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Simulating Minds: The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience of Mindreading [Paperback]

Alvin L Goldman

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Book Description

May 16 2008 Philosophy of Mind Series
People are minded creatures; we have thoughts, feelings and emotions. More intriguingly, we grasp our own mental states, and conduct the business of ascribing them to ourselves and others without instruction in formal psychology. How do we do this? And what are the dimensions of our grasp of the mental realm? In this book, Alvin I. Goldman explores these questions with the tools of philosophy, developmental psychology, social psychology and cognitive neuroscience. He refines an approach called simulation theory, which starts from the familiar idea that we understand others by putting ourselves in their mental shoes. Can this intuitive idea be rendered precise in a philosophically respectable manner, without allowing simulation to collapse into theorizing? Given a suitable definition, do empirical results support the notion that minds literally create (or attempt to create) surrogates of other peoples mental states in the process of mindreading? Goldman amasses a surprising array of evidence from psychology and neuroscience that supports this hypothesis.

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Stimulating Minds is a masterful defense of an important theory of mindreading, and landmark contribution to the philosophy of mind. It deserves a wide audience. Philip Robbins MIND

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7 line illus. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thorough inquiry into mental simulation theory Sept. 19 2009
By Diego Azeta - Published on
In «Simulating Minds», his ninth and latest book, Alvin Goldman provides a comprehensive survey of the principal theories devised to explain the mind's ability to ascribe mental states to other minds as well as to itself. Minds --human and to all appearances those of other intelligent fellow creatures-- possess the capability not only of having mental states (things such as notions, emotions and sensations) but of conceiving that other individuals or organisms are equally capable of having their own mental states. This more complex, second-order activity is referred to in psychology as mentalizing or mindreading.

Mindreading seems to be essential for the development and functioning of complex social organization. The question arises as to how the brain accomplishes mindreading. Goldman discusses several variants of the three main competing views that purport to explain the neurocognitive processes thought to underlie mindreading: theorizing, rationalizing, and simulating. The theorizing approach posits that people employ naïve (folk psychology) theories to guide them in assessing what others think or mentally experience. People then impute mental states to others based on those naïve theories. The rationalizing approach states that people assume others are as rational as they themselves are and thus infer the other person's mental contents by an exercise of rational deduction. The simulation approach holds that people try to replicate (emulate) the target's mental states in their own mind based on perceived behavioral cues and their own prior experiences. Specifically, the mind reader deploys his or her emotive and cognitive apparatus to simulate the target's perceived (or perhaps, imagined) situation and thus intuitively feel what the target should (or would) be experiencing. "Thus," asserts Goldman, "mindreading is an extended form of empathy."

Goldman then provides a very clear articulation of the theoretical construct of simulation followed by discussions of simulation theory's principal rivals: rationality theory, child-scientist theory, and modularity theory. He then conducts in-depth analyses of the hybrid simulation model he favors (one that admits a role for theorizing, although secondary to the default simulation approach). He supports his position with a wide range of evidence, including well-replicated findings from the neuroscience literature. The book closes with an examination of the relationship between simulational propensities and the distinctively social traits that characterize human experience.

This book provides an excellent account of simulation theory as well as the competing perspectives. It should be of major interest to researchers in philosophy of mind, cognitive neuroscience, and social psychology. Lay readers with a strong interest in cognitive science should also find the book a worthwhile read given the clarity and accessibility of the exposition.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent example of indisciplinary work in philosophy and psychology June 21 2006
By Anthony I. Jack - Published on
In this book Alvin Goldman develops a highly significant thesis - an account of how we understand other minds. This thesis is significant not just because it addresses classical philosophical problems, but also because it has serious implications for scientific research.

Alvin Goldman is a highly accomplished philosopher. In this book he ventures into new waters - surveying research in psychology and neuroscience. He grasps the empirical literature and weighs the evidence with a competence that matches that of a highly accomplished scientist. In doing so he puts most other 'interdisciplinary' philosophers to shame.

This is an exemplary work of both philosophy and theoretical psychology. This work sets an example that can and should serve as a model for modern, interdisciplinary, philosophy of mind.
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty heavy Feb. 20 2014
By Patricia L. Conway - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was not prepared to discover how truly stupid I am. I have been trying to read this wonderful book but I am just too dense to understand most of it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars Aug. 4 2014
By José Monserrat Neto - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase

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