I Am Not a Brain: Philosophy of Mind for the 21st Century

Polity. Nov. 2017. 240p. tr. from German by Christopher Turner. notes. index. ISBN 9781509514755. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781509514786. PHIL
German philosopher Gabriel (philosophy, Univ. of Bonn; Why the World Does Not Exist) seeks to do three things with this ambitious and engaging book. First, he aims to combat the popular but misguided "neurocentrism" that reductively equates the "self" and consciousness with the brain's biochemical activity, à la philosophers Daniel Dennett, Paul Churchland, Patricia Churchland, and Thomas Metzinger. He argues that such views undermine or even reject the notion that humans act as free agents in the world. Second, he seeks to defend human freedom in the face of neurological naturalism. Third, he proposes a nontechnical overview of philosophy of mind for the general reader, in the face of what he sees as the discipline's retreat from a fully geist-aware (spirit/mind) approach to the field. Gabriel is more engaging and successful in the opening and closing chapters in achieving his first two goals, in which he is clearly focused on the muddy reasoning of his opponents. His examinations of consciousness and self-consciousness are less persuasive in spelling out his own constructive proposals but are informative nonetheless.
VERDICT Recommended for nonspecialists and general readers alike.
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