[Review of the book The Act of Thinking, by Delser]

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  • Introduction: This is a book that challenges the current orthodoxy, both in the philosophy of mind and in the cognitive sciences, that thinking (construed broadly to include perceiving, imagining, remembering, etc.) is a mental process in the head. Such a view has been largely taken for granted since the demise of behaviorism in the 1960s, and it underpins both the representational and computational theories of mind, including their connectionist and dynamicist variants. While the orthodoxy has been rejected in recent years by a motley collection of e-theorists -- externalists, embodiers, embedders, and extended minders -- Melser's view is quite distinct from such views. For Melser, rather than thinking being a process that begins in the head but extends beyond it (as most e-theorists hold), it is a personal-level activity, something that a person does through her actions. Since Melser views such activities as disjoint from natural processes, thinking is not a natural process at all, the sort of thing that we might study scientifically. Thus, thinking is a personal action that calls for a different kind of study, one that draws on empathy, interpretation, and hermeneutics.

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    © 2005 Wilson, R.A. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • Wilson, R.A. (2005). [Review of the book The Act of Thinking, by D. Melser]. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, n.p.
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