The Biological Mind : A Philosophical Introduction book cover
1st Edition

The Biological Mind
A Philosophical Introduction

ISBN 9780415810289
Published November 18, 2014 by Routledge
208 Pages

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Book Description

For some, biology explains all there is to know about the mind. Yet many big questions remain: is the mind shaped by genes or the environment? If mental traits are the result of adaptations built up over thousands of years, as evolutionary psychologists claim, how can such claims be tested? If the mind is a machine, as biologists argue, how does it allow for something as complex as human consciousness?

The Biological Mind: A Philosophical Introduction explores these questions and more, using the philosophy of biology to introduce and assess the nature of the mind. Drawing on the four key themes of evolutionary biology; molecular biology and genetics; neuroscience; and biomedicine and psychiatry Justin Garson addresses the following key topics:

  • moral psychology, altruism and levels of selection
  • evolutionary psychology and modularity
  • genes, environment and the nature-nurture debate
  • neuroscience, reductionism and the relation between biology and free will
  • function, selection and mental representation
  • psychiatric classification and the maladapted mind.

Extensive use of examples and case studies is made throughout the book, and additional features such as chapter summaries, annotated further reading and a glossary make this an indispensable introduction to those teaching philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology. It will also be an excellent resource for those in related fields such as biology.

Table of Contents

Introduction  1. Altruism and Egoism  2. Designed for Altruism  3. Evolution and Psychology  4. Nature and Nurture  5. Consciousness, Reduction, and the Brain  6. The Neuroscience of Free Will  7. How the Mind Makes Meaning  8. Psychiatry and the Mismatched Mind.  Index

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Justin Garson is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Hunter College, City University of New York, USA.


"In this introductory volume, Garson offers a concise summary of several debates surrounding the interface between philosophy of biology and philosophy of mind. … Written with admirable clarity and wit, this book would make a great secondary text in an upper-level philosophy of biology or philosophy of mind course. Summing Up: Recommended." - Philip Jenkins, CHOICE

"In this accessible and interesting book, Justin Garson shows why philosophy matters to understanding the biology of the mind. Scientists have made great progress on questions about altruism, free will, consciousness, and the impact of genes on mental activity, but it takes a philosopher to provide the needed clarification, connection, and caution. Garson is that philosopher." - Elliott Sober, University of Wisconsin - Madison, USA

"Garson’s book is long overdue. Philosophers of mind need to be reminded that there is no mind without the brain, and the brain’s behavior is a matter of biology, not philosophy. At the same time naive biological reductionists must acknowledge that the complexity of mental life has no simple-minded explanation in terms of genes and natural selection. This book serves both tasks with admirable sophistication." - Sahotra Sarkar, University of Texas at Austin, USA

"A wide-ranging, well-informed, and highly readable introduction to current debates in the philosophy of mind and psychology, presented through the lens of philosophy of biology and general philosophy of science. Garson's biologically oriented approach to the issues makes so much sense, one can't help but wonder why it's not more standard in the literature; by rights, it should be." - Philip Robbins, University of Missouri, USA

"A wonderful, clear, lively, informative, and extremely accessible book. It is a terrific introduction to the philosophy of mind for those who want to explore the relation between our biological and psychological natures." - Karen Neander, Duke University, USA