The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul


Essays from some of the 20th century's greatest thinkers explore topics as diverse as artificial intelligence, evolution, science fiction, philosophy, reductionism, and consciousness, presenting a variety of conflicting visions of the self and the soul. Illustrations.


What is the mind? Who am I? Can mere matter think or feel? Where is the soul? Anyone who confronts these questions runs headlong into perplexities. We conceived this book as an attempt to reveal those perplexities and make them vivid. Our purpose is not so much to answer the big questions directly as to jolt everyone: people who are committed to a hard-nosed, no-nonsense, scientific world view, as well as people who have a religious or spiritualistic vision of the human soul. We believe there are at present no easy answers to the big questions, and it will take radical rethinking of the issues before people can be expected to reach a consensus about the meaning of the word "I." This book, then, is designed to provoke, disturb, and befuddle its readers, to make the obvious strange and, perhaps, to make the strange obvious.

We would like to thank all the contributors and the many people who have advised and inspired us: Kathy Antrim, Paul Benacerraf, Maureen Bischoff, Larry Breed, Scott Buresh, Don Byrd, Pat and Paul Churchland, Francisco Claro, Gray Clossman, Paul Csonka, Susan Dennett, Mike Dunn, Dennis Flanagan, Bill Gosper, Bernie Greenberg, John Haugeland, Pat Hayes, Robert and Nancy Hofstadter, Martin Kessler, Scott Kim, Henry Lieberman, John McCarthy, Debra Manette, Marsha Meredith, Marvin Minsky, Fanya Montalvo, Bob Moore, David Moser, Zenon Pylyshyn, Randy Read, Julie Rochlin, Ed Shulz, Paul Smolensky, Ann Trail, Rufus Wanning, Sue Wintsch, and John Woodcock.

This book grew out of conversations in 1980 at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, in Palo Alto, where Dennett was a Fellow engaged in research on artificial intelligence and philosophy, sponsored by NSF Grant (BNS 78-24671) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It was completed while Hofstadter was a Simon F. Guggenheim Fellow engaged in research in artificial intelligence at Stanford University. We want to thank these foundations for supporting our research, and for providing settings in which our discussions could lead to collaboration.

Douglas R. Hofstadter
Daniel C. Dennett
April 1981
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