Introduction (Full Text)
- This book has several objectives, some of which do not admit of quick summary but will only emerge as the reader progresses. Its most easily statable objectives are these: I want to criticize and overcome the dominant traditions in the study of mind, both "materialist1" and "dualist." Because I think consciousness is the central mental phenomenon, I want to begin a serious examination of consciousness on its own terms. I want to put the final nail in the coffin of the theory that the mind is a computer program. And I want to make some proposals for reforming our study of mental phenomena in a way that would justify the hope of rediscovering the mind.
- Nearly two decades ago I began working on problems in the philosophy of mind. I needed an account of intentionality, both to provide a foundation for my theory of speech acts and to complete the theory. On my view, the philosophy of language is a branch of the philosophy of mind; therefore no theory of language is complete without an account of the relations between mind and language and of how meaning—the derived intentionality of linguistic elements—is grounded in the more biologically basic intrinsic intentionality of the mind/brain.
- When I read the standard authors and tried to explain their views to my students, I was appalled to discover that with few exceptions these authors routinely denied what I thought were simple and obvious truths about the mind. It was then, and still is, quite common to deny, implicitly or explicitly, such claims as the following: We all have inner subjective qualitative states of consciousness, and we have intrinsically intentional mental states such as beliefs and desires, intentions and perceptions. Both consciousness and intentionality are biological processes caused by lower-level neuronal processes in the brain, and neither is reducible to something else. Furthermore, consciousness and intentionality are essentially connected in that we understand the notion of an unconscious intentional state only in terms of its accessibility to consciousness.
- Then and now, all this and more was denied by the prevailing views. Mainstream orthodoxy consists of various versions of "materialism2." Just as bad, the opponents of materialism3 usually embrace some doctrine of "property dualism," thus accepting the Cartesian apparatus that I had thought long discredited. What I argued for then ("Searle (John) - Minds, Brains and Science: The 1984 Reith Lectures") and repeat here is that one can accept the obvious facts of physics—that the world consists entirely of physical particles in fields of force—without denying that among the physical features of the world are biological phenomena such as inner qualitative states of consciousness and intrinsic intentionality.
- About the same time as my interest in problems of the mind began, the new discipline of cognitive science was born. Cognitive science promised a break with the behaviorist tradition in psychology because it claimed to enter the black box of the mind and examine its inner workings. But unfortunately most mainstream cognitive scientists simply repeated the worst mistake of the behaviorists: They insisted on studying only objectively observable phenomena, thus ignoring the essential features of the mind. Therefore, when they opened up the big black box, they found only a lot of little black boxes inside.
- So I got little help from either mainstream philosophy of mind or cognitive science in my investigations, and I went ahead to try to develop my own account of intentionality and its relation to language ("Searle (John) - Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind"). However, just developing a theory of intentionality left many major problems undiscussed, and worse yet, left what seemed to me the major prevailing mistakes unanswered. This book is an attempt to fill at least some of those gaps.
- One of the hardest—and most important—tasks of philosophy is to make clear the distinction between those features of the world that are intrinsic, in the sense that they exist independent of any observer, and those features that are observer relative, in the sense that they only exist relative to some outside observer or user. For example, that an object has a certain mass is an intrinsic feature of the object. If we all died, it would still have that mass. But that the same object is a bathtub is not an intrinsic feature; it exists only relative to users and observers who assign the function of a bathtub to it. Having mass is intrinsic, but being a bathtub is observer relative, even though the object both has mass and is a bathtub. That is why there is a natural science that includes mass in its domain, but there is no natural science of bathtubs.
- One of the themes that runs throughout this book is the attempt to get clear about which of the predicates in the philosophy of mind name features that are intrinsic and which observer relative. A dominant strain in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science has been to suppose that computation is an intrinsic feature of the world and that consciousness and intentionality are somehow eliminable, either in favor of something else or because they are observer relative, or reducible to something more basic, such as computation. In this book I argue that these suppositions are exactly backward: Consciousness and intentionality are intrinsic and ineliminable, and computation—except for the few cases in which the computation is actually being performed by a conscious mind—is observer relative.
- Here is a brief map to help the reader find his or her way about the book. The first three chapters contain criticisms of the dominant views in the philosophy of mind. They are an attempt to overcome both dualism and materialism4, with more attention devoted in these chapters to materialism5. At one time I thought of calling the whole book What's Wrong with the Philosophy of Mind, but in the end that idea emerges as the theme of the first three chapters and is the title of the first. The next five chapters, 4 to 8, are a series of attempts to give a characterization of consciousness. Once we have gone beyond both materialism6 and dualism, how do we locate consciousness in relation to the rest of the world (chapter 4)? How do we account for its apparent irreducibility according to the standard patterns of scientific reduction (chapter 5)? Most important, what are the structural features of consciousness (chapter 6)? How do we account for the unconscious and its relation to consciousness (chapter 7)? And what are the relations between consciousness, intentionality, and the Background capacities that enable us to function as conscious beings in the world (chapter 8)? In the course of these discussions I try to overcome various Cartesian shibboleths such as property dualism, introspectionism, and incorrigibility, but the main effort in these chapters is not critical. I am trying to locate consciousness within our general conception of the world and the rest of our mental life. Chapter 9 extends my earlier ("Searle (John) - Minds, Brains, and Programs" and Searle 1980b) criticisms of the dominant paradigm in cognitive science, and the final chapter makes some suggestions as to how we might study the mind without making so many obvious mistakes.
- In this book I have more to say about the opinions of other writers than in any of my other books—maybe more than all of them put together. This makes me extremely nervous, because it is always possible that I might be misunderstanding them as badly as they misunderstand me. Chapter 2 gave me the most headaches in this regard, and I can only say that I tried as hard as I could to make a fair summary of a whole family of views that I find uncongenial. As for references: The books I read in my philosophical childhood—books by Wittgenstein, Austin, Strawson, Ryle, Hare, etc.—contain few or no references to other authors. I think unconsciously I have come to believe that philosophical quality varies inversely with the number of bibliographical references, and that no great work of philosophy ever contained a lot of footnotes. (Whatever its other faults, "Ryle (Gilbert) - The Concept of Mind" is a model in this regard: it has none.) In the present instance, however, there is no escaping bibliographical references, and I am likely to be faulted more for what I have left out than for what I have put in.
- The title is an obvious homage to Bruno Snell's classic, The Discovery of the Mind. May we in rediscovering consciousness—the real thing, not the Cartesian ersatz nor the behaviorist doppelganger—also rediscover the mind.
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- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2021
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