The Character of Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind

By Guirguis, Mazen Maurice | The Review of Metaphysics, June 1999 | Go to article overview

The Character of Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind


Guirguis, Mazen Maurice, The Review of Metaphysics


MCGINN, Colin. The Character of Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind. Second edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. x + 176 pp. Cloth, $65.00; paper, $15.95--Richer in content and scope, the second edition of The Character of Mind is still intended for the general reader and the novice student. In preparing the manuscript McGinn chose not to rewrite the original text, partly because "it is in general a mistake to tamper with an earlier piece of finished writing" (p. vii). Instead, he has added three new chapters, which are meant to capture the major developments in the philosophy of mind since the first edition was published in 1982.

Consciousness is one of the subjects that receive emphasis in the updated volume. After presenting the reader with the classic mind-body problem, McGinn considers and rejects four traditionally exhaustive approaches, which constitute what he calls the "DIME shape": D for deflation (consciousness may be explained by the various deductive proposals of materialism, behaviorism, functionalism, and so forth); I for irreducibility (consciousness is a noncomposite primitive existent, akin to space and time); M for magic (the mind is the direct expression of God's will); and E for elimination (there literally are no thoughts, sensations, or emotions). Those familiar with McGinn's philosophy will recognize his own perspective on the matter: "The nature of consciousness is a mystery in the sense that it is beyond human powers of theory construction, yet there is no sense in which it is inherently miraculous.. So this position accepts the full reality of consciousness (unlike E), denies that it is miraculous (unlike M), insists that it has an explanation (unlike/), but disputes our ability to find this explanation (unlike D)" (p. 42).

Separate treatment of mental content and cognitive science is also new to the second edition. In chapter 5 McGinn addresses the former, describing the doctrine of externalism and its implications for psychological explanation, self-knowledge, and skepticism. …

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