Georges Rey

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Georges Rey is a professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland.

His book Contemporary Philosophy of Mind takes the reader into the middle of contemporary (mid-1990) debates in philosophy of mind. One major focus of Rey's effort is on the attempts of other philosophers of mind to be "eliminativists" or "instrumentalists" with respect to the mental states (states like beliefs and desires) that we are subjectively aware of by way of introspection. Rey suggests that people like Daniel Dennett are wrong to view "beliefs" as only being useful instruments by which Folk psychology allows us to predict future human behaviors. Rey thinks philosophers like Paul Churchland were wrong to try to eliminate "beliefs" from the Science of Mind by replacing them with neural network processes.

On the positive side, what Rey offers is a spirited defense of what he calls "mental realism", taking mental states like "beliefs" as the basis for an algorithmic description of how human minds work. Rey builds on Jerry Fodor's representational theory of mind to produce his own version of a Computational/Representational Theory of Thought that tries to incorporate and extend our ordinary day-to-day world of mental experience: our beliefs, hopes, and desires.

Rey takes a few tentative steps towards the daunting task of trying to describe an algorithm by which sensory experiences (inputs) can be translated into abstract mental representations (elements of a Language of Thought) which can then be subjected to computational processes and so produce new representations and human behaviors (outputs). Finally, Rey suggests how "Further Capacities" such as subjective qualia might be incorporated into his theory.


  • Contemporary Philosophy of Mind: a Contentiously Classical Approach, 1997

Rey is also the author of the current article on philosophy of mind at Encyclopædia Britannica.

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