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Fred Dretske

Fred Dretske is Senior Research Scholar in the Department of Philosophy, Duke University.

Titles by This Author

How can the baffling problems of phenomenal experience be accounted for? In this provocative book, Fred Dretske argues that to achieve an understanding of the mind it is not enough to understand the biological machinery by means of which the mind does its job. One must understand what the mind's job is and how this task can be performed by a physical system—the nervous system.

Naturalizing the Mind skillfully develops a representational theory of the qualitative, the phenomenal, the what-it-is-like aspects of the mind that have defied traditional forms of naturalism. Central to Dretske's approach is the claim that the phenomenal aspects of perceptual experiences are one and the same as external, real-world properties that experience represents objects as having. Combined with an evolutionary account of sensory representation, the result is a completely naturalistic account of phenomenal consciousness.

Reasons in a World of Causes

Why do human beings move? In this lucid portrayal of human behavior, Fred Dretske provides an original account of the way reasons function in the causal explanation of behavior. Biological science investigates what makes our bodies move in the way they do. Psychology is interested in why persons - agents with reasons -move in the way they do. Dretske attempts to reconcile these different points of view by showing how reasons operate in a world of causes. He reveals in detail how the character of our inner states - what we believe, desire, and intend - determines what we do.

What distinguishes clever computers from stupid people (besides their components)? The author of Seeing and Knowing presents in his new book a beautifully and persuasively written interdisciplinary approach to traditional problems—a clearsighted interpretation of information theory.

Psychologists, biologists, computer scientists, and those seeking a general unified picture of perceptual-cognitive activity will find this provocative reading.

The problems Dretske addresses in Knowledge and the Flow of Information—What is knowledge? How are the sensory and cognitive processes related? What makes mental activities mental?—appeal to a wide audience. The conceptual tools used to deal with these questions (information, noise, analog versus digital coding, etc.) are designed to make contact with, and exploit the findings of, empirical work in the cognitive sciences. A concept of information is developed, one deriving from (but not identical with) the Shannon idea familiar to communication theorists, in terms of which the analyses of knowledge, perception, learning, and meaning are expressed.

The book is materialistic in spirit—that is, spiritedly materialistic—devoted to the view that mental states and processes are merely special ways physical systems have of processing, coding, and using information.