In the introduction to Reclaiming Cognition, Raphael Nunez and Walter J. Freeman claim that a revolution is taking place in the understanding of what a human mind is and how it works. Nunez and Freeman observe:
We believe that the cognitive sciences have reached a situation in which they have been frozen into one narrow form by the machine metaphor. There is a need to thaw that form and move from a reductionist, atemporal, disembodied, static, rationalist, emotion‑ and culture-free view, to fundamentally richer understandings that include the primacy of action, intention, emotion, culture, real‑time constraints, real-world opportunities, and the peculiarities of living bodies.
The Structure of Thinking is a book dedicated to developing some aspects of the fundamentally richer philosophy of thinking that Nunez and Freeman are seeking.
First, I believe the arguments in this book indicate that the twentieth century underpinnings of the logical and mechanical reductivist program in philosophy are basically unsound. The arguments from philosophers such as Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore, Carl Hempel, J.L. Mackie, Rudolph Carnap, Alan Turing and Gottlob Frege, and from behaviorists such as B.F. Skinner, on which dominant philosophers at the end of the century, such as W.V.O. Quine, Daniel Dennett and Fred Dretske have been relying and expanding are basically flawed in their underpinning premises. And even in cases in which the early twentieth century philosophers had it right, their late century followers took some of their arguments in directions that were unsupported by the earlier claims on which they were based.
Across the analytical tradition there is a general assumption that a small number of principles, limited to the tools of symbolic logic, computational mathematics, and experimental science, (construed on an early-twentieth century paradigm), are adequate to explain all that exists, and that any purported existents that are not analyzable in terms compatible with those few methods of analysis are fictitious and dispensable entities.
Blindness to the need for first-person experience to understand reality, even in science, math and logic, let alone in respects such as language use and understanding of brains and minds has resulted from this devout reverence for too few principles of understanding. The arguments in this book point out some of the flaws and multiple areas of blindness of the dominant but narrow philosophical methodology in the United States, today.
Second, and more specifically, the mechanistic notion of causation with which the dominant tradition has intellectually shackled itself is preventing productive advances in a number of areas of inquiry which I find particalarly importantsuch as philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of religion and philosophical inquiry into understanding the social behavior of human beings in politics and economics.
Third, I believe now is a good time to bring the philosophical arguments in The Struclure of Thinking to the foreground in public intellectual life, because the extensive research on the brain and in the neurosciences that is taking place at present is indicating that the flaws in the logical and mechanical reductivist methodology that I pointed out, starting more than twenty years ago, are seriously hampering the development of new understandings about humans and our world. The genesis of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, the importance of David Chalmers' arguments in favour of panpsychism, and the recent development of research methodologies for studying first and second person experience, all indicate that the time is ripe for an intellectual re-examination of the experiential roots of human intellectual life.