Minds, Brains and Science: The 1984 Reith Lectures
Searle (John)
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Amazon Book Description

  1. Minds, Brains and Science takes up just the problems that perplex people, and it does what good philosophy always does: it dispels the illusion caused by the specious collision of truths. How do we reconcile common sense and science?
  2. Searle argues vigorously that the truths of common sense and the truths of science are both right and that the only question is how to fit them together. Searle explains how we can reconcile an intuitive view of ourselves as conscious, free, rational agents with a universe that science tells us consists of mindless physical particles.
  3. He briskly and lucidly sets out his arguments against the familiar positions in the philosophy of mind, and details the consequences of his ideas for the mind-body problem, artificial intelligence1, cognitive science, questions of action and free will, and the philosophy of the social sciences.


BBC Publications, London, 1984

"Searle (John) - Can Computers Think?"

Source: Searle - Minds, Brains and Science

Author’s Introduction
  1. In the previous chapter1, I provided at least the outlines of a solution to the so-called ‘mind-body problem‘. Though we do not know in detail how the brain functions, we do know enough to have an idea of the general relationships between brain processes and mental processes. Mental processes are caused by the behaviour of elements of the brain. At the same time, they are realised in the structure that is made up of those elements. I think this answer is consistent with the standard biological approaches to biological phenomena. Indeed, it is a kind of common-sense answer to the question, given what we know about how the world works. However, it is very much a minority point of view. The prevailing view in philosophy, psychology, and artificial intelligence2 is one which emphasizes the analogies between the functioning of the human brain and the functioning of digital computers. According to the most extreme version of this view, the brain is just a digital computer and the mind is just a computer program. One could summarise this view – I call it ‘strong artificial intelligence‘3, or ‘strong AI‘ – by saying that the mind is to the brain, as the program is to the computer hardware.
  2. This view has the consequence that there is nothing essentially biological about the human mind. The brain just happens to be one of an indefinitely large number of different kinds of hardware computers that could sustain the programs which make up human intelligence. On this view, any physical system whatever that had the right program with the right inputs and outputs would have a mind in exactly the same sense that you and I have minds. So, for example, if you made a computer out of old beer cans powered by windmills; if it had the right program, it would have to have a mind. And the point is not that for all we know it might have thoughts and feelings, but rather that it must have thoughts and feelings, because that is all there is to having thoughts and feelings: implementing the right program.
  3. Most people who hold this view think we have not yet designed programs which are minds. But there is pretty much general agreement among them that it‘s only a matter of time until computer scientists and workers in artificial intelligence4 design the appropriate hardware and programs which will be the equivalent of human brains and minds. These will be artificial brains and minds which are in every way the equivalent of human brains and minds. Many people outside of the field of artificial intelligence5 are quite amazed to discover that anybody could believe such a view as this. So, before criticizing it, let me give you a few examples of the things that people in this field have actually said. [… snip…] As a philosopher, I like all these claims for a simple reason. Unlike most philosophical theses, they are reasonably clear, and they admit of a simple and decisive refutation. It is this refutation that I am going to undertake in this chapter.
  4. The nature of the refutation has nothing whatever to do with any particular stage of computer technology. It is important to emphasise this point because the temptation is always to think that the solution to our problems must wait on some as yet uncreated technological wonder. But in fact, the nature of the refutation is completely independent of any state of technology. It has to do with the very definition of a digital computer, with what a digital computer is.

In-Page Footnotes ("Searle (John) - Can Computers Think?")

Footnote 1: See "Searle (John) - The Mind-Body Problem".

"Searle (John) - Cognitive Science"

Source: Searle - Minds, Brains and Science

"Searle (John) - Minds, Brains and Science: Introduction"

Source: Searle - Minds, Brains and Science

"Searle (John) - Prospects For the Social Sciences"

Source: Searle - Minds, Brains and Science

"Searle (John) - The Freedom of the Will"

Source: Searle - Minds, Brains and Science

"Searle (John) - The Mind-Body Problem"

Source: Searle - Minds, Brains and Science

Author’s Introduction
  1. For thousands of years, people have been trying to understand their relationship to the rest of the universe. For a variety of reasons many philosophers today are reluctant to tackle such big problems. Nonetheless, the problems remain, and in this book I am going to attack some of them.
  2. At the moment, the biggest problem is this: We have a certain commonsense picture of ourselves as human beings which is very hard to square with our overall ‘scientific‘ conception of the physical world. We think of ourselves as conscious, free, mindful, rational agents in a world that science tells us consists entirely of mindless, meaningless physical particles. Now, how can we square these two conceptions? How, for example, can it be the case that the world contains nothing but unconscious physical particles, and yet that it also contains consciousness? How can a mechanical universe contain intentionalistic human beings – that is, human beings that can represent the world to themselves? How, in short, can an essentially meaningless world contain meanings?
  3. Such problems spill over into other more contemporary sounding issues: How should we interpret recent work in computer science and artificial intelligence1 – work aimed at making intelligent machines? Specifically, does the digital computer give us the right picture of the human mind? And why is it that the social sciences in general have not given us insights into ourselves comparable to the insights that the natural sciences have given us into the rest of nature? What is the relation between the ordinary, commonsense explanations we accept of the way people behave and scientific modes of explanation?
  4. In this first chapter, I want to plunge right into what many philosophers think of as the hardest problem of all: What is the relation of our minds to the rest of the universe? This, I am sure you will recognize, is the traditional mind-body or mind-brain problem. In its contemporary version it usually takes the form: how does the mind relate to the brain?

"Searle (John) - The Structure of Action"

Source: Searle - Minds, Brains and Science

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