- I have shared Searle's belief: the level of description that computer programs exemplify is not one adequate to the explanation of mind. My remarks about this have appeared in discussions of perceptual theory that make little if any reference to computer programs per se (Natsoulas 1974; 1977; 1978a; 1978b; 1980). Just as Searle argues for the material basis of mind - "that actual human mental phenomena Idepend] on actual physical-chemical properties of actual human brains" - I have argued that the particular concrete nature of perceptual awarenesses, as occurrences in a certain perceptual system, is essential to the references they make to objects, events, or situations in the stimulational environment.
- In opposition to Gibson (for example, 1966; 1967; 1972), whose perceptual theory amounts to hypotheses concerning the pickup by perceptual systems of abstract entities called "informational invariants" from the stimulus flux, I have stated:
Perceptual systems work in their own modes to ascribe the detected properties which are specified informationally to the actual physical environment around us. The informational invariants to which a perceptual system resonates are defined abstractly [by Gibson] such that the resonating process itself can exemplify them. But the resonance process is not itself abstract. And characterization of it at the level of informational invariants cannot suffice for the theory of perception. It is crucial to the theory of perception that informational invariants are resonated to in concrete modes that are characteristic of the organism as the kind of perceiving physical system that it is. (Natsoulas 1978b, p. 281) The latter is crucial to perceptual theory, I have argued, if that theory is to explain the intentionality, or aboutness, of perceptual awarenesses [see also Ullman: "Against Direct perception" BBS 3(3) 1980, this issue].
- And just as Searle summarily rejects the attempt to eliminate intentionality, saying that it does no good to "feign anesthesia," I argued as follows against Dennett's (1969; 1971; 1972) effort to treat intentionality as merely a heuristic overlay on the extensional theory of the nervous system and bodily motions.
In knowing that we are knowing subjects, here is one thing that we know: that we are aware of objects in a way other than the "colorless" way in which we sometimes think of them. The experienced presence of objects makes it difficult if not impossible to claim that perceptions involve only the acquisition of information.. . It is this. . . kind of presence that makes perceptual aboutness something more than an "interpretation" or "heuristic overlay" to be dispensed with once a complete enough extensional account is at hand. The qualitative being thereness of objects and scenes. . . is about as easy to doubt as our own existence. (Natsoulas 1977, pp. 94-95; cf. Searle, 1979b, p. 261, on "presentational immediacy.")
- However, I do not know in what perceptual aboutness consists. I have been making some suggestions and I believe, with Sperry (1969; 1970; 1976), that an objective description of subjective experience is possible in terms of brain function. Such a description should include that feature or those features of perceptual awareness that make it be of (or as if it is of, in the hallucinatory instance) an object, occurrence, or situation in the physical environment or in the perceiver's body outside the nervous system. If the description did not include this feature it would be incomplete, in my view, and in need of further development.
- In another recent article on intentionality, Searle (1979a) has written of the unavoidability of "the intentional circle," arguing that any explanation of intentionality that we may come up with will presuppose an understanding of intentionality: "There is no analysis of intentionality into logically necessary and sufficient conditions of the form 'X is an intentional state S if and only if 'p, q, and r,' where 'p, q, and r' make no use of intentional notions" (p. 195). I take this to say that the intentionality of mental states is not reducible1; but I don't think it is meant, by itself, to rule out the possibility that intentionality might be a property of certain brain processes. Searle could still take the view that it is one of their as yet unknown "ground floor" properties.
- But Searle's careful characterization, in the target article, of the relation between brain and mental processes as causal, with mental processes consistently said to be produced by brain processes, gives a different impression. Of course brain processes produce other brain processes, but if he had meant to include mental processes among the latter, would he have written about only the causal properties of the brain in a discussion of the material basis of intentionality?
- One is tempted to assume that Searle would advocate some form of interactionism with regard to the relation of mind to brain. I think that his analogy of mental processes to products of biological processes, such as sugar and milk, was intended to illuminate the causal basis of mental processes and not their nature. His statement that intentionality is "a biological phenomenon" was prefaced by "whatever else intentionality is" and was followed by a repetition of his earlier point concerning the material basis of mind (mental processes as produced by brain processes). And I feel quite certain that Searle would not equate mental processes with another of the brain's effects, namely behaviors (see Searle 1979b).
- Though it may be tempting to construe Searle's position as a form of dualism, there remains the more probable alternative that he has simple chosen not to take, in these recent writings, a position on the ontological question. He has chosen to deal only with those elements that seem already clear to him as regards the problem of intentionality. However, his emphasis in the target article on intentionality's material basis would seem to be an indication that he is now inching toward a position on the ontological question and the view that this position matters to an understanding of intentionality.
- I emphasize the latter because of what Searle has written on "the form of realization" of mental states in still another recent article on intentionality. In this article (Searle 1979c), he made the claim that the "traditional ontological problems about mental states are for the most part simply irrelevant to their Intentional features" (p. 81). It does not matter how a mental state is realized, Searle suggested, so long as in being realized it is realized so as to have those features. To know what an intentional state is requires only that we know its "representative content" and its "psychological mode."
- But this would not tell us actually what the state is, only which one it is, or what kind it is. For example, I may know that the mental state that just occurred to me was a passing thought to the effect that it is raining in London at this moment. It is an it-is-raining-in-London-right-now kind of thought that just occurred to me. Knowing of this thought's occurrence and of that of many others, which is to know their representative contents and psychological modes, would not be to know what the thought is, what the mental occurrence is that is the passing thought.
- Moreover, for a mental state or occurrence to have its intentional features, it must have a form of realization that gives it to them. Searle has stated: "It doesn't matter how an Intentional state is realized, as long as the realization is a realization of its Intentionality" (1979c, p. 81). The second part of this sentence is an admission that it does matter how it is realized. The explanation of intentionality remains incomplete in the absence of an account of its source and of its relation to that source. This point becomes vivid when considered in the context of another discussion contained in the same article.
- In this part of the article, Searle gave some attention to what he called "the primary form of Intentionality," namely perception (cf. Searle 1979b, pp. 260-61). One's visual experience of a table was said to be a "presentation" of the table, as opposed to a representation of it. Still, such presentations are intrinsically intentional, for whenever they occur, the person thereby perceives or hallucinates a table. The visual experience if of a table, even though it is not a representation of a table, because it is satisfied by the physical presence of a table there where the table visually seems to be located.
- Concluding this discussion, Searle added,
To say that I have a visual experience whenever I perceive the table visually is to make an ontological claim, a claim about the form of realization of an Intentional state, in a way that to say all my beliefs have a representational content is not to make an ontological claim. (1979c, p. 91) Since Searle would say that he, and the people reading his article, and animals, and so on, have visual experiences, the question he needs to answer, as the theorist of intentionality he is, is: what is the ontological claim he is making in doing so? Or, what is the "form of realization" of our visual experiences that Searle is claiming when he attributes them to us?
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)