- In this major new work, John Searle launches a formidable attack on current orthodoxies in the philosophy of mind. More than anything else, he argues, it is the neglect of consciousness that results in so much barrenness and sterility in psychology, the philosophy of mind, and cognitive science: there can be no study of mind that leaves out consciousness. What is going on in the brain is neurophysiological processes and consciousness and nothing more — no rule following, no mental information processing or mental models, no language of thought, and no universal grammar. Mental events are themselves features of the brain, in the same way that liquidity is a feature of water.
- Beginning with a spirited discussion of what's wrong with the philosophy of mind, Searle characterizes and refutes the philosophical tradition of materialism. But he does not embrace dualism. All these "isms" are mistaken, he insists. Once you start counting types of phenomena, you are on the wrong track, whether you stop at one or two. In four chapters that constitute the heart of his argument, Searle elaborates a theory of consciousness and its relation to our overall scientific world view and to unconscious mental phenomena. He concludes with a criticism of cognitive science and proposes an approach to the study of mind that emphasizes the centrality of consciousness.
- In his characteristically direct style, punctuated with persuasive examples, Searle identifies the very terminology of the field as a main source of trouble. He observes that it is a mistake to suppose that the ontology of the mental is objective and that the methodology of a science of the mind must concern itself only with objectively observable behavior; that it is also a mistake to suppose that we know of the existence of mental phenomena in others only by observing their behavior; that behavior or causal relations to behavior are not essential to the existence of mental phenomena; and that it is inconsistent with what we know about the universe and our place in it to suppose that everything is knowable by us.
- John R. Searle is the Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language at the University of California, Berkeley.
"Bringsjord (Selmer) - Searle on the Brink (Review of John Searle's - The Rediscovery of the Mind)"
Source: Psyche, 1(5), August 1994
In his recent The Rediscovery of the Mind John Searle tries to destroy cognitive science and preserve a future in which a “perfect science of the brain” (The Rediscovery of the Mind, p. 235) arrives. I show that Searle can't accomplish both objectives. The ammunition he uses to realise the first stirs up a maelstrom of consciousness so wild it precludes securing the second.
COMMENT: Review of "Searle (John) - The Rediscovery of the Mind"; Link (Defunct).
"Nagel (Thomas) - Searle: Why We Are Not Computers"
Source: Nagel (Thomas) - Other Minds - Critical Essays 1969 - 1994
Author’s Abstract & Introduction
- 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.
- 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.
- His main reasons are two.
- 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.
- 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.
COMMENT: Review of "Searle (John) - The Rediscovery of the Mind".
"Ross (Kelly L.) - Review of John Searle's The Rediscovery of the Mind"
The title of The Rediscovery of the Mind suggests the question "When was the mind lost?" Since most people may not be aware that it ever was lost, we must also then ask "Who lost it?" It was lost, of course, only by philosophers, by certain philosophers. This passed unnoticed by society at large. The "rediscovery" is also likely to pass unnoticed. But has the mind been rediscovered by the same philosophers who "lost" it? Probably not. John Searle is an analytic philosopher, with some of the same notions as the positivists and behaviorists who rejected consciousness and "lost" the mind in the first place, but he also does not sound like the kind of reductionist who would have joined that crowd. His views, indeed, are sensible enough, and some of his insights so important, that it is a shame to find his thought profoundly limited by some of the same mistakes and prejudices that ruined philosophy, and not just philosophy of mind, under the influence of those positivists and behaviorists. There is enough of genuine value in his treatment, that it can easily be taken up and, with relatively slight modification, added to what is of permanent value in the history of philosophy.
COMMENT: Review of "Searle (John) - The Rediscovery of the Mind"; Link (Defunct).
"Rowe (M.W.) - Review of Searle's 'Rediscovery of the Mind'"
Source: Philosophy - 68/265 (July 1993)
COMMENT: Review of "Searle (John) - The Rediscovery of the Mind"
"Searle (John) - The Rediscovery of the Mind: Introduction"
Source: Searle - The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992, Introduction
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 "materialist" 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 "materialism." Just as bad, the opponents of materialism 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 materialism, with more attention devoted in these chapters to materialism. 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 materialism 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.
"Searle (John) - What's Wrong with the Philosophy of Mind?"
Source: Searle - The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992, Chapter 1
Sections / TT Summary
- The Solution to the Mind-Body Problem and Why Many Prefer the Problem to the Solution
- Six Unlikely Theories of Mind
The Foundations of Modern Materialism
- 1. Eliminative Materialism
- 2. Complete Rejection of Folk Psychology
- 3. There is nothing specifically mental about the so-called mental states
- 4. Strong Artificial Intelligence or Computer Functionalism
- 5. The use of commonsense mental vocabulary is just adopting an “intentional stance” towards a system.
- 6. Phenomenal consciousness does not exist
Historical Origins of the Foundations
- 1. Consciousness is unimportant in the scientific study of the mind, which can proceed as if there were no such thing.
- 2. Science is objective … because reality is objective.
- 3. Cognitive science therefore has to be studied from a third-person, behaviourist perspective.
- 4. The only way we can know whether a system has mental properties is by its behaviour.
- 5. Intelligent behaviour and causal relations to intelligent behaviour are in some way the essence of the mental.
- 6. Because all reality is physical, all reality is in principle knowable by us.
- 7. The only things that exist are physical - as the physical is traditionally conceived - ie. as opposed to the mental.
Undermining the Foundations
- The terror of Cartesian Dualism
- The inheritance of a constraining vocabulary of apparent opposites: ‘physical’ vs ‘mental’; …; ‘matter’ vs ‘spirit’; …; ‘materialism’ vs ‘immaterialism’.
- The persistent objectifying tendency in modern science, philosophy, life, …; third person.
- We aren’t content with humble and obvious truths about the mind; we want something deeper.
- Consciousness does matter
- Not all of reality is objective; some of it is subjective
- Because it is a mistake to suppose that the ontology of the mental is objective, it is a mistake to suppose that the methodology of a science of the mind must concern itself only with objectively observable behaviour
- It is a mistake to suppose that we know of the existence of mental phenomena in others only by observing their behaviour
- Behaviour or causal relations to behaviour are not essential to the existence of mental phenomena
- It is inconsistent with what we in fact know about the universe and our place in it to suppose that everything is knowable by us
"Searle (John) - The Recent History of Materialism: The Same Mistake"
Source: Searle - The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992, Chapter 2
- The Mystery of Materialism
- Type Identity Theories
- Token-Token Identity Theories
- Black Box Functionalism
- Strong Artificial Intelligence
- Elliminative Materialism
- Naturalising Content
- The Moral So Far
Table 2.1 The General Pattern Exhibited by Recent Materialism
Leaves out the mind: super-spartan / super-actor objections
1. Circular; needs desires to explain beliefs, and conversely. 2. Can't do the conditionals. 3. Leaves out causation1.
Type identity theory
Leaves out the mind: or else it leads to property dualism
1. Neural chauvinism. 2. Leibniz's law2. 3. Can't account for mental properties. 4. Modal3 arguments
Token identity theory
Leaves out the mind: absent qualia
Can't identify the mental features of mental content
Black box functionalism
Leaves out the mind: absent qualia and spectrum inversion
Relation of structure and function is unexplained
Strong Al (Turing machine functionalism)
Leaves out the mind: Chinese room
Human cognition is nonrepresentational and therefore noncomputational
Eliminative materialism (rejection of folk psychology)
Denies the existence of the mind: unfair to folk psychology
Defense of folk psychology
Leaves out intentionality
- The Idols of the Tribe
"Searle (John) - Is There a Problem about Folk Psychology?"
Source: Searle - The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992, Appendix to Chapter 2
Searle rejects various theses within the tradition of discussion of Folk Psychology (FP). He mentions as being within the tradition. The theses:-
- FP is an empirical thesis like any other, and as such it is subject to empirical confirmation and disconfirmation.
- All the same, you could state theoretical correlates or principles underlying these capacities. This would constitute a folk psychology and would in all likelihood be false, since in general folk theories are false.
- It now becomes a specific matter for cognitive science (CS) to decide which theses of FP are true and which of its ontological commitments are warranted. For example, FP postulates beliefs and desires to account for behaviour, but if it turns out that the CS account of behaviour is inconsistent with this, then beliefs and desires do not exit.
- All the same, postulated or not, there is unlikely to be a smooth reduction of the entities of FP to the more basic science of neurobiology, so it seems that elimination is the only alternative.
- Still, it is possible to list a lot of FP claims and see that many of them are doubtful.
- FP is a set of capacities not theories.
- Folk theories – even folk physics – are right where it matters, or they wouldn’t have survived1.
- The ontological commitments of FP are experienced, not postulated, and have no essential connection to action.
- Most types of real entities don’t allow a smooth theoretical reduction, yet they exist. There’s no analogy with phlogiston, as FP isn’t a theory.
- If we try to list potential FP claims that might be false, we find they are either definitions (“constitutive”), or are not true FP-candidate claims. While FP-understanding of the location of pains is false, this doesn’t show that pains don’t exist.
In-Page Footnotes ("Searle (John) - Is There a Problem about Folk Psychology?")
Footnote 1: Hmmm … what about astrology and so on?
"Searle (John) - Breaking the Hold: Silicon Brains, Conscious Robots and Other Minds"
Source: Searle - The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992, Chapter 3
- Silicon Brains
- Conscious Robots
- Empiricism and the “Other Minds Problem”
- Summary (of claims in this chapter so far)
- Intrinsic, As-If, and Derived Intenionality
COMMENT: Also in "Block (Ned), Flanagan (Owen) & Guzeldere (Guven) - The Nature of Consciousness"
"Searle (John) - Consciousness and its Place in Nature"
Source: Searle - The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992, Chapter 4
- Consciousness and the “Scientific” World View
- Consciousness and the Mind-Body Problem
- Consciousness and Selectional Advantage
"Searle (John) - Reductionism and the Irreducibility of Consciousness"
Source: Searle - The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992, Chapter 5
- Emergent Properties
1. Ontological Reduction
2. Property Ontological Reduction
3. Theoretical Reduction
4. Logical or Definitional Reduction
5. Causal Reduction
- Why Consciousness is an Irreducible Feature of Physical Reality
- Why the Irreducibility of Consciousness has No Deep Consequences
COMMENT: Also in "Block (Ned), Flanagan (Owen) & Guzeldere (Guven) - The Nature of Consciousness"
"Searle (John) - The Structure of Consciousness: An Introduction"
Source: Searle - The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992, Chapter 6
- A Dozen Structural Features
1. Finite Modalities1
4. Subjective Feeling
5. The Connection between Consciousness and Intentionality
6. The Figure-Ground Gestalt Structure of Conscious Experience
7. The Aspect of Familiarity
9. The Center and the Periphery
10. Boundary Conditions
12. The Pleasure/Unpleasure Dimension
- Three Traditional Mistakes
1. All Conscious States are Self-Conscious
2. Consciousness is Known by a Special Faculty of Introspection
3. Knowledge of our Conscious States is Incorrigible.
"Searle (John) - The Unconscious and Its Relation to Consciousness"
Source: Searle - The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992, Chapter 7
"Searle (John) - Consciousness, Intentionality, and the Background"
Source: Searle - The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992, Chapter 8
"Searle (John) - The Critique of Cognitive Reason"
Source: Searle - The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992, Chapter 9
COMMENT: Also in "Goldman (Alvin), Ed. - Readings in Philosophy and Cognitive Science"
"Searle (John) - The Proper Study"
Source: Searle - The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992, Chapter 10
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)