is intellectually rewarding (i.e., fun), is wonderful creative exercise for the mind, and on occasion may actually begin us on the road to a new or deeper scientific theory or empirical understanding of our world. Most crucially, a hugely important branch of philosophy, ethics, is by its nature not subject to scientific or empirical investigation, and it is to philosophy to which we must turn for ethical and moral understanding, if we do not simply wish to unquestioningly accept the imposition of a cultural or religious worldview. Philosophy of mind, however, once divorced from neurophysiolgy and psychology, is (in my sincerely humble opinion) one of the least fruitful areas of speculation. What seems to strike many as difficult or deep appears to me to more often be a crazy quilt of erudite jargon whose complexity simply conceals the fact that there is no actual underlying meaning to which the language refers. (Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigations," were it taken more seriously by more philosophers, would be a great boon in helping to minimize this unfortunate situation. Prof. Grim does refer to it, but ony to comment on Wittgenstein's private language argument. Wittgenstein's much more crucial concern is to point out that much of philosophical debate is in fact merely an argument about language, rather than about anything in the actual world.) So - this is a worthwhile course as a general but very basic overview of the current state of neuropsychology. If you like playing philosophical mindgames (apologies for the pun), you will likely enjoy the speculative material as well. If, on the other hand, you are considering this course in order to gain a better understanding of, for example, the nature of consciousness or of subjective experience, be forwarned that, in the words of Prof.Grim, these are some of those philosophical questions which "we do not even yet know how to ask."
Date published: 2010-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course, one of the best There appears to be some diversity of opinion on the quality of this course. I'm weighing in on the side of "outstanding". Knowing I would probably not have my question of "What is consciousness?" answered, I wanted to see the state of the art in brain research. Professor Grim delivered in spades. He discusses the philosophy and the science for many of the areas that interface with the question of consciousness. Of course, the main question is still beyond our abilities to satisfactorily answer, but I felt closer to all its ramifications after having viewed the course. That addresses the content. As to the delivery, I could not have asked for more. Since it's been brought up in a previous review, I will add, the Professor's appearance belies his ability to deliver a punchy lecture. He has an excellent lecture voice, great timing and is exquisitely prepared. Mind you, if you are a person that prefers an off the cuff, informal style of presentation, you might not enjoy this as much as I did. But in sticking to a well prepared presentation, he is able to deliver more involved content to a wider audience with a greater resulting comprehension. I would recommend this course to both the student, one who will use the guidebook to cement retention and is integrating this material into a full course of study, and to the recreational listener, such as myself, that is just after the pleasure of new concepts, and/or too old a dog to retain what they've learned past the next happy hour.
Date published: 2010-01-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Actually an "Intro to Psychology" course I'm in the minority here, but I was very dissappointed in this series. For those well versed in psychology, neurology, or philosophy: I believe you too will be very dissappointed. This course is a lot like an Introduction to Psychology course, or possibly a Perception 101 course. If it were touted as such, then this course would get 3 or 4 stars. Who hasn't heard of Phineas Gage, for pete's sake? Well, if you have, then perhaps you'd better rethink purchasing this course. The only "philosophy" presented was again the stuff of Intro Philosophy courses (not even that deep, I'm afraid). This professor's delivery was also below average. After the first lecture, it sounds like he's reading his lectures. Also, polemic was often presented as fact, and his understanding of the human brain is so simplistic as to be laughable.
Date published: 2009-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from this is the best program i have listened to yet from the Teaching Company.the lecture topic is presented very well and the topic is so profound as to be extremely well presented lecture on a very difficult and complex subject.
Date published: 2009-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good, but hard work Maybe it just me, but think philosophy is a difficult subject. The TCC courses are no exception. I was totally left gasping in the dust by the (far too brilliant) Dr. Robinson and his "Great idea in Philosophy". This course is much more manageable, but still (for me at least) takes study. Often I found, I needed to rewind or completely repeat sections. Course guidebook got a workout. Dr. Grim (who looks like a member of the band GRATEFUL DEAD) was excellent. Good speaking voice, thoughtful, enthusiastic! He certainly holds up his side. I do recommend this course, but it is not a "summer read". Much more Faulkner than Dan Brown. Certainly the DVD format is preferable, copyright 2008.
Date published: 2009-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Marvelous Course This wonderful course is a real treat! Professor Grim gives a series of fascinating and original lectures about the mind, the brain, puzzles of perception, what it means to be conscious, and what it really might mean to think. The lectures reach far-ranging frontiers of many scientific fields, from philosophy, anatomy, information processing, robotics, to quantum physics. Insights abound. This course gets my highest recommendation, especially for anyone with a "mind" of their own -- and that means everybody!
Date published: 2009-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought provoking I thoroughly enjoyed this course. Prof Grim's presentation was interesting and fun to listen to. He gives a provocative history of the development of thinking about thinking and encourages the listeners to question their own notions of consciousness. His refutation of Cartesian reasoning, while much less self-aggrandizing than most, was also the most convincing I've heard by far. His most salient point shines through when he questions whether it is possible for humans to fully comprehend consciousness if one must first be conscious to observe consciousness at all. Of course, we must continue the scientific investigation into this fascinating question of existence, but it is unclear whether or not we will ever find the answer.
Date published: 2009-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Course This was a marvelous course given by a professor of obvious skill, knowledge, and a definitive talent for clarity. I marveled after each lecture how well he had covered the topic of focus; it was a pleasure to benefit from his intelligence, thoughtfulness, and ability. It was the single best presentation I have ever experienced about a complex topic; I only wish it had been longer. I would purchase any course given by Professor Grim.
Date published: 2009-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Want more of the "Grim" details of thinking Professor Grim captivated me throughout this course with easy to comprehend lessons on a difficult subject. The only negative of the course was that it was only 24 lectures and I felt symptoms of intellectual withdrawal when it was complete. I hope a second edition is in the works so I can get another dose of awareness from this inspiring teacher.
Date published: 2009-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course on a Difficult Subject Professor Grim presents a very well organized set of lectures on a topic without clear and difinitive answers. I was expecting a little more about artificial intelligence (an area of interest), but as the title says, this is a philosophy course. The general categories of approaches to AI are discussed in a few lectures, but the philosophical aspects of AI are woven throughout the course. I expecially enjoyed the ways the brain gets fooled (such as sensory illusions) and strange workings of damaged brains. This is a course I will probably listen to again (which would be a first--there are too many courses out there I haven't taken the first time!) and I am now listening to Professor Grim's other course: Questions of Value.
Date published: 2009-07-25
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