Georges Rey

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Georges Rey is a professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland.

The book Contemporary Philosophy of Mind by Georges Rey takes the reader into the middle of contemporary (mid-1990) debates in philosophy of mind. One major focus of Rey's effort is on the attempts of other philosophers of mind to be "eliminativists" or "instrumentalists" with respect to the mental states (states like beliefs and desires) that we are subjectively aware of by way of introspection. Rey suggests that people like Daniel Dennett are wrong to view "beliefs" as only being useful instruments by which Folk Psychology allows us to predict future human behaviors. Rey thinks philosophers like Paul Churchland were wrong to try to eliminate "beliefs" from the Science of Mind by replacing them with neural network processes.

On the positive side, what Rey offers is a spirited defense of what he calls "mental realism", taking mental states like "beliefs" as the basis for an algorithmic description of how human minds work. Rey builds on Jerry Fodor's representational theory of mind to produce his own version of a Computational/Representational Theory of Thought that tries to incorporate and extend our ordinary day-to-day world of mental experience: our beliefs, hopes, and desires.

Rey provides both an initial outline of his plan of attack and a useful glossary of terms. He quickly dances past "The Temptations to Dualism"; anyone sympathetic to David Chalmers or other modern dualists will be disappointed with the brush-off dualism receives. Rey's chief concern is fighting the forces of Eliminativism and issuing endless complaints about the weaknesses of trainable neural networks. Halfway through the book Rey finally makes clear that he is proposing a theory of thought that will have to be built upon some foundation (such as neural networks), but he is uninterested in developing such a foundation.

Rey takes a few tentative steps towards the daunting task of trying to describe an algorithm by which sensory experiences (inputs) can be translated into abstract mental representations (elements of a Language of Thought) which can then be subjected to computational processes and so produce new representations and human behaviors (outputs). Finally, Rey suggests how "Further Capacities" such as subjective qualia might be incorporated into his theory.

Books by Georges Rey

  • Contemporary Philosophy of Mind: a Contentiously Classical Approach 1997

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