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The Mind's I

The Mind's I

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The Mind's I: Fantasies and reflections on self and soul (ISBN 0-553-34584-2) is a 1981 book composed and arranged by Douglas R. Hofstadter
Douglas Hofstadter
Douglas Richard Hofstadter is an American academic whose research focuses on consciousness, analogy-making, artistic creation, literary translation, and discovery in mathematics and physics...

 and Daniel C. Dennett
Daniel Dennett
Daniel Clement Dennett is an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the Co-director of...

. It is a collection of essays and creations about the nature of the mind and the self, tied together with commentary by the editors.

This book is an exploration of the human mind and soul, ranging from early philosophical and fictional musings on a subject that could seemingly only be examined in the realm of thought, to works from the 20th century where the nature of the self became a viable topic for scientific study.

Contents


The book's 27 chapters are each made up of a previously published work by authors such as Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo , known as Jorge Luis Borges , was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family...

, Alan Turing
Alan Turing
Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS , was an English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist. He was highly influential in the development of computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of "algorithm" and "computation" with the Turing machine, which played a...

, Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL , known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author...

, Raymond Smullyan
Raymond Smullyan
Raymond Merrill Smullyan is an American mathematician, concert pianist, logician, Taoist philosopher, and magician.Born in Far Rockaway, New York, his first career was stage magic. He then earned a BSc from the University of Chicago in 1955 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1959...

, John Searle
John Searle
John Rogers Searle is an American philosopher and currently the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.-Biography:...

, Stanisław Lem, Thomas Nagel
Thomas Nagel
Thomas Nagel is an American philosopher, currently University Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University, where he has taught since 1980. His main areas of philosophical interest are philosophy of mind, political philosophy and ethics...

 (as well as Hofstadter and Dennett themselves), each followed up by a commentary by Hofstadter and/or Dennett. Dennett and Hofstadter both support the idea that we can learn much about human minds and souls by exploring human mentality in terms of information processing. Dennett and Hofstadter are both proponents of the idea that the wonders of human mentality can be accounted for by mechanical brain processes — which leaves nothing theoretical to prevent us from building human-like mental processes into our mechanical devices. A few views that run counter to this notion, such as John Searle
John Searle
John Rogers Searle is an American philosopher and currently the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.-Biography:...

's widely-known presentation of the Chinese room
Chinese room
The Chinese room is a thought experiment by John Searle, which first appeared in his paper "Minds, Brains, and Programs", published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in 1980...

 argument, are included in this book mainly as targets for refutation.

The book is divided into six sections, each focusing on a particular aspect of the problem of self.

Part I


Part I, "A Sense of Self", begins with two works of fiction that challenge the notions of self and identity (including the Argentine
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 writer Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo , known as Jorge Luis Borges , was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family...

's "Borges and I"), provoking the reader to think more closely about just what is meant by "self". It closes with an essay by Harold Morowitz on the reductionist view of the mind.

Part II


Part II, entitled "Soul Searching", takes on the idea of soul — that spark which separates thinking beings from unthinking machines. Included here is Alan Turing's famous article from 1950, in which he proposes an operational test — popularly known as the "Turing test
Turing test
The Turing test is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour. In Turing's original illustrative example, a human judge engages in a natural language conversation with a human and a machine designed to generate performance indistinguishable from that of a human being. All...

" — for machine intelligence, judged successful if a machine can use human language well enough to pass as human. No machine has yet come close to passing the Turing test, and certainly not at the time of the book's publication. (It is argued that merely behaving as if you have human-like intelligence in no way shows that you have human-like intelligence: see Turing test
Turing test
The Turing test is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour. In Turing's original illustrative example, a human judge engages in a natural language conversation with a human and a machine designed to generate performance indistinguishable from that of a human being. All...

 for history and criticisms.) As it happens, the two main efforts of artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI textbooks define the field as "the study and design of intelligent agents" where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its...

 research towards machine learning since The Mind's I was published (trainable neural nets and expert system
Expert system
In artificial intelligence, an expert system is a computer system that emulates the decision-making ability of a human expert. Expert systems are designed to solve complex problems by reasoning about knowledge, like an expert, and not by following the procedure of a developer as is the case in...

s) failed to bring us any closer to true intelligence, so the elusive nature of machine intelligence presented still stands. A dialogue of Hofstadter's own picks up the idea of the Turing test and spins a thought-provoking scenario from it. Two fictional pieces by Terrel Miedaner on finding intelligence in places we wouldn't expect end the section.

Part III


The formation of mind from elements individually incapable of thought is the central theme of Part III, "From Hardware to Software". The evolution of the mind toward its current state is addressed in the first two reprinted works. Following that is a reprint of "Prelude... Ant Fugue" from Hofstadter's Pulitzer
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

-winning book, Gödel, Escher, Bach
Gödel, Escher, Bach
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is a book by Douglas Hofstadter, described by his publishing company as "a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll"....

,
in which he builds up the metaphor of the mind as anthill: each individual part with only rudimentary function, coming together to be more than the sum of its parts.

Part IV


Part IV explores its titular issue, "Mind as Program". What is the self: the mind, or the body? Can they be separated? Can the location of the consciousness be separate from one's physical location. In that case, where are you, really? Dennett's fantastical account of being separated from his brain and David Sanford's response tackle these issues. In this section the mind is considered as software: as patterns of thought and action, as separate from the physical body housing it as a piece of software is from the machine it runs on.

Part V


Part V, "Created Selves and Free Will", includes John Searle's notorious "Minds, Brains and Programs" (originally an article published in The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1980), which states: "...mental processes are computational processes over formally defined elements." Searle has objections to the idea that computer programs might ever produce mind, but the idea that mentality involves computation can be traced through the history of Western philosophy where it has long been explored in the context of trying to explain human reason in terms of formal logical systems. A dramatic and famous rejection of the formal systems idea was that of Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. He was professor in philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1939 until 1947...

, a philosopher who Dennett respects. After first embracing the idea of reducing everything to logical atoms (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is the only book-length philosophical work published by the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in his lifetime. It was an ambitious project: to identify the relationship between language and reality and to define the limits of science...

), Wittgenstein later rejected the idea that human language games should be formulated as formal systems (Philosophical Investigations
Philosophical Investigations
Philosophical Investigations is, along with the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, one of the most influential works by the 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein...

). However, many philosophers and artificial intelligence researchers remain captivated by the formal systems approach. For example, Dennett has tried to help the MIT Cog project develop formal computer programming methods towards the goal of producing human-like intelligence. In his book "Contemporary Philosophy of Mind", Georges Rey
Georges Rey
Georges Rey is a professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland.His book Contemporary Philosophy of Mind takes the reader into the middle of contemporary debates in philosophy of mind...

 provides an example of continuing attempts to express human intelligence in machines through computational processes over formally defined elements. An alternative but minority approach has grown out of the work of people like Gerald Edelman
Gerald Edelman
Gerald Maurice Edelman is an American biologist who shared the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for work with Rodney Robert Porter on the immune system. Edelman's Nobel Prize-winning research concerned discovery of the structure of antibody molecules...

 and his student Olaf Sporns
Olaf Sporns
Olaf Sporns is Professor and Associate Department Chair at Indiana University.Dr. Sporns received his degree from Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen in Tübingen, West Germany before going to New York to study at the Rockefeller University under Gerald Edelman...

 through which it is suggested that machine intelligence can most efficiently be achieved by creating autonomous robotic systems that can learn the way human children learn through interacting with their environment.

Part VI


The book closes with "The Inner Eye", a collection of short pieces on the subjective nature of experience. How can one describe what it is like to be a particular entity, without actually being it yourself? Thomas Nagel, Raymond Smullyan, Douglas Hofstadter, and Robert Nozick tackle the problem of translating the experiences of one being into terms another can understand. But can we ever know what it is like to be another self? For that matter, what can we know about what it is like to be ourselves? Hofstadter and Dennett's commentary suggest that self-knowledge is elusive, to say nothing of the experience of other minds.

Essays

  • "Borges and I
    Borges and I
    "Borges and I" is a short story by the Argentine writer and poet, Jorge Luis Borges. It is one of the stories in the short story collection, The Maker , first published in 1960.-Analysis:Borges explores the concept of Self as being separate from the public persona perceived by readers through his...

    ", Jorge Luis Borges
    Jorge Luis Borges
    Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo , known as Jorge Luis Borges , was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family...

  • "On Having No Head", D. E. Harding
  • "Rediscovering the Mind", Harold Morowitz
  • "Computing Machinery and Intelligence
    Computing machinery and intelligence
    Computing Machinery and Intelligence, written by Alan Turing and published in 1950 in Mind, is a seminal paper on the topic of artificial intelligence in which the concept of what is now known as the Turing test was introduced to a wide audience....

    ", Alan Turing
    Alan Turing
    Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS , was an English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist. He was highly influential in the development of computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of "algorithm" and "computation" with the Turing machine, which played a...

  • "The Turing Test: A Coffeehouse Conversation", Douglas Hofstadter
    Douglas Hofstadter
    Douglas Richard Hofstadter is an American academic whose research focuses on consciousness, analogy-making, artistic creation, literary translation, and discovery in mathematics and physics...

  • "The Princess Ineffabelle", Stanisław Lem
  • "The Soul of Martha, A Beast", Terrel Miedaner
  • "The Soul of the Mark III Beast", Terrel Miedaner
  • "Spirit", Allen Wheelis
  • "Selfish Genes and Selfish Memes", Richard Dawkins
    Richard Dawkins
    Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL , known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author...

  • "Prelude... Ant Fugue", Douglas Hofstadter
  • "The Story of a Brain", Arnold Zuboff
  • "Where Am I?", Daniel Dennett
    Daniel Dennett
    Daniel Clement Dennett is an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the Co-director of...

  • "Where Was I?", David Hawley Sanford
  • "Beyond Rejection", Justin Leiber
    Justin Leiber
    Justin Fritz Leiber is an American philosopher and science fiction writer. He is the son of science fiction author Fritz Leiber. Previously a professor at the University of Houston, Leiber is currently a Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University...

  • "Software", Rudy Rucker
    Rudy Rucker
    Rudolf von Bitter Rucker is an American mathematician, computer scientist, science fiction author, and philosopher, and is one of the founders of the cyberpunk literary movement. The author of both fiction and non-fiction, he is best known for the novels in the Ware Tetralogy, the first two of...

  • "The Riddle of the Universe and Its Solution
    The Riddle of the Universe and Its Solution
    The Riddle of the Universe and Its Solution is a short story written by Christopher Cherniak appearing in the 1981 book The Mind's I. It describes a research project in computer science which includes content that produces catatonia in anyone who views it...

    ", Christopher Cherniak
    Christopher Cherniak
    Christopher Cherniak is a member of the Philosophy Department at the University of Maryland. Some of his research concerns more realistic, bounded-resource models of rationality, and optimal-wiring models of brain structure....

  • "The Seventh Sally or How Trurl's Own Perfection Led to No Good", Stanisław Lem
  • "Non Serviam", Stanisław Lem
  • "Is God a Taoist?", Raymond Smullyan
    Raymond Smullyan
    Raymond Merrill Smullyan is an American mathematician, concert pianist, logician, Taoist philosopher, and magician.Born in Far Rockaway, New York, his first career was stage magic. He then earned a BSc from the University of Chicago in 1955 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1959...

  • "The Circular Ruins", Jorge Luis Borges
  • "Minds, Brains, and Programs", John Searle
    John Searle
    John Rogers Searle is an American philosopher and currently the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.-Biography:...

  • "An Unfortunate Dualist", Raymond Smullyan
  • "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?", Thomas Nagel
    Thomas Nagel
    Thomas Nagel is an American philosopher, currently University Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University, where he has taught since 1980. His main areas of philosophical interest are philosophy of mind, political philosophy and ethics...

  • "An Epistemological Nightmare", Raymond Smullyan
  • "A Conversation With Einstein's Brain", Douglas Hofstadter
  • "Fiction", Robert Nozick
    Robert Nozick
    Robert Nozick was an American political philosopher, most prominent in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a professor at Harvard University. He is best known for his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia , a right-libertarian answer to John Rawls's A Theory of Justice...