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, "like 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 substance 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 a proposal for an approach to studying the mind that emphasizes the centrality of consciousness to any account of mental functioning.In his characteristically direct style, punctuated with persuasive examples, Searle identifies the very terminology of the field as the main source of truth. He observes that it is a mistake to suppose that the ontology of the mental is objective and to suppose 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 Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.
Nick Chater is Professor of Psychology at the University of Warwick and Director of the Institute for Applied Cognitive Science.
What's wrong with the philosophy of mind; the recent history of materialism - the same mistake over and over, appendix - is there a problem about folk psychology?; breaking the hold - silicon brains, conscious robots, and other minds; consciousness and its place in nature; reductionism and the irreducibility of consciousness; the structure of consciousness - an introduction; the unconscious and its relation to consciousness; consciousness, intentionality and the background; the critique of cognitive reason; the proper study.
"This is as entertaining as serious philosophy gets." Theodore Roszak, New Scientist
"The computationalists have probably never had such a powerful challenge as this book." Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times Book Review
Most shocking to me was the way in which Searle argued that the mind is not and cannot be an information processing system. As counterintuitive and remarkable as that may sound, it is quite apparently true after reading his arguments. He is not saying that we do not *think*, but rather that equating *thinking* and *information processing* is in error, primarily because the interpretation of symbols, syntax and semantics requires an outside intelligence to make the interpretation, so to say that we are information processing machines makes no sense for it is exactly our own intelligence that we are trying to explain. The devastating impact for AI and cognitive science from this viewpoint is also duly noted in a rather understated way.
Likewise, the 'unconscious' loses it's imagined place as part of the mind, replaced with an equally (or perhaps moreso)complex 'Background' of non-conscious and potentially-conscious components. Also, so many activities of the brain that have been deemed as "mental" turn out to have no basis for such an ascription: it turns out they are anthropomorphisms placed on neurobiological processes that neither have intentionality nor mentality. As a result (my opinion), much of psychology and probably many theories of neurobiology are as wayward as their AI counterparts.
In the end, the 'mind' that one is left with remains utterly rich and complex, with consciousness and all subjective experience intact and valid. However, now bereft of the possibility of computational models and rules and such to understand the brain in an abstracted programmatic way, and bereft of anthropomorphisms of lower-level brain functioning, we find that the brain is an organ - an organ of great ability and complexity that will require an immense effort to understand and appreciate. ""Searle approaches philosophy with unusual clarity and thoughtfulness. This book is a convincingly argued account for a philosophy of the mind that is both naturalist and respectful of subjective phenomenal experiences.
The importance of this book's themes is only overshadowed by the extraordinarily lucid style with which Searle approaches his subject matter. By taking actual human experience as his starting point, Searle's argument gains force as well as meaning to less philosphically inclined readers. Searle has a knack for making complex issues in recent philosophy accessible to the less experienced reader while not losing any persuasiveness in conveying his argument.
This book is a wonderful introduction to the philosophy of consciousness for anyone who has not done extensive work in the field and also a complex and intriguing argument that needs to be considered by the most serious philosophers. ""In this book, Searle briefly reviews the history of the mind-body problem and presents his solution to it. The text is less filled with archaic or strictly philosophical phrases than most books in this field, giving it a comprehensibility that is too often lacking in the mind-body problem. Searle is a brilliant rhetorician, and every one of his arguments is worded in a convincing way. Also, the critique that he presents of the previous work on the mind-body problem is revealing, since he gives what he calls "common-sense objections" to each solution. Overall, an outstanding book. "