The Phenomenological Mind: An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science

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Taylor & Francis, Nov 12, 2007 - Philosophy - 256 pages
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The Phenomenological Mind is the first book to properly introduce fundamental questions about the mind from the perspective of phenomenology. Key questions and topics covered include:

  • What is phenomenology?
  • naturalizing phenomenology and the empirical cognitive sciences
  • phenomenology and consciousness
  • consciousness and self-consciousness, including perception and action
  • time and consciousness, including William James
  • intentionality
  • the embodied mind
  • action
  • knowledge of other minds
  • situated and extended minds
  • phenomenology and personal identity

Interesting and important examples are used throughout, including phantom limb syndrome, blindsight and self-disorders in schizophrenia, making The Phenomenological Mind an ideal introduction to key concepts in phenomenology, cognitive science and philosophy of mind.

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There are scarcely a hand full of texts on mind/embodiment written with such clarity, insight, and breadth. This is very close to what might be dubbed the ideal introductory text to the fusion of science and philosophy of mind. Every page provides much needed illumination in the (more-often-than-not) dimly lit field(s) of 'mind science' or 'science of mind'. Other reviews have covered the content of this excellent and much needed text. To discover the excellence of the content, just open to any page and begin reading. On the other hand, the second bit, about the text's being 'much needed' --this part is perhaps not so easily accessible. So I will give my take on this last part. The remainder of this review is a (comparatively poor) rehash of what Gallagher and Zahavi discuss in part of the introduction.
For the entire network of neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers of mind (and the like) worldwide, one crucial task is answering the question: 'what are/ought to be the basic concepts, and what sort of methods are needed, for a genuine 'science of mind' to firmly establish itself"? One necessary component, which Phenomenology provides, is a rigorous method for clear & genuine descriptions of experience (just as they are experienced). Another component is the conceiving, setting up, and carrying out and interpretation of empirical-experimental studies. Our understanding of the empirical data, flowing out from experimental efforts, will depend upon the assumptions & ideas guiding the initial asking of questions, the generation of hypotheses, experimental design, & interpretation of results. In some form or another, the description of experience must play an important role. Phenomenology offers us a method for doing so.
Since we're dealing with a 'science of mind', these concepts and descriptions are the necessary material constituting every brick along the road of any endeavor worthy of a title combining both the words 'science' and 'mind'. If we want to be scientific in our understanding of mind and thus the multitude of issues covered in this book (see the description), then we must get the conversation started by first understanding what it IS we're investigating (or what it is we're all talking about / concerned with, to stick with the conversation metaphor). This knowledge will help dictate not only the interpretation of results by way of phenomenological reflection and intersubjectively established concepts about phenomenal experience, but also, perhaps even more importantly: the way we approach experimental design in the first place.
Shaun Gallagher calls this a 'front loaded' approach, where phenomenological insights are imported prior to empirical study to aid in the conceptualization and actual design of experiments. Inevitably, empirical studies and their results feedback into the phenomenology, whether demanding or inspiring a reworking, refinement, or further articulation of our initial understanding of the character of certain kinds of experience. The important thing is that we (first of all) get the phenomena right--without this descriptive foundation, it seems impossible to imagine that we should ever develop a science which would even begin to approximate an adequate body of explanations that we might sincerely call 'true' (or even 'true enough') concerning consciousness, experience, or minds (and their interaction) more generally.
For these reasons and many more (every chapter is cerebral candy), this is not only an important book in its having been (finally) written, but more than anything else, its an important book to READ. Texts like The Phenomenological Mind (and so far, there really are no other texts which are 'like' it at all...introductory or not) act like map and compass for an intellectual journey, without which most adventurers will waste long periods of time walking in circles. Get the map, use the compass, read the book!

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About the author (2007)

Shaun Gallagher is Professor and Chair of Philosophy and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Central Florida and Research Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science at the University of Hertfordshire. He is the author of How the Body Shapes the Mind (2005) and co-editor of Does Consciousness Cause Behavior? An Investigation of the Nature of Volition (2006).

Dan Zahavi is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen. He is the author of Subjectivity and Selfhood (2006) and Husserl’s Phenomenology (2003).

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