Introduction and Synopsis

Derek Bolton and Jonathan Hill

in Mind, Meaning and Mental Disorder

Second edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780198515609
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754296 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Introduction and Synopsis

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In spite of strenuous efforts, the attempt to preserve the unity of the sciences by supposing that psychological explanations can be recast in terms of physics and chemistry has not worked. Our aim in the first chapters of the book is to show that it cannot work, and indeed it would not be possible to conceive of evolutionary processes if it did. The key to understanding the antecedents and consequences of mental states and behaviours is an appreciation of the causal principles that emerged with the appearance of living organisms. These principles underpin the physical states of biological systems that are directed towards, and represent, aspects of the environment that demand a response, if the organism is to survive. Directedness is a hallmark of intentionality, but intentionality is not the sole province of mental states. Intentional causal principles are quite unlike those of the physical sciences, being spelled out not in terms of universal laws of energy and matter that apply without mistake or failure, but in conventionalized rules open to innovation, testing, revision, error, and deception. Over the majority of evolution these processes have been evident through selection of genes over many generations. The recent evolution of the human brain has resulted in a capacity to realize the same processes through the selection of mental representations and solutions, over the life-time of each person. This has introduced quite new demands to monitor their appropriateness, accuracy, and adequacy to underpin actions, in relation to the physical and social environment; and new vulnerabilities that are evident in various forms of psychopathology.

Chapter.  12622 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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