In something of a welcome break with tradition, these lectures are shaped by the choices made by the organising committee for that year. Rather than have a single thinker present a whole series of lectures, the committee invited two philosophers (Kenny and Lucas) as well as two scientists (Waddington and Longuet-Higgins) to have a series of conversations, mostly extemporaneous, about the nature of mind. What makes this collection so readable is that the tone throughout is conversational and engaging, avoiding much of the technical language of either science or analytic philosophy. The spontaneity of the conversation has been preserved in the written text, which also makes the various arguments outlined easy enough to follow and assess. That said, the arguments are hampered in some senses by the relative overlap in terms of disciplinary fidelity. The speaker are a pair of analytic philosophers, a psychologist and a biologist and so from the off, the reader is immersed in another argument about the nature of consciousness, linguistics and the mind/computer debate, all of which will already be somewhat familiar to readers with a passing knowledge of any of the fields mentioned. Whilst the risk of inviting a quartet of thinkers to talk over their differences pay dividends, it would have been an interesting experiment to try and vary the range of discussion a little further. The focus on analytic philosophy of mind could well have benefited from the presence of a continental philosopher to have expanded the terminology and methods under discussion.
With that said, there is much of value in the collection. Some of the most interesting contributions come from Longuet-Higgins, who, as a psychologist in the 1970s has perhaps the most work to do in terms of maintaining and building a space in which psychology may be taken seriously and without being reduced to being either philosophy, biology or sociology. The philosophical arguments are well trodden ground too – Lucas favours logic, whilst the argument from Kenny is principally concerned with philosophy of mind more generally. Happily, the need to find something approaching common ground and to keep things accessible for the audience means that much of the argument is dependent upon clear explanation and analogy. As a result, it is perhaps best to think of this lecture collection as a taster of sorts – a way into considering a wide range of issues without becoming mired into over technical minutiae. The exploration of Chomsky and Gödel stands out as being exemplary of this kind of approach. Whilst people more experienced in the development of philosophy of mind may find the ground covered rather basic, readers with less of a grasp on the detail of this philosophical and scientific debate will find this collection of talks not simply an excellent historical record of the field in a particular moment but a solid and engaging primer on philosophy of mind.