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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Emotion machines?: So THAT'S what we are!

From William S. Kowinski's San Francisco Chronicle
review of Marvin Minsky's The Emotion Machine, yet another materialist attempt to explain the human mind:
Minsky gets right to the heart of the self-help reader with his first chapter, "Falling in Love," in which he enters "The Sea of Mental Mysteries." His conclusions aren't apt to inspire many romances, however, because he views emotion as one of many "Ways to Think," and "infatuation" as "a condition in which we suppress some resources that we might otherwise use to recognize faults in somebody else." So statements about positive feelings can conceal negative statements. My favorite pair is: "She has a flawless character. (I've abandoned my critical faculties.)"

Despite Minsky's championing of complexity, his agenda is still reductionism, though he is reducing mental phenomena not by means of a few principles or laws but into many small processes, or small machines within the larger one. He announces this almost immediately: "Once we split each old mystery into parts, we will have replaced each old, big problem with several new and smaller ones -- each of which may still be hard but no longer will seem unsolvable."

It used to be that materialist reductionists were all the buzz, but now, form what I can tell, they are summer reruns - and not the good ones.

Once it became clear that the human mind was nothing like a computer, the idea was, in principle, finished. But you can expect plenty more books anyway, because catchy phrases along those lines, like "meat puppet" and "bunch of chemicals running around in a bag" are easier to generate than accurate explanations of human behaviour.
Next book! The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary, Harper August 2007).

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