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Main page » Non-Fiction » The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds In A Material

The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds In A Material


You have a piece of meat in your head called a brain. You also have perceptions, feelings, thoughts, and ideas, which scientists assert are related in some fashion to that piece of meat. How can this be? Philosopher Colin McGinn looks at this question in depth in The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World, a slim, accessible book that presents a novel answer: we'll never know. We can look at the brain from outside, and look at our consciousness from within, but never the twain shall meet.
Not at all defeatist in tone, The Mysterious Flame rejects strict materialism and dualism, which seek to solve the mind-body problem in fairly unsatisfactory ways, and claims instead that our intelligence is not an appropriate tool to use for understanding the interface between subjective experience and material reality. (And, unfortunately, we don't have anything better.) Instead of bemoaning our fate, McGinn turns the traditional questions around and asks "What can we know about ourselves?" This is just as interesting as any question being asked by philosophers of the mind, and in fact seems to merit a higher priority. Whether McGinn's arguments will succeed in the marketplace of ideas is an open question, but they certainly deserve the attention of anyone interested in the nature of human thought.

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Tags: Material, never, Mysterious, Minds, Conscious, Flame