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McHenry, Yagisawa: Reflections on Philosophy

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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This book is a collection of essays by various authors on important tenets of philosophy. The brilliance of certain essays lies in their objectivity and ability to provide a panorama of perspectives along with their pros and cons. However, most essays were mediocre or downright intolerable due to attempts to sway the student to the author's relatively unchallenged viewpoint.

The basic nature of the book predisposes it to being read by introductory students. However, the sheer number of pages wasted on self-indulgence causes me to conclude that perhaps the glossary and first chapter would be most valuable to students without much time to read. The first chapter was Introduction to Logic and you can view my notes on it here.

We understand everyday physical objects in our environment in terms of their solidity, color, and weight. These notions have no counterparts in basic physics. Objects we designate solid, for instance, in fact consist mostly of empty regions of space sparsely populated by tiny particles. We are not, however, inclined to deny that objects are solid on this account. Our "folk" depiction of objects coexists with our best physical theories. In fact, it is tempting to suppose that those theories explain what it is for objects to be solid, or colored, or weighty. Perhaps this is how we should regard the neuroscience envisaged by eliminativists. That science will tell us what it is for intelligent creatures to have beliefs, desires, and intentions. (McHenry and Yagisawa, p 251)

This is an excerpt from one of the more poetic chapters, Philosophy of Mind. It concludes with a self-indulgent manifesto but for the most part it is an intriguing exploration with informative explanations.

Chalmers's idea is that the production of consciousness is governed by certain fundamental laws of nature. These laws ensure that consciousness will "arise" in systems with the right kind of material composition -- just as the process of photosynthesis arises in systems possessing the right sorts of material structure. (McHenry and Yagisawa, p 252)

Chalmers respects the nonsense of epiphenomalism, but if taken literally I find particular quote very valid. I believe that consciousness is considered a whole according to "folk" beliefs but that it is in fact the sum of both mentally controlled and mentally uncontrolled bodily processes. It can be tricked by external stimuli, it can become deluded by mental illness and it can be shaped by anything and everything that affects the individual. When considering the mind, I find it just as important to weight a muscle's strength, a peripheral axon's reach and a given neuron's proximity to a warm vein. These are all critical factors that will shape the flow of information to and from the nebulous folk concept that it consciousness.