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I AM JOHN'S BRAIN1

Abstract

A talking brain corrects a few preconceptions.

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2 Thanks to Daniel Dennett, Joseph Goguen, Keith Sutherland, David Chalmers and an anonymous referee for support, advice and suggestions.

3 Or Mary's, or Mariano's, or Pepa's. The choice of the classic male English name is intended only as a gentle reference to those old Readers Digest articles with titles like, ‘I am John's Liver', ‘I am John's Kidney', etc.

1 The ideas and themes pursued in this little fantasy owe much to the visions of P.M. and P.S. Churchland, Daniel Dennett, Marvin Minsky, Gilbert Ryle, John Haugeland and Rodney Brooks. In bringing these themes together I have tried for maximum divergence between agent- and brain-level facts. I do not mean to claim dogmatically that current neuroscience unequivocally posits quite such a radical divergence. Several of the issues on which I allow the brain to take a stand remain the subject of open neuroscientific debate. For a taste of the debate, see P.S. Churchland and T.J. Sejnowski, The Computational Brain (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992) and P.S. Churchland, V.S. Ramachandran and T.J. Sejnowski, ‘A critique of pure vision', in Large-scale Neuronal Theories of the Brain, ed. C. Koch and J. Davis (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994).

Explicit supporting references seemed out of place given the literary conceit adopted, but they would include especially: D. Dennett, Brainstorms (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1980), D. Dennett, Consciousness Explained (Boston, MA: Little Brown, 1991), M. Minsky, The Society of Mind (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985), P.M. Churchland, A Neurocomputational Perspective (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989), J. Haugeland, ‘Mind embodied and embedded', in Mind and Cognition: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Mind and Cognition, ed. Yu-Houng Houng, (Taipei, Taiwan: Academia Sinica, to appear), R. Brooks, ‘Intelligence without representation', Artificial Intelligence, 41 (1991), pp. 139-59, G. Ryle, The Concept of Mind (London: Hutchinson, 1949) and C. Warrington and R. McCarthy, ‘Categories of knowledge; further fractionations and an attempted integration', Brain, 110 (1987), pp. 1273-96.

For my own pursuit of some of these themes, see: A. Clark, Associative Engines: Connectionism, Concepts and Representational Change (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993) and A. Clark, ‘Moving minds: situating content in the service of real-time success', in Philosophical Perspectives, 10, ed. J. Tomberlin (Atascadero, CA: Ridgeway, forthcoming).

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Think
  • ISSN: 1477-1756
  • EISSN: 1755-1196
  • URL: /core/journals/think
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