Monday, February 25, 2013

Leibniz's Mill: A Challenge to Materialism

Leibniz’s Mill: A Challenge to Materialism
By Charles Landesman, Notre Dame, 2011, 182 pp., ISBN 978-0-268-03411-5, $30.00 (paper).
This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:
Catholic Library World, Dec2012, Vol. 83 Issue 2, p.141
The purpose of Leibniz’s Mill : A Challenge to Materialism  is to defend Leibniz’s dualism against materialism. The main claims of Landesman “are that the self is not reducible to the body, that mind is not reducible to matter, that mental processes are not reducible to brain processes, and that the Cartesian view that the self is a mental substance constitutes the best understanding of all the facts about mental life and its connections to the body” (2-3). Charles Landesman is professor emeritus of philosophy at Hunter College. He is also the author and editor of eleven books.
Leibniz’s Mill  contains five chapters. Chapter one analyzes the relationship of the body to the mind. It explores Descartes’s arguments for dualism in the Meditations. Landesman also takes us on a journey through Leibniz’s Mill and shows how the brain cannot account for the mind. In chapter two the author discusses the problem of other minds. How do we know they exist? The author explores epistemological issues such as knowledge, belief, reliabilism, and skepticism.  Landesman explores “Self-consciousness and Thought” in chapter three and “Perceptual Consciousness” in chapter four. This chapter includes an extended discussion on do we know color. The last chapter covers free agency versus determinism. The author believes “that the evidence supports the reality of free will when this means that people are capable of deciding among alternatives on the basis of deliberation” (157).
Leibniz’s Mill is not an easy read. Landesman, however, makes an important contribution in showing that dualism is a viable alternative to materialism. The reader will probably need a background in philosophy to understand the argument that the author makes. This book will be best for juniors or above in college.

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