Content and Consciousness

Content and Consciousness

Content and Consciousness

Content and Consciousness

Excerpt

It is now just twenty years since the first draft of this book was submitted (as a D. Phil, thesis at Oxford), and sixteen years since it was first published. In the intervening period the field of philosophy of mind has grown and changed enormously, a development that is perhaps made easier to see and appreciate by a reconsideration of the way the problems looked (to me) in the late 1960s.

When I was working on the book, its resolute naturalism and earnest concern with what science could tell us about the mind struck me as quite pioneering—or quite eccentric, depending on my mood. Philosophers of mind made something of a fetish of their distance from any empirical investigations, except of the most informal linguistic sort. Times have changed. Now we have cognitive science. There are now more than a few philosophers of mind who are vastly more knowledgeable about the brain than I was then (or am now). A fairly professional knowledge of the other cognitive sciences—psychology, artificial intelligence, linguistics—is now considered a virtual qualification for professional status in the discipline.

So what strikes me now about my book is not its pioneering stand, for we are almost all naturalists today, but its intermittent naiveté. This is mildly embarrassing, but not nearly so embarrassing as would be the discovery that I hadn’t managed to achieve any advance in outlook over the years. There are also the unalloyed errors, of course, and these are indeed embarrassing. In fact, the only alterations to the text I have made, save for some typographical errors, are the elimination of a few preposterous howlers. (A good measure of what has been changed is the correction in example (4) in the second chapter: it was Ponce de Leon, not Hernando de Soto, who searched for the Fountain of Youth!) The more substantive errors, some of which I have still

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