Searle: Why We Are Not Computers
Nagel (Thomas)
Source: Nagel (Thomas) - Other Minds - Critical Essays 1969 - 1994
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract & Introduction

  1. This was a review of "Searle (John) - The Rediscovery of the Mind" (1992). Though Searle and I agree about a great deal, I don’t think it's possible to distinguish his anti-reductionist solution from property dualism. And I do not believe it could be a brute fact of nature that the higher order mental properties of the nervous system should be produced by the details of its physico-chemical operation. The relation between the levels must be more "internal" than that – a form of intelligibly necessary consequence rather than pure correlation. The irreducibility of the ontologically subjective to the ontologically objective continues to be an obstacle to the imaginability of such a connection.
  2. According to a widely held view, the brain is a giant computer and the relation of the human mind to the human brain is like that of a computer program to the electronic hardware on which it runs. The philosopher John Searle, a dragon-slayer by temperament, has set out to show that this claim, together with the materialist tradition underlying it, is nonsense, for reasons some of which are obvious and some more subtle. Elaborating arguments that he and others have made over the past twenty years, he attacks most of the cognitive science establishment and then offers a theory of his own about the nature of mind and its relation to the physical world. If this pungent book is right, the computer model of the mind is not just doubtful or imperfect, but totally and glaringly absurd.
  3. His main reasons are two.
    1. First, the essence of the mind is consciousness: all mental phenomena are either actually or potentially conscious. And none of the familiar materialist analyses of mind can deal with conscious experience: they leave it out, either by not talking about it or by identifying it with something else that has nothing to do with consciousness.
    2. Second, computers that do not have minds can be described as running programs, processing information, manipulating symbols, answering questions, and so on only because they are so constructed that people, who do have minds, can interpret their physical operations in those ways. To ascribe a computer program to the brain implies a mind that can interpret what the brain does, so the idea of explaining the mind in terms of such a program is incoherent.


Review of "Searle (John) - The Rediscovery of the Mind".

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