A Two Volume Analytical History of Cognitive Science
Mind as Machine: A History of Cognitive Science

1,631 pages in two volumes, one purple one pink,
published in hardback and paperback formats by
Oxford University Press 29th June 2006

Author: Margaret Boden

Her personal web site includes a short extract from this book
and links to downloadable versions many of her published papers:
Margaret Boden on Wikipedia

Comments by Aaron Sloman (University of Birmingham)

The author is an old friend and collaborator of mine (we were both at Sussex university for 26 years, between 1965 and 1991), and I was expecting this to be an outstanding book, as her previous ones have been.

But this is truly a magnum opus, a stunning achievement. (Surprisingly, Noam Chomsky wrote a somewhat "snotty" review in the Artificial Intelligence journal, shortly after publication, because he thought she was criticizing his work, whereas, in addition to giving his achievements great credit, she had naturally also reported criticisms others had made: his own high scholarly standards slipped on that occasion).

Margaret Boden is outstanding in her broad and deep knowledge of many aspects of biology, neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, social sciences, philosophy and AI, and in this work she takes readers through many of the detailed strands of development in the last century (some starting much further back).

I am can start almost anywhere in the book, and find myself fascinated by things I did not know (in many cases I wish I had known them earlier) seamlessly interwoven with things I did know, in a story that brings out not merely historical sequences and causes, but also logical interconnections, often interconnections that have not been noticed by less well read academics.

Moreover, she is a wise and penetrating critic as well as historian and synthesizer so she does far more than accept at face value what various authors have written.

In many ways she is ahead of most practitioners in the field, e.g. not assuming that any current popular notion of computation (e.g. whatever can be modelled on a universal Turing machine) is necessarily the last word, and taking seriously (near the end of Volume 2) doubts raised by a small subset of researchers (e.g. Brian Cantwell Smith and others) regarding our understanding of what computation is and the variety of forms it may take, both in naturally occurring systems and in future man-made machines.

At the end she has even dared to make some predictions about what will happen next.

My deepest regret when it was published was that because this is a massive two volume book it would always be expensive. So the vast majority of people who could benefit from it would never get their hands on it.

If only OUP could be persuaded to make a much cheaper electronic version of it available -- it would probably be read and used regularly by at least a thousand times as many people (at a guess).

A relatively inexpensive electronic version could significantly improve the breadth of education of all high calibre students in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, biology, linguistics and artificial intelligence.

An electronic version could also have the benefit of electronic searching, which is often very much better than using an index, even though this book has two extensive indexes of Names and of Subjects. But only at the end of volume 2! So if you expect to be using the index while reading the first volume, you'll need to have the other volume close at hand.

Could OUP at least make the two indexes available online?

The situation was partially improved by the availability of a paperback edition of the book, in 2008, mentioned above, and the fact that with careful choice of search phrases it is possible to get google books to display relevant portions of the book. But in 2017 the price remains far too high. OUP should be ashamed.

NOTE added 22 Oct 2012:
A part of of this book, Section 15x parts b to d, Vol 2, usefully summarises some of the historical background to what I have started calling The Meta-Morphogenesis project

NOTE added 29 Aug 2014:
I have begun to include references to relevant parts of Margaret Boden's work, and especially this book, in the online documents on the Meta-Morphogenesis Project, e.g.

- her comments on Alan Turing
- some of her other work.

Originally posted here in 2006

Last updated:
25 Aug 2017 (new links and partly rewritten).
21 Sep 2008; 22 Oct 2012; 29 Aug 2014 (re-formatted, and expanded);

Maintained by Aaron Sloman
School of Computer Science
The University of Birmingham