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1. Mind: A Brief Introduction (Fundamentals
2. Making the Social World: The Structure
3. The Mystery of Consciousness
4. Philosophy in a New Century: Selected
5. Freedom and Neurobiology: Reflections
6. Boy Still Missing: A Novel (P.S.)
7. Minds, Brains and Science (1984
8. Intentionality: An Essay in the
9. Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy
10. Mind, Language, and Society :
11. The Construction of Social Reality
12. Strange but True: A Novel (P.S.)
13. Rationality in Action (Jean Nicod
14. Consciousness and Language
15. John Searle and his Critics (Philosophers
16. The Rediscovery of the Mind (Representation
17. John Searle (Continuum Contemporary
18. John Searle (Philosophy Now Series)
19. John Searle and the Construction
20. John Searle (Contemporary Philosophy

1. Mind: A Brief Introduction (Fundamentals of Philosophy)
by John R. Searle
Paperback: 240 Pages (2005-07-28)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$11.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0195157346
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
The philosophy of mind is unique among contemporary philosophical subjects, writes John Searle, "in that all of the most famous and influential theories are false." One of the world's most eminent thinkers, Searle dismantles these theories as he presents a vividly written, comprehensive introduction to the mind. He begins with a look at the twelve problems of philosophy of mind--which he calls "Descartes and Other Disasters"--problems which he returns to throughout the volume, as he illuminates such topics as materialism, consciousness, the mind-body problem, intentionality, mental causation, free will, and the self. The book offers a refreshingly direct and engaging introduction to one of the most intriguing areas of philosophy. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

4-0 out of 5 stars Classic Searle - Clear, Entertaining and Provocative
Published in 2004 John Searle's `Mind' is an instalment in the Oxford University Press Fundamentals of Philosophy Series.Searle, a long time UC Berkley professor is a leading contemporary analytic philosopher with numerous publications in the philosophy of the mind, philosophy of language and social philosophy.I read this text in conjunction with Searle's Philosophy of the Mind course available thru itunes/itunesu/UC Berkley. The lectures are a tremendous complement to the text.

The first part of the book provides an introduction to the modern philosophy of the mind tradition, its key thinkers and ideas. While brief, this overview is outstanding, with his characteristic flair and confidence Searle succinctly dissects the various views, identifying their antecedents, postulates and challenges. For readers new to this subject (this is tagged as an introduction), it is important when approaching a work such as this to be mindful of the author's perspective.While he is an outstanding scholar, Searle, like all commentators, approaches his work with certain presuppositions.These assumptions in turn determine what arguments and evidence are deemed credible and which are dismissed as unconvincing.In this respect, Searle like many analytic philosophers of his generation is a committed naturalist; as a consequence non-naturalistic approaches (idealism, theism, etc.) are not considered to be live options.

In the latter part of the book Searle addresses a range of issues such as, the mind body problem, mental causation and free will.In attempting to dissolve the mind-body problem Searle's propounds a view that he calls `biological naturalism'.A view which despite his denials seems best described as a form of emergent property dualism, wherein, while, reality is a closed physical system higher level/emergent phenomena (e.g. the mental) are not amenable to explanation in reductive physical terms. While such views are popular in contemporary philosophy they are not particularly satisfying, in that it names a phenomenon without providing a viable explanatory mechanism for the phenomenon.That is, how does one state of being (the mental) emerge out of and entirely separate order of being (the material)?Indeed, it could be argued that notions such as emergence appear to be motivated, as much as anything, by the desire to avoid substance dualism and supernaturalism.These small criticisms aside, the text is an engaging read.Many of Searle's asides, such as his critiques of Hume's views on causation and the self are outstanding.

Overall, Mind is an excellent resource for readers interested in the philosophy of the mind.Searle is an outstanding thinker; informed, entertaining and provocative, he has an excellent critical eye and just the right mix of overconfidence, intelligence and wit.

2-0 out of 5 stars barking up the wrong tree
The criticisms in the existing reviews are well founded, but so far one key, major fault has not been mentioned: Searle remains caught between the untenable standard options for dealing with the Cartesian mind-body duality. Therefore, regardless of how he squirms, his is an untenable, ultimately incoherent position.

He mis-states, and then rejects -- quite stupidly, I believe -- the one viable though not face-credible alternative to Cartesian dualism or the many varieties of its reductionism: panpsychism. On pp. 104-105, he presents a silly, grossly inadequate and distorted version (thermostats are conscious), ridicules it, and then dismisses panpsychism altogether on that basis. Interested readers should go to Panpsychism in the West (Bradford Books) for a contemporary, compelling presentation of that unpopular position.

5-0 out of 5 stars Good Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind
I used this book to teach a course in the philosophy of human nature and I loved it. Searle touts his brand of philosophy in this work called "biological naturalism." It is the view that all of our conscious states arise from neurobiological processes. The book is also an introduction to the common problems in philosophy of mind. But you better come prepared for a somewhat technical (in some places) discussion of free will, mental causation and the mind-body problem. As usual, however, Searle is crystal clear in his explanations and arguments. Moreover, he appears to be pretty convincing in his refutations of materialism. This book is informative and a pretty good read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to the topic, but his own theories are flawed
This book served as my introduction to the mind/body problem, and his introductory material (the first 100 pages or so) was actually quite decent.He explained the issues, gave the differing views on the issues, and was rather comprehensive and fair for the most part.The only complaints I had about that section were (1) that he often gave the reader the bare minimum of information and left the reader to figure out what it meant instead of giving a clear example of what he was saying (the issues he was discussing were ofter very difficult to understand, and I would have to read a section and sit and think about it for five minutes to figure out what exactly he was saying, when he could easily have given examples to significantly speed up the process), and (2) I think he unfairly dismissed dualism without really giving many reasons why it was not correct.I agree that there are significant problems with dualism, but I think his treatment of it was far too brief and not especially fair.

The rest of the book, however, was not so great.The position he takes is called non-reductive physicalism.This means that he thinks the mind is nothing but physical processes but is not reducuble to physical processes.The whole rest of the book is about how this theory explains things like consciousness, free will, etc.The two main problems I had with this part of the book are far more significant than those I had with the first part.They are (1) the failure to adequately explain how a mind which is entirely physical processes can escape being reduced to physical processes, and (2) his section on free will.

The reason he wishes to escape reducing the mind to physical processes is that if we do that we are left with determinism.Everything we think, and thus do, is then reduced to the outcome of physical processes leaving no room for free will.The problem is that Searle offers no legitimate explanation of how we escape reductionism if the mind is "just physical processes" (that is exactlty how Searly says it).Other non-reductive physicalists like Nancy Murphy do go into detailed explanations (which I find unconvincing as well), but Searle just passes it off as plausable then moves on, effectively skirting the issue by changing the topic to how this theory explains mental phenomenon like free will.

The problem with that is that when he gets to free will, he is forced to admit that his system does not seem able to account for free will, so he calls it a mystery and appeals to quantum mechanics.He acknowledges that randomness does not amount to freedom (which many who advocate quantum mechanics as the basis of free will fail to acknowledge, so at least it's a step forward), but he is forced to look there for help because, as he notes, it is the only non-determined field of science we know about.Since he has already decided that nothing non-physical can be a part of our minds, he is left with no choice but a listless appeal to quantum mechanics, though he openly admits he has no idea how this solves anything and that it does not really seem to work.Perhaps this is a good indication that his starting point of physicalism is lacking.

In short, this is a good introduction to the mind/brain topic, but his own ideas about the subject are largely unconvincing and seem to me to be rather lacking in evidence.That said, I would recommend it to anyone wishing to learn about these issues, as the non-redcutive physicalism is a growing position you would do well to know about and understand, and Searle presents the one of the most comprehensive discussions of that position in this book.He also presents an excellent critique of reductionist philosophies of mind, from behaviorism to functionalism to the newer theories about how the mind is to brain as computer program is to hardware.

Overall grade:B

Edit (April 11th):In the few months since I read this book, I have actually come to adopt Searle's position (or something very close to it).A number of other sources played in my "conversion," making me wonder whether this really is a good introduction to the topic or something which should be read after a working knowledge of competing positions is already known.It could be that Searle's position was so radically different than my own that I would have rejected it no matter how it was first presented to me, or it could be that Searle's presentation of it was just not as convincing as the positions of Nancy Murphy and Kevin Corcoran in The Search for the Soul (a survey of four views of the soul [or lack thereof] from a Christian perspective), which played a significant role in my shift of positions.

2-0 out of 5 stars Confused, Muddled Thinking
John Searle provides what he thinks is a corrective to other introductory works in the philosophy of mind. In traditionally Searlean prose, he guides us through what he sees as the major problems of philosophy of mind, giving a background and providing some solutions of his own to the major problems. The writing style is clear, simple, and concise, which makes the book quite readable and indeed pleasant at many points. It is when you begin to dig beneath the words and extract Searle's arguments that the book falls apart.

In the beginning, we see a rather good explication of Descartes' views on the mind, which lead into contemporary approaches to the subject. This is where the book runs into problems. The first approach other than dualism that Searle considers is behaviorism. Here, he betrays philosophical superficiality by completely ignoring the valuable points made by behaviorists and painting a terrible caricature that barely qualifies as a straw man. As he continues, it becomes obvious that Searle has failed to understand virtually every argument in the history of the philosophy of mind. His treatment of functionalism is terribly vague and while his outline of various anti-functionalist arguments is useful, his characterization of their rebuttals is not.

As the work goes on, we get more into Searle's positive work, which is even more muddled than his critical work. He freely contradicts himself, such as in the chapter on free will, where he goes against one of his core philosophical principles (common sense). There is also his theory of consciousness, in which the brain causes the mind, which is separate and sits on top of the brain, but it is not dualism. Such conceptual muddles plague this book, making it difficult to even make sense of what Searle wants to say.

In the end, the book deserves two stars because it causes violent disagreement and is a suitable starting place for discussions and inquiry. However, anyone reading this book would do well to get another introductory book (I recommend Kim) or a good anthology (I recommend Chalmers) to accompany it, because alone the book is wholly inadequate at mapping the field or providing a positive position. It is probably more valuable as an introduction to John Searle, and someone interested in Searle's philosophy of mind would find this an easy way to get acquainted with his ideas. ... Read more

2. Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization
by John Searle
Hardcover: 224 Pages (2010-01-12)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$13.20
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Asin: 0195396170
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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There are few more important philosophers at work today than John Searle, a creative and contentious thinker who has shaped the way we think about mind and language. Now he offers a profound understanding of how we create a social reality--a reality of money, property, governments, marriages, stock markets and cocktail parties.
The paradox he addresses in Making the Social World is that these facts only exist because we think they exist and yet they have an objective existence. Continuing a line of investigation begun in his earlier book The Construction of Social Reality, Searle identifies the precise role of language in the creation of all "institutional facts." His aim is to show how mind, language and civilization are natural products of the basic facts of the physical world described by physics, chemistry and biology. Searle explains how a single linguistic operation, repeated over and over, is used to create and maintain the elaborate structures of human social institutions. These institutions serve to create and distribute power relations that are pervasive and often invisible. These power relations motivate human actions in a way that provides the glue that holds human civilization together.
Searle then applies the account to show how it relates to human rationality, the freedom of the will, the nature of political power and the existence of universal human rights. In the course of his explication, he asks whether robots can have institutions, why the threat of force so often lies behind institutions, and he denies that there can be such a thing as a "state of nature" for language-using human beings. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars a perplexity and a note
Dr. Searle has expanded on his profound thinking regarding the primacy and specialty of language for human beings. However, I am perplexed by his incessant use of intentionality as being the canonical root for our actions.Nowhere in his text does he mention or refer to that which precedes all intention--Concerns. A human concern generates and must come before intention and utterance.

The philosophical homeostasis of "For the Sake of what?" appears missing.

Notes on corporations--There is a seminal declarative statement that grants a certain kind of life to the corporation. This is the orginal speech act that defines the status function of the entity.

The definition of a corporation commences with the declaration, "A corporation is an artificial being".

5-0 out of 5 stars Basic Study of Social Reality
If you are interested in the discussions of collective intentionality that have taken place for the last 15 years, the difference between regulative and constitutive rules, positive and negative deontic powers, status functions, and desire-independent reasons for acting, this is the right book. It is a must for any one interested in the social aspects of experience, especially the role of institutions in our lives. Hint: if you are doing scholarly work, buy both the hard copy and the Kindle version. The Kindle copy allows you to do precise searches of any terms, and the hard copy is required for citations.
Jerome Popp, Professor Emeritus, Sou. Ill. Univ. Edw.

3-0 out of 5 stars Ok , Better With The Itunes Course
Published in 2010, `Making the Social World' is John Searle's most recent work in the area of social philosophy.For those unfamiliar with the author, Searle is a leading contemporary analytic philosopher, who has made important contributions in the philosophy of language, the philosophy of the mind and the philosophy of society.The following thoughts are offered for potential readers.

From my perspective, this small text is a helpful contribution to the philosophy of society.Searle puts forth an articulate and interesting theory regarding the origin and nature of Institutional facts (e.g. money, countries and summer vacations).A wide ranging thinker Searle effortlessly blends a range of relevant notions from various areas of study.

While generally a solid work it has a few drawbacks.With regard to structure, the placement of an appendix at the outset of the book is awkward.The appendix is largely a response to criticism of his earlier text 'The Construction of Social Reality', and, while not uninteresting this type of internecine academic discussion is most naturally placed at the end of a book.As is, it gives the book a clumsy feel, especially for readers unfamiliar with the previous text.The discussion of human rights is probably the least compelling part of Searle's argument.The categorization of human rights as just another institutional fact, while consistent with naturalism does not feel quite right. The traditional view that agents possess inherent rights as the result of being human seems more convincing.As a socially defined fact human rights seem no more significant than the rules of a hockey game (not entirely unimportant up hear in Canada I should add).Searle's framing of human rights as a post-enlightenment phenomenon also seems off the mark.The Western human rights tradition is often understood to be rooted in Judaism and Christianity.And, while Searle has little sympathy for religion, his dismissal of theistically-based human rights is superficial to the point of being silly.

Overall, while a little disappointing, it is still a worthwhile read for those interested in linguistic and social philosophy.I recommended reading it in conjunction with the related course available via itunesu UC Berkley/philosophy.While this is not the text used in the course; it covers the same material.Searle is an animated speaker and many of his in-class digressions breathe life into his ideas, ideas which can seem dry in print.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great book by a great Philosopher.
"How is it possible that we can have factual objective knowledge of a reality that is created by subjective opinions? One of the reasons I find that questions so fascinating is that it is part of a much larger question: How can we give an account of ourselves, with our peculiar human traits - as mindful, rational, speech-act performing, free-will having, social, political human beings - in a world that we know independently consist of mindless, meaningless, physical particles? How can we account for our social and mental existence in a realm of brute physical facts? In answering that question, we have to avoid postulating different ontological realms, a mental and a physical, or worse yet, a mental, a physical, and a social. We are just talking about one reality, and we have to explain how the human reality fits into that one reality." - This is how John Searle begins Making the Social World which is an extension and revision of work he began in The Construction of Social Reality.

The beauty of Searle's argument (and the beauty of philosophy in general) is that everything is connected to everything else; yet, in this book Searle does a great job at being parsimonious. This book is short where it could have been much, much longer and I applaud Searle for cutting out all the excessive qualifiers and unnecessary rhetoric. However, I think Searle intended to have a more general audience, but with some concepts such as ontology, deontology, epistemology, intentionality (basic philosophical jargon) he might have skimped a little too much. He does provide basic explanations, but the casual reader may feel a little lost, but this is not a huge issue I believe. Basically, Searle spends the first 60 or so pages of this book simply setting the stage for his argument and once he gets rolling he speeds through clearly and powerfully. The over-arching goal is to move from individual awareness or consciousness (intentionality) in order to see how we get a shared intentionality. Searle does this well.

I am already an admirer of Searle's "Biological Naturalism" (Wikipedia it) and think that this book is a nice extension of Searle's previous and copious body of work. He does an excellent job of explaining his case and fighting off detractors: "Let us constantly remind ourselves that the whole point of the creation of institutional reality is not to invest objects or people with some special status valuable in itself but to create and regulate power relationships between people. Human social reality is not just about people and objects, it is about people's activities and about power relations that not only govern but constitute those activities." In sum, he does a brilliant job of describing how "human reality fits into that one reality."

Here are a few books that relate to Searle's work or are specifically mentioned in this book: Power (The Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984, Vol. 3), Power: A Radical View, Inventing Human Rights: A History, Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression, Why We Cooperate (Boston Review Books).

5-0 out of 5 stars Finally, a philosophy that fits experience
Making the Social World is a thorough explication of John Searle's theory of how status functions create our social reality.

Searle is refreshing because, unlike other philosophers, his ideas make sense even after you put away the text.Other philosophers weave a web of coherence that makes sense while they shape the alternatives of your thought through clever rhetoric.Searle is a clever writer, but he also makes sense when you apply his theories to your everyday life.For example, postmodern theory makes a lot of sense when the text you are reading limits the constraints of your thinking, but when you step outside of the text and just live you find it to be insufficient for explaining life as it is lived.Searle's discussions on duties, obligations, direction of fit, status functions, etc are easily understandable because they actually exist in the way you experience the world.These are not counter-intuitive ideas, but rather they are ideas that fit.

I also highly recommend listening to Searle's Philosophy 138 podcast from his Berkeley lectures.Listening to this course enabled me to unpack the dense and precise ideas found in Making the Social World.I found this book to be even more robust than the arguments put forth in The Construction of Social Reality.Obviously, Searle has listened to the criticisms of that work and responded with a stronger theory.

This is a work worthy to be read, considered, and applied to other texts and one's own lived experience.I highly recommend Making the Social World.
... Read more

3. The Mystery of Consciousness
by John R. Searle
Paperback: 224 Pages (1997-09-01)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$6.70
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0940322064
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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It has long been one of the most fundamental problems of philosophy, and it is now, John Searle writes, "the most important problem in the biological sciences": What is consciousness? Is my inner awareness of myself something separate from my body?

In what began as a series of essays in The New York Review of Books, John Searle evaluates the positions on consciousness of such well-known scientists and philosophers as Francis Crick, Gerald Edelman, Roger Penrose, Daniel Dennett, David Chalmers, and Israel Rosenfield. He challenges claims that the mind works like a computer, and that brain functions can be reproduced by computer programs. With a sharp eye for confusion and contradiction, he points out which avenues of current research are most likely to come up with a biological examination of how conscious states are caused by the brain.

Only when we understand how the brain works will we solve the mystery of consciousness, and only then will we begin to understand issues ranging from artificial intelligence to our very nature as human beings. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (32)

4-0 out of 5 stars Return to sanity
John R. Searle's book "The Mystery of Consciousness" is a curious book. On the one hand, the theory of consciousness it presents seems breathtakingly trivial. On the other hand, it's equally breathtakingly controversial! One wonders why? Personally, I used to believe in a "theory" pretty much like the one presented in the book most of my life, except for a period when I looked more sympathetic on dualism. Perhaps naively, I assumed that something like Searle's position (which he calls biological naturalism) was the standard materialist position, save a few fringe elements, at least after the death of the last behaviourist, which I assumed took place long before I was born.

But no...

Searle even says that his views on the problem of consciousness (biological naturalism, remember?) elicits more hysterical protests from strict materialists who believe the brain is a computer program, than it does from religious groups, who presumably aren't naturalists at all!

So what is Searle's position? Of course, it's not *really* trivial (that was just my gut feeling) and his arguments are often subtle, but the main ideas are the following. Consciousness is a biological process, much like digestion and photosynthesis. It's caused by the brain. However, it's not identical to material brain states. The relationship between brain states and mental states is a causal relation between two different phenomena. It's not a relation of identity. Hence, consciousness cannot be reduced to brain states, although it emerges from them. The whole is larger than the sum of its parts. We don't yet know how the brain causes consciousness, but we do know that it does.

Searle believes that the traditional split between dualists and monists, or between dualists and materialists, doesn't help us solve the issue of consciousness. On the one hand, we live in *one* world, not in two, three or twenty-seven worlds. Hence, dualism is erroneous. On the other hand many phenomena in our world aren't "material" in the strict sense of the term: political opinions, the value of money, aesthetics, etc. Some have objective properties. Others are subjective states. That consciousness is both non-material, subjective and yet part of our world, isn't therefore as strange as it may seem at first glance. (Actually, Searle sarcastically writes that undergraduates always grasp this point, graduate students only with difficulty, and philosophers never! He may be on to something there.) By standard definitions, Searle is a materialist, since he believes that material processes in the brain cause consciousness, but since most other materialists have a more reductionist position, I can understand why he wants to avoid the traditional terms. On Wikipedia, Searle is called "emergent materialist", but his own preferred term is "biological naturalism".

In this book, Searle criticizes the positions of Roger Penrose, Daniel Dennett and David Chalmers. (He also reviews the ideas of Crick, Edelman and Rosenfield, but this is more of a sideshow). The material in the book is based on book reviews Searle penned for the New Tork Times Review of Books.

So who are Searle's opponents? Penrose is a self-declared Platonist who believes that the physical, the mental and the mathematical are three different worlds or dimensions. Thus, he could be described as an ontological dualist or pluralist. Dennett is a reductionist materialist, who denies that there are any conscious states at all (!). His views are rooted in behaviourism and positivism. Chalmers' ideas are the most curious of all: a combination of materialism, dualism and panpsychism. However, they have been discussed more or less seriously at scientific and philosophical conferences. "The Mystery of Consciousness" contains extensive reviews of books by these authors, plus an exchange of views (or insults) with Dennett and Chalmers. One problem is that the original essays Dennett and Chalmers are responding to have been expanded upon by Searle in the book, while the correspondence stands as it was originally written. At least, the work states *Searle's* position clear enough.

One serious criticism could be levelled at Searle's biological naturalism, perhaps by dualists. It could be argued that biological naturalism isn't really an *explanation* of the mystery of consciousness, but simply an empirical *description* of the problem that needs to be solved. Nobody denies that brain states and mental states are correlated. Nor does anybody deny that the mental and the material at least *seem* different. But so what? That still doesn't really explain the hard problem of consciousness. Indeed, Searle himself admits that we don't yet know how brains cause conscious states.

Still, I think his book shows that the biologically naturalist description of the problem isn't completely question-begging. After all, his main opponents deny even the description of the problem! To Dennett, there is no problem: consciousness in the sense of subjective, qualitative mental states doesn't even exist. To Chalmers, the problem is even more far-reaching, since he advocates a form of dualism and is sympathetic to exploring panpsychism. A certain frustration shines through when Searle attempts to explain that our best science has already showed that brains cause consciousness, or that ideas that deny consciousness are self-refuting. Biological naturalism, while not "really" explaining the mystery of consciousness, at least pinpoints the problem...

"The Mystery of Consciousness" isn't an easy read. True, it's simpler than the more scholarly tomes on the mind-body problem. However, the general reader might nevertheless find some of the chapters difficult to follow. I think the book is best suited for advanced students of philosophy or science. In many ways, John R. Searle's book acts like a reality check. It may not be "trivial" in the everyday sense, but it sure feels like a return to sanity.

Four stars.

4-0 out of 5 stars Unwilling to relent
The mystery of consciousness is the first book that I have read concerning consciousness and what it means to be consciousness. I found myself become increasing frustrated by Searle and his Chinese Room Argument. It seems that when a person differed from him in ideology he would immediately go back to this idea. I guess he believes that it settles the question concerning reductionism and strong AI.

The other thing that surprised me was he presented no books that he actually agreed with. The last chapter made up for the rest of the book when Searle seems to open his mind to other ideas and provides some structure on where to go from there.

3-0 out of 5 stars Critique of Qualia and Searle
Look around you until you find something blue to look at, perhaps a glass, clothing, or the sky. Now ask of yourself, what is this blueness and where is it located? We know from neuropsychology that objects aren't themselves blue, but that blue emerges from an interaction between a certain part of the spectrum of light and our nervous system. The brain is responsible for blueness; but how?

The Nature of Qualia according to Searle:

Taking the skin between your forefinger and thumb on your right hand go ahead and give it a good pinch. Doing such sets up a chain of events, but what exactly happened? Neurology tells us that, upon applying acute pressure to your skin, a sequence of neuron firings, beginning with sensory receptors in your skin, went into the spine and then into the thalamas and other basal regions of of the brain. The signal then cascaded into other regions of the brain such as the somato-sensory cortex. However, a few 1/10th's of a second after pinching your skin a second sort of thing happened--of which you know plain well--you felt pain. This sensation had a particular kind of subjective feel to it, one which is not accessible to those around you--as the neuron firings were--but only to yourself. While the neuron firings and workings of your brain have a third person or objective mode of existence your pain has another: an ontologically subjective mode of existence. The pain of your pinch, or the blueness of the sky, is what is known in cognitive science as "qualia": qualitative first person phenomenal experiences. And these qualia, which have a subjective mode of ontology(being and existence), can not be reduced to an objective mode of ontology because of their independent pathway of existence (Searle 1997).

"Consciousness[1] is not reducible in the way that other biological properties are, because it has a first-person ontology" [ibid; p213]

"Conscious states only exist when experienced by a subject and they exist only from a first-person point of view of that subject." [ibid;p120]

Despite this seeming like a form of dualism(i.e. a mode of "mental" existence and also "physical" existence) John Searle outright rejects both dualism[2] and materialism: "I think one can accept the existence and irreducibility of consciousness as a biological phenomenon without accepting the ontology of traditional dualism. ...Once we have rejected dualism, and with it rejected materialism...". But in rejecting both dualism and materialism it becomes very unclear just how or where "subjective ontology" is possible. And at times Searle seems to follow lines of thought based in materialism ("The sense of mystery will be removed when we understand the biology of consciousness with the same depth of understanding that we now understand the biology of life.") despite the rejection in principle. A further difficulty is created from Searle advocating that the brain causes mental states(i.e. qualia). Just what are the mechanisms in the physical brain-- with its objective ontology--that cause non-physical/immaterial qualia? Searle admits his own profound ignorance "At this point we have to frankly confess our ignorance." and in the end he realize on an axiomatic move(similar to Descartes's "I think therefor I am") to assure us that qualia exist "...where consciousness[1] is concerned the reality is the appearance. If it consciously seems to me that I am conscious, then I am conscious." [ibid.: 192, 201, 197, 213]. If you consider yourself to be experiencing blueness, then you are experiencing blueness.

In an effort to avoid dualism--and to take the edge off of the axiomatic nature of qualia as he defines it--Searle invokes a special mode of causation known in science as 'the principle of emergence'. He argues that brain processes do indeed cause qualia but to assume the normal mode of causation by which A causes B, with A and B being two different things or events, is a false assumption. And that while many types of causation are of that nature we have a second mode of causation by which micro-particles or structures cause higher level macro phenomena that can not be understood by studying the lower level micro particles discreetly.
For example, the liquidity of water is a phenomena that arises from the interaction and chemical bonds of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, and liquidity can not be understood by merely studying the properties of hydrogen and oxygen discreetly. An emergent property of a system is one that is causally explained by the behavior of the elements of the system; but it is not a property of any individual elements and it cannot be explained simply as a summation of the properties of those elements. The macro-features of H2O are causally explained by the behavior of elements at the micro-level and like liquidity qualia is just an emergent feature of the brain. And at the same time we accept that the surface phenomena just are features of the very systems in question(Searle 1997:p7, 1984:p21).

"I want to suggest this provides a perfectly ordinary model for explaining the puzzling relationships between the mind and the brain." Searle 1984

However, upon closer inspection, several inconsistencies, double standards and assumptions arise. Water is reducible to its constituent elements through methods such as electrolysis. Searle not only fails to provide a scientific method of reducing qualia to its constituent elements he denies its very reducibility. If we are to take his analogy with water and emergence seriously this assumption must fall. An additional peculiarity--and what is the start of a much more serious assumption--can be subtly seen when Searle states that qualia are a "surface feature" of the cumulative effects of the brain. The surface feature of liquidity, caused by the micro level elements of hydrogen and oxygen, is a phenomena that exists independently of any individual scientist or subject. To use Searle's terminology: liquidity has an objective ontology. Furthermore,--and this is the critical oversight--both the lower level micro elements of water and the higher level macro phenomena of liquidity have objective ontology. Emergence of the higher level phenomena of liquidity from lower level elements requires no crossing of ontology; as they are both ontologically objective. However, when dealing with qualia and the brain Searle denies they are of the same ontological nature, and that some bridging principle is needed between the subjective ontology of qualia and the objective ontology of the brain: emergence. Yet, there is no known scientific evidence supporting the principle of emergence across subjective and objective ontology. By assuming that the principle of emergence can generate higher level phenomena of a subjective ontology(i.e. qualia) from lower elements of an objective ontology(i.e. neurons), he assumes in the principle of emergence that which he set out to explain with its usage.

[1] Searle equates consciousness and qualia as the same phenomenon: "There are not two types of phenomena, consciousness and qualia. There is just consciousness, which is a series of qualitative states." [ibid.: 9].
[2] Both substance and property dualism

. . .

A quick note on Strong AI, syntax and semantics:
Searle delares that computers do not have the causal powers to create consciousness or semantic content from syntax. Yet, he claims the brain does with no detailed account of how.

He explains the brain as generating consciousness through the use of the principle of emergent properties(with large assumptions as stated above), but refuses to invoke the same principle when dealing with computers, syntax and semantics.

. . .

This being said, Searle is a terrific speaker and his writing is accessible and lively(tho often sarcastic and snide). And this is a must read for anyone studying cognitive science. For those looking to get both sides of the argument I recommend Sweet Dreams by Dennett.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I had hoped
When I saw that this book actually gave responses by the people he was criticizing, I was excited that this might be very informative. However, I was sorely disappointed. The responses to Searle's criticism, and Searle's responses in turn, are totally useless. Essentially, Searle and his opponents talk in completely different terms, or use the same terms with different meanings, so that when they argue with eachother, they're shouting past eachother - they simply claim that the other guy is wrong, and then go on about their own research. The only useful bit may be Searle's self-contained discussion of his own research.

5-0 out of 5 stars For everyone who missed Searle's reviews in The New York Review of Books...
For everyone who missed John Searle's penetrating reviews in the New York Review of Books this is a must-have collection.Written in a typically concise and to-the-point style, with a strong personal bias, this book will surely be a mind-opener for many who either teach or are about to enter the field of cognitive sciences.Although a collection of different reviews written over several years the books is coherent and tight and has Searle's unrivalled interpretative touch (dispensing with computationalism and toying with the "protoplasmatic" cortical singularity that might bridge the mind-body chasm, etc.).

Djordje Vidanovic, University of Nis, Serbia.The Mystery of Consciousness ... Read more

4. Philosophy in a New Century: Selected Essays
by John R. Searle
Paperback: 210 Pages (2008-12-29)
list price: US$29.99 -- used & new: US$3.95
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Asin: 0521731585
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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John R. Searle has made profoundly influential contributions to three areas of philosophy: philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and philosophy of society. This volume gathers together in accessible form a selection of his essays in these areas. They range widely across social ontology, where Searle presents concise and informative statements of positions developed in more detail elsewhere; artificial intelligence and cognitive science, where Searle assesses the current state of the debate and develops his most recent thoughts; and philosophy of language, where Searle connects ideas from various strands of his work in order to develop original answers to fundamental questions. There are also explorations of the limitations of phenomenological inquiry, the mind-body problem, and the nature and future of philosophy. This rich collection from one of America's leading contemporary philosophers will be valuable for all who are interested in these central philosophical questions. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

3-0 out of 5 stars New Century Analytic Arrogance
John Searle begins his book with an all-embracing statement: "We now have a huge accumulation of knowledge which is certain, objective and universal (he italicises these three words)...this growth of knowledge is quietly producing a transformation of philosophy"... Without even acknowledging it, he has staked a philosophical claim. We now know SO MUCH (scientifically, and particularly for him in what he calls 'cognitive science') that there is no longer any doubt regarding most traditional philosophical issues. They are dead and buried. We are so CERTAIN that we know everything about the universe that the kinds of questions posed by Descartes and Locke are simply no longer meaningful. We are in, as he terms it, a 'post-sceptical' age.
Have we heard this somewhere before? Seventy years ago the logical positivists were loudly proclaiming the end of metaphysics, for somewhat different reasons, but in the name of the same God, almighty Science. This new appeal is no different. Perhaps we could ask Searle the most simple pragmatic question. Why, if we know so much in this era of quarks, quasars, neurons and DNA, are we making such a mess of this planet? Why is our civilization apparently in decline? Will philosophers be content to fiddle away in the insignificant little niches he assigns them, while all around them, things fall apart?
On behalf of those few of us who are prepared to look to philosophers for insight into these three score years of consciousness which are all that we are given, I will offer him one statement to ponder: archangels are of no lesser ontological status than supernovae!

5-0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Philosopher of our time.
Anything written by Searle is bound to impress. His writing is clear, concise and unsympathetically-straight to the point. He is confident in his answers and usually leaves nothing looming in the wings. If you get the chance to visit Berkeley you can attend any of his lectures. They are absolutely astonishing. He is truly alive and excited about what he is doing. Lots of energy, which accounts for his cronic skiing obsession (30 days out of the year). Read everything he writes. I would also recommend, "Mind." You willlove it. Those of you who are familiar with the mind-body problem: you will never find such a great resolve as the conclusions found in this text. Niether materialism or Dualism. A wonderful synthesis. He is the Immauel Kant of our generation.

5-0 out of 5 stars At last, sanity from Berkeley
The author and I are about the same age.After years of strong immersion in contemporary art and tentative entry into Continental philosophical "thought," to be kind five percent of the latter being, after all, incisive and illuminating, I can turn to John Searle for clarity, reasoned argument, coherency and a feeling that after roiling in the surf there is a floor out there somewhere.I come away from each essay with a warm and secure feeling that I rarely find in "post-modern" philosophical writing, which consists of tired invocation or repetition of the times, long past, when it was hip to be protesting that the common people aren't getting a break or that meaningful communication is impossible.Would all those old, gray-haired confused obfuscators of Marx and Nietzsche and their frazzled ponytails just go away? ... Read more

5. Freedom and Neurobiology: Reflections on Free Will, Language, and Political Power (Columbia Themes in Philosophy)
by John Searle
Paperback: 128 Pages (2008-08-27)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$7.36
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Asin: 0231137532
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Our self-conception derives mostly from our own experience. We believe ourselves to be conscious, rational, social, ethical, language-using, political agents who possess free will. Yet we know we exist in a universe that consists of mindless, meaningless, unfree, nonrational, brute physical particles. How can we resolve the conflict between these two visions?

InFreedom and Neurobiology, the philosopher John Searle discusses the possibility of free will within the context of contemporary neurobiology. He begins by explaining the relationship between human reality and the more fundamental reality as described by physics and chemistry. Then he proposes a neurobiological resolution to the problem by demonstrating how various conceptions of free will have different consequences for the neurobiology of consciousness.

In the second half of the book, Searle applies his theory of social reality to the problem of political power, explaining the role of language in the formation of our political reality. The institutional structures that organize, empower, and regulate our lives-money, property, marriage, government-consist in the assignment and collective acceptance of certain statuses to objects and people. Whether it is the president of the United States, a twenty-dollar bill, or private property, these entities perform functions as determined by their status in our institutional reality. Searle focuses on the political powers that exist within these systems of status functions and the way in which language constitutes them.

Searle argues that consciousness and rationality are crucial to our existence and that they are the result of the biological evolution of our species. He addresses the problem of free will within the context of a neurobiological conception of consciousness and rationality, and he addresses the problem of political power within the context of this analysis.

A clear and concise contribution to the free-will debate and the study of cognition,Freedom and Neurobiology is essential reading for students and scholars of the philosophy of mind.

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Customer Reviews (6)

4-0 out of 5 stars Good short read.
In summary: Good read. Very short. Covers some interesting ground and best of all, poses interesting questions. Not very much neurobiology.

The only other complete work by Searle that I have read is "Mind: A brief introduction." This book is similar in style though much narrower in scope. His account of free will is the same as it was elsewhere; I am not sure about the short piece on political power. Both were notable mostly for how clearly they framed the questions and the issues to allow for further discussion, rather than providing definitive answers. The introduction was my favorite chapter as it outlined what Searle takes to be the most important questions in philosophy today and situates those questions in a very engaging (albeit brief) way. Overall it was an enjoyable book, though not nearly as comprehensive as his other works.

I might recommend this book to someone who is interested in the philosophy of free will or social institutions and wants an introduction to Searle's work that is longer (and less technical) than most journal articles, but shorter than most books.

4-0 out of 5 stars Dense, Disappointing, and Interesting
This book is a dense and yet fast read. The final chapter deserves to be read several times.

Chapter one is Searle trying to give a brief encapsulation of the themes that he has treated elsewhere. Heavy going, but surprisingly rapid reading.

In chapter two, Searle wrestles with the implications of neurobiology for "free will." He finds that he cannot decisively state whether humans have free will or not. Assuming that consciousness is a function of the physical brain, composed of neurons, glial cells, etc, he argues that either there is no free will (even though we must believe there is) and everything we do is deterministic, or else free will comes via the randomness of quantum fluctuations.

This dichotomy was so bad that I seriously entertained the thought of writing the author and demanding my money back. I finished this chapter before bed and then awoke around 0500 in an absolute panic attack because I could not readily refute Searle. I do not see randomly dictated behavior as any better than predetermined behavior. Neither one is freedom.

As I wrestled with my panic, I realized that the horror of either of Searle's two options comes from having a "Me" with intent and desire, who is then denied the ability to realize any intent or desire by fate or by random chance.

I think that the drastically self-referential, non-linear nature of the brain makes an independent sense of "Me" possible w/o invoking some mystical split between mind and brain. I do not see that it is impossible for this sense of "Me" to develop its own preferences in a way that is neither random nor predetermined.

The final chapter truly made the book worthwhile. It consists of a brief essay on political power. Searle compares deontic power and status functions with the brute power imposed by force. He finds the notion of political power completely foreign to the physicist's notions of power.

1-0 out of 5 stars What old people write when they no longer care about readers
My hope was that this book was a good philosopher, musing seriously over a host of recent results on how the mind is constituted and works from fMRI and other neurobiology studies. Instead I got a good philosopher doing vague musings without any basis in fact, continuing 16th century metaphysical musings as he wishes, without being constrained by fact, truth, how brains work, what social psych knows about social modules, mirror neurons, consciousness bundlings, and everything else exciting in what we know now about us-ness.

One star is too much.This book is cleverly mis-named by its editors to sell. Anyone interested in the name the book now actually has will be severely, severely disappointed in the book, at any price, however cheap.This book is a waste of space and increasingly it looks like its author is something similar.

3-0 out of 5 stars Musings on Free Will
These essays are a low-voltage rehash of ideas set out in Searle's earlier books, where his one-mind concept of consciousness is set out much more lucidly. His musings on Free Will lack focus and clarity and the author ends up without taking a clear position on a topic where his brilliant philosophical studies should have allowed him to enlighten his readers.

2-0 out of 5 stars Superficial
You'd expect a book with this title to actually have some neurobiology in it, but you'd be disappointed. This slim volume consists of two diffuse philosophical essays, one about free will, and the other about political power. Both are simplistic, in my view, and don't bring any new ideas to the table. The essay on free will was the most interesting, but despite the book's title, the author doesn't bring in any neurobiology. Instead he basically says that neurobiology should be involved, and possibly quantum mechanical randomness, because that's the only nondeterministic mechanism he can think of that might be related to the nondeterminism of free will. That particular idea is explored much more deeply in Roger Penrose's book "The Emperor's New Mind," which despite its flaws, is a much deeper and more solid book. ... Read more

6. Boy Still Missing: A Novel (P.S.)
by John Searles
Paperback: 320 Pages (2005-06-01)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$0.82
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Asin: 0060822430
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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It is June 1971. Dominick Pindle, a tenderhearted but aimless Massachusetts teenager, spends his nights driving around with his mother and dragging his wayward father out of bars. Late one evening, Dominick's search puts him face-to-face withhis father's seductive mistress, Edie Kramer. Instantly in lust, he begins a forbidden relationship with this beautiful, mysterious woman. Before long, though, their erotic entanglement leads to a shocking death, and Dominick discovers that the mother he betrayed hid secrets as dark and destructive as his own.

Charged with the exhilarating narrative pace of a thriller and set during a complicated and explosive era, Boy Still Missing is the critically acclaimed debut novel from John Searles. It renders a deeply affecting portrait of a boy whose passage into adulthood proves as complex and impassioned as the history that unfolds before his eyes.

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Customer Reviews (45)

4-0 out of 5 stars captivating
The tone of this book is what caught and held my attention. Searles did a great job finding and setting the voice of this novel right from the start and not wavering from it once. My attention never strayed and at times the plot become quite riveting, the narration hypnotic.

5-0 out of 5 stars Haunting, lyrical and melodic ...
Boy Still Missing reads like a haunting tale, its melody remaining long after the reader finishes the last lyrical word. A cross between southern writers Bobbie Ann Mason and Flannery O'Connor, northerner (and Cosmo editor) John Searles proves that Yankee men can write a good "southern" story, too. Searles' style captivates the reader, effortlessly carrying her (in this case) through not just this fictional coming-of-age story, but also into the recesses of her own mind, life and experiences.

That is what great writing does: It provokes and causes one to pause, to reflect and try to find answers about life. Whether those answers are personal, peripheral or pivotal does not even matter, for Searles has provided the best answer of all--a lovely piece of prose in which nothing is what it seems; Dominick Pindle, a character most sons can relate to; and anticipation for an ending does not disappoint. Don't miss Boy Still Missing, for it will touch you in all the ways that matter, ensuring you spend a rich afternoon of pure pleasure with a writer whose work you will want to follow!

4-0 out of 5 stars What's a Boy to Do?
I've never heard of this book until a friend recommended this book to me while we were helping a friend move.The friend that was moving had set aside a box of books that she was going to donate.Of course, being the bookworms that we are, we couldn't resist the urge to rummage through.Thus, I was directed to this book.

I cannot believe that I had never heard of this book before.Most of the reviews give this book a high praise.While it isn't the best book that I've read, it's is one of the best books that I've read recently.

Like the Library Journal says, it's all about alcoholism, adultery, abortion, adoption and abduction.Dominick is a 15-year-old young man in Holedo, Massachusetts.He accompanies his mother at the end of the day, looking for his drunk father in bars.If his father is not found in any bars, there's only one other place he can be...at his mistress', Edie.

The thing is Dominick and Edie begin a secret and "innocent affair".Dominick feels responsible for her, especially after they discover that she's pregnant by his father.However, unknown to everyone, Dominick's mother is also pregnant.

The book moves somewhat slow but soon picks up the pace after Dominick's mother is found dead in a motel when she tried to do a homemade abortion.At the same time, Edie disappears.Dominick feels extremely guilty because he stole money from his mother to help out Edie.Edie promised to pay him back.Dominick is angry and decides revenge.But first, he must find her.

"Boy Still Missing" is a good read, filled with suspense and twists.

2-0 out of 5 stars Novel Still Missing
I ordered this book b/c I saw that it had received almost 5 stars.I was quite unimpressed.A 15 year old boy has sex in the room where his mother died with a kidnapped one month old lying quietly nearby.A little ridiculous as is the rest of the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Polarized opinions
The story is fiction and it seems implausible but it still rang true to me.

I say 'read it'.

... Read more

7. Minds, Brains and Science (1984 Reith Lectures)
by John Searle
Paperback: 112 Pages (1986-01-01)
list price: US$18.00 -- used & new: US$12.77
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Asin: 0674576330
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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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? 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. 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 intelligence, cognitive science, questions of action and free will, and the philosophy of the social sciences.

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Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars modern philosophy
john searle is a great addition to the studies of philosophy because he adds a modern perspective which is easily identifiable and agreeable. Particularly his room experiment and discusions on consciousness which compliments nicely with other philosohphy topics. The author puts a nice modern spin on many concepts and does so in an entertaining way.

4-0 out of 5 stars Not bad...
"Minds, Brains and Science" collects John Searle's 1984 Reith lectures. These lectures focus on some of the essential issues in the philosophy of mind and related areas, such as artificial intelligence.

Searle plunges directly into the classical mind-body `problem'. Searle suggests four features of mental phenomena that have traditionally made them difficult to integrate with our physical conception of the universe. These four features consist of: consciousness, intentionality (intentionality in the technical, philosophical sense whereby mental states are said to be representational, to be 'about' things), subjectivity and mental causation. Searle believes that the supposed mind-body problem disappears once we realize that all mental phenomena are caused by neurobiological processes. A special, biological sort of causation is put forth in which mental phenomena are both caused by brain processes at the neuronal level and simultaneously realized in that same system. This is similar to the way in which the liquidity of water (a surface or macro-level feature) is both caused by and realized in the system that is made of hydrogen and oxygen micro-elements. Thus, "there is a cause and effect relationship, but at the same time the surface features are just higher level features of the very system whose behavior at the micro-level causes those features." This is different from the straightforward notion of cause and effect (e.g., billiard balls clacking into one another). It is the adoption of the `billiard-ball' model of causation that leads to an apparent dualism between mental and physical phenomena.

Searle follows up this discussion with an attack on the strong A.I. position. According to the strong A.I. view, the brain is not LIKE a computer, the brain IS a kind of computer, in the sense that it takes in a given set of inputs, performs rule-governed operations on the input and produces meaningful output. Brains and minds stand in the same relation to each other, as computer hardware does to its programs. For Searle, this computational theory of mind is deeply flawed. He uses his famous thought experiment (the Chinese room) to prove his point. A thought experiment (or gedanken) is a way of imagining a hypothetical scenario in order to investigate the nature of things. Thought experiments have a history not only in philosophy but also in the physical sciences (e.g., Einstein's street-car approaching the speed of light, the `elevator thought experiment' showing the ways in which gravity and acceleration are isomorphic, the leaning tower of Pisa and Galileo's law of falling, etc.).

What Searle deduces from his Chinese room thought experiment is that brains are made of the right kind of `stuff' to cause intentional, semantic states whereas computer programs are solely formal or syntactical in structure. Thus, for Searle, it would be a gross error to say that when a computer runs a language comprehension program, it understands in any real sense of the term (simulation does not equal duplication). The computer is a machine that manipulates formal symbols; it does not have semantic states. For Searle, the computer is at best a metaphor for the way in which the brain works, a metaphor that is no more `valid' than previous ones (telephone switchboard, steam engine, etc.). The brain is first and foremost a biological organ.

The Chinese room argument has been much maligned in some circles (Dennett coined the term `intuition pump' in referring to it), but it is such a well-known thought experiment that everyone interested in philosophy of mind and cognitive science should have some level of familiarity with it. Searle uses it as a foundation to mount a more large-scale critique of the cognitivist/computational position.

Searle's other lectures discuss the reasons why the psychological/behavioral and social sciences have not enjoyed the same astounding successes as the strictly physical sciences such as physics and chemistry. He concludes with an insightful lecture on the problem of free will. Our scientific conception of the physical world is seemingly incompatible with our commonsense notion that we are conscious, freely acting agents. The obsolescence of the Newtonian clockwork universe does not alter this deep incompatibility says Searle. Quantum mechanics and particle indeterminacy are not enough to safeguard free will, because (i) indeterminacy at the particle level does not translate into indeterminacy at the macro-level and (ii) "it doesn't follow from the fact that particles are only statistically determined that the human mind can force the statistically-determined particles to swerve from their paths." Searle's conclusion is that our notion that we have free will is a kind of illusion, built into our brains by evolution. In principle, an `ideal observer' (of the sort postulated by Laplace) could predict all of our actions, but for all practical purposes we behave as if we had free will. Perhaps, as Steven Pinker once stated, "free will is the idealization of human beings that makes the ethics game playable."

Overall, "Minds, Brains and Science" is a rather enjoyable read, despite some of the weaknesses in Searle's argument. It is short and accessible and worth reading for its many ideas.

4-0 out of 5 stars a classic
I recently attended a lecture by a university professor on 'Philosophy of the Mind'.Thinking back to these BBC Reith Lectures which I heard in 1984 (on radio, not TV, by the way) I asked him about models for the brain other than the computer, such as water mills.He seemed blissfully ignorant that there had been any.Reading this book shortly afterwards, I was reminded that not only mills but also hydraulic engines, switchboards, and telegraph systems have, at various times, been used as models for the brain. This should give caution to anyone who thinks it's obvious that the brain is a computer.

The text thankfully retains the combination of conversational style and intellectual depth of the original lectures.It's illuminated by examples such as the artificial intelligence researcher (John McCarthy) who believes a machines as simple as thermostats can have beliefs ("it's too hot in here"), which is both unforgettably absurd and seductively radical.

An obvious problem in this field is that people are disposed to declaim at each other rather than listening.Searle and Dennett are still going hammer and tongs over the former's 'Chinese Room'.I can't help thinking that if the parties really wanted to settle these disputes they'd try to agree on definitions for their terms.Admittedly this may not always be easy - - for example 'understanding' is a strange word if you think about its etymology - - but would surely be more constructive than abusive cross-talk.

The book is impressively wide-ranging in its 100 pages and includes, for example, the clearest exposition of the arguments for and against free will which I've ever read.

There's some occasional slackness, eg what exactly are the 'powers' by which we are supposed to judge any machine against brains, before ascribing mental states to the former?But, line for line, it's by far the most valuable book I've read in the field.

5-0 out of 5 stars Concise, Clear and Important
Dealing with some of the problems in philosophy that persist, even in our "post-modern" times, this book by John Searle of the U.C. at Berkely provides a quick, easily read survey of some of the issues about minds, bodies and artificial intelligence that are of special relevance today. Searle is especially keen to restore a commonsense view of things and so his philosophy seems particularly down-to-earth with regard to some of the knottier problems.

His notion that consciousness (the stuff of minds) is to brains as digestion is to the stomach (a function of it) and that there are various orders of explanation that can be invoked for the same phenomenon go a long way toward enabling those who are stuck in the mind-body conundrum to get beyond it. In some ways he offers an updating of Wittgenstein who, similarly, offered a way of getting beyond such "problems" though Wittgenstein reduced it all to a matter of how we talk while Searle wants to say that this only answers the question in part. Unlike Wittgenstein, who dismissed the idea of theoretical explanations superceding ordinary language, Searle wants to reaffirm the importance of such explanations, and to offer a way to develop them. In many ways his proposals make quite a bit of sense.

However, I remain struck by his argument against the possibility of what he terms the claims of "strong artificial intelligence" proponents. He describes this view (page 28) as "saying that the mind is to the brain as the program is to the computer hardware" and elaborates by noting that "on this view, any physical system . . . 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." Thus, "strong AI," as he repeatedly terms it, is the view that minds are in no way unique to creatures like us (with organic brains like ours) but are merely the function of the right sort of programs on the right kind of hardware operating in the right sort of way. That is, inorganic machines, like digital computers, can be made to have minds like ours (with the same kinds of features ours have).

Searle is very much opposed to this view and in this book brings to bear his most famous argument against it: the Chinese Room thought experiment. In a nutshell it holds that a computer, insofar as it is no different from someone inside a sealed room following purely formal rules in responding to written questions submitted in Chinese (a language he doesn't know) who appears to be responding AS THOUGH HE KNEW CHINESE, so too, can that computer appear to have intelligence, to understand its inputs, without really doing so.

His core argument against "strong AI" is that this is ALL a computer can do, but that simulation in this way is not what we mean by intelligence at all. In fact, he rightly notes, when we think of intelligence, we think of understanding, what he variously calls intentionality and/or meaning (semantic content). But the computer modelled on his Chinese Room evidences no understanding but only a rote process of mechanically producing certain squiggles, according to some pre-established rules that look like they reflect an understanding.

The crux of this is a syllogistic argument he also reproduces in this book:

1) Brains cause minds.
2) Syntax is not sufficient for semantics.
3) Computer programs are entirely defined by their formal, or syntactical, structure.
4) Minds have mental contents; specifically they have semantic contents.

On the basis of the above he offers a number of conclusions but his first is telling: "No computer program by itself is sufficient to give a computer a mind. Programs in short are not minds, and they are not sufficient by themselves for having minds."

While thinking highly of Searle's work, I believe his Chinese Room argument is deeply flawed. I can't offer a full account here for reasons of space, but the point is that, while he has correctly noted that the kind of intelligence we have (and that we might be interested in recreating on a computer) is a conscious intelligence, his argument that computers can never offer a medium for recreating this hinges on a mistake. He says in point #2 that "Syntax is not sufficient for semantics." He amplifies this by noting that this is "a conceptual truth," i.e., it is true by definition. "It just articulates our distinction between what is purely formal and what has content," he adds. But the fact that the two notions are conceptually different does not entail a claim that one type of thing cannot give rise to another.

Searle wants to say that computers can never provide an adequate platform for the phenomena of consciousness on this basis but his argument doesn't demonstrate this. In fact, despite all his efforts with the Chinese Room thought experiment, one can still envision a complex of computer-driven programs that replicate all the various functionalities we find in our own minds which, if combined in the layered and integrated way they are in humans, can presumably yield the kind of consciousness we have. Of course, this is not to say this CAN be done technically, only that Searle's argument that it can't be founders on the meaning of the term "sufficient" that he uses in the second step of his argument. He wants us to accept that though step #2 arises from a purely conceptual claim, it can be construed to have an empirical implication. In this I think he errs.

All of this said, however, I want to add that this is a very fine book. It is concise, clear, and profound in its thinking. Searle is certainly right in his recognition about what "intelligence" is, as far as he takes it, which may be about as far as a philosopher can. The rest is up to the scientific workers in the field, those who are experimenting with and designing new ways to operationalize minds in machines.


5-0 out of 5 stars Cogent and hard-hitting
Searle is an interesting philosopher for me to read, because I was trained in neurobiology, and Searle is a philosopher who thinks like a neurobiologist. On the other hand, I am a neurobiologist who thinks like a philosopher.

Although the book discusses several classical problems such as the problem of freedom and free will, the mind-body problem, right and wrong, etc., for me the two most interesting chapters were the one on the mind-body problem, and the one on cognitive psychology.

Here Searle proposes a thorough-going biological and physical explanation that, as a neurobiolgist, I've always liked myself.

You really need to read these two chapters to understand all the details, of course, but I'll briefly summarize his idea, and you can decide if it makes sense to you.

Basically, Searle says there really is no mind-body problem. This dichotomy occured because philosophy completely misunderstood the entire issue. There is no mind-body problem, because the mind depends on the brain, and on the neural workings of the brain, and there is no reason even to say that consciousness itself is separate from the brain itself.

Searle points out that we explain the properties of normal matter, such as a steel ball, which has mass, weight, is impenetrable, is magnetic, and so on, by reference to its atomic and molecular properties. There is no reason to posit any intevening layer of "rules" or theory.

It's the same with the mind-body problem. Mind depends on neurons. All our behavior depends on neurons. There is no reason to posit this intermediate entity of consciousness or of mind which is separate from the underlying biology. There is no doubt that consciousness exists, but there's nothing special about it, and although Searle doesn't claim it can be reduced to neural functions yet, he leaves no doubt that classical views about the mind and consciousness are fundamentally flawed.

Anyway, I can certainly sympathize with this point of view, and would like to make a point of my own. I've studied the brain, and when you see people with tiny, focal, strokes in the language area of the brain who have no detectable impairment except they can no longer use articles or conjunctions in their speech, or people with temporal lobe damage who can easily name an object when you show it to them, but who can't tell you its function, and vice versa, where there are people who have temporal lobe damage in an adjacent area with exactly the reverse syndrome--they can tell you what its for but can't name the object--in other words, the naming function and the definition function seem to be separate in the temporal lobe, and the two areas must communicate in order to be able to do both, or at least the information is stored separately and you need access to both--you very quickly get the idea that if it's not in the brain, it's not anywhere. There are legions of other neurological cases where people have lost very specific or general functions depending on the source and extent of the damage to the brain.

Furthermore, it's becoming clearer as a result of research that there is no single part of the brain that gives rise to consciousness. Consciousness relates to different functions located in different parts of the brain being integrated in time through a finely controlled and switched system of neural communications pathways. Thus, consciousness is not a unitary entity at all, although it might seem so to our own introspective minds. More accurately, it is a unified process that occurs through the integration of diverse brain areas and brain functions.

Anyway, Searle's biological reductionism and determism isn't very different from how neuroscientists think, and I give him credit for being willing to discuss the subject in those terms and propose such a radical solution (from the standpoint of most philosophers) to the mind-body problem. ... Read more

8. Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind (Cambridge Paperback Library)
by John R. Searle
Paperback: 292 Pages (1983-05-31)
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Asin: 0521273021
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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John Searle's Speech Acts (1969) and Expression and Meaning (1979) developed a highly original and influential approach to the study of language. But behind both works lay the assumption that the philosophy of language is in the end a branch of the philosophy of the mind: speech acts are forms of human action and represent just one example of the mind's capacity to relate the human organism to the world. The present book is concerned with these biologically fundamental capacities, and, though third in the sequence, in effect it provides the philosophical foundations for the other two. Intentionality is taken to be the crucial mental phenomenon, and its analysis involves wide-ranging discussions of perception, action, causation, meaning, and reference. In all these areas John Searle has original and stimulating views. He ends with a resolution of the 'mind-body' problem. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Modern Theory of Mind
P>In his usual manner, Searle tackles the problem of consciousness and how the mind works in this thorough examination of both classical and contemporary concerns. It's an exceedingly masterful task that is richly rewarding, if only slightly frustrating because of his poor syntactical structures.

Analytic philosophy is often difficult enough, and this book is of average difficulty, but when an author does not write clearly with near-run-on sentences, myandering and labyrinthine syntax, and in less than necessary obtuseness, it is a drawback. This is my only complaint.

Part of the problem is the author's, part reader's. Searle is going against the analytic grain by expositing a theory of mind that is at once novel and distinctive, clearing up confusions and ambiguities along the way. But these new ideas and the direction of fit they present are exciting and facinating, even if the presentation is less than perfect.

It's hard to imagine modern-day analytic philosophers going out on a limb with actual theory (they tend toward the criticism of others), so that it is refreshing that someone of Mr. Searle's reputation and caliber takes a stab at presenting a coherent theory of mind in new dress and ambiance: Naive realism.

This isn't the first book of Searle's I'd recommend. That honor goes to "Mind, Language, and Society," his short, but densely argued, and clearer exposition, of several ideas (some of which he adumbrates from this volume). If you like what you read in THAT book, this book will further delight you.

What's so agreeable about Searle, if not his syntax, is his willingness to posit a coherent theory of mind in the traditional vein but in entirely new clothing. It's refreshing to see a modern philosopher actually doing philosophy, not critiquing the philosophy of others. Searle would probably have advanced his cause by having someone else tidy up his presentation, as this drawback reduces the splendor of the overall book.

3-0 out of 5 stars Frames the large picture of the mind-body duality
The current philosophical debates about what is the mind and how can it translate intentions into body actions including language and action are summed up into a convincing, clear-headed, yet arrogant and extremely mis-guided approach to this philosophical question. Searle's logical formalism may"pull-the-wool" over many people's eyes, but his statements have garnered much negative criticism in the eyes of his peers.

Perhaps the best way to sum up his book is that he believes there is no difference between the mind and the body, and that the original question is flawed, yet at the same time, he establishes the existence of an intention, an entirely mental concept have physical equivalences. This is really an uninspired type of answer, and is largely considered a cop-out by most. ... Read more

9. Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language
by John R. Searle
Paperback: 203 Pages (1970-01-01)
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Written in an outstandingly clear and lively style, it provokes its readers to rethink issues they may have regarded as long since settled. ... Read more

10. Mind, Language, and Society : Philosophy in the Real World
by John R. Searle
Paperback: 192 Pages (2000-01-01)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$6.99
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Asin: 0465045219
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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One of America's best-known philosophers offers asuccinct, easy-to-follow guide for applying philosophical theory toreal life.

Disillusionment with psychology is leading more and more people toformal philosophy for clues about how to think about life. But most ofus who try to grapple with concepts such as reality, truth, commonsense, consciousness, and society lack the rigorous training todiscuss them with any confidence. John Searle brings these notionsdown from their abstract heights to the terra firma of real-worldunderstanding, so that those with no knowledge of philosophy canunderstand how these principles play out in our everyday lives. Theauthor stresses that there is a real world out there to deal with, andcondemns the belief that the reality of our world is dependent on ourperception of it.

"A remarkable feat. This is the book for anyone who wants to learnabout the big philosophical questions."-Owen Flanagan, DukeUniversity

"This book is a major event. John Searle has brought together andelucidated forty years of brilliant work on Mind, Language, andSociety. Bravo!"-Jerome Bruner, New York UniversityAmazon.com Review
John Searle's summation of earlier writings is not just an essential tie-up volume for existing readers; it is also a perfect introduction to the work of one of the clearest heads in the philosophy of mind. Searle's book is a riposte to all those academics who make a career out of contradicting and complicating such default positions as the existence of an external reality, the reality of personal consciousness, and the reasonable fit of language to the perceived world. Certainly, we should examine these positions! But the first duty of philosophy, Searle argues, is that it should attempt to accommodate what is known. As far as we can tell, for example, consciousness is a biological product, but there is a long-running contention between the materialists--whose reductive descriptions of consciousness arrive, finally, at an embarrassed denial that consciousness exists at all--and the dualists, who cannot describe consciousness without evoking some supernatural involvement. Neither position is tenable--each offers some corrective to the other. The good explanation is in there somewhere, but the sheer intractability of the debate won't let it be expressed. In situations like this, Searle argues, it is always the terms that are wrong. Terms, mind you, that in this case include "matter," "mind," "physical," and "mental"! Searle--married as he is to common sense--is of necessity one of our most iconoclastic and creative thinkers. --Simon Ings, Amazon.co.uk ... Read more

Customer Reviews (26)

5-0 out of 5 stars Cutting through all the mumbo jumbo about the mind
I can't imagine why I didn't write this review when I first read this outstanding book. In under 170 pages Searle gives the curious reader a complete overview of the mind and how it works, along with extensions to language and society. The only thing left is for neuroscience to figure out how the brain manages to do it.
Over the last few years we've been bombarded by the almost science fiction claims and speculations of cognitive science, which has a view of the mind that isn't any improvement over that of traditional religion.
Searle, on the other hand, gets right to the point, from showing the error of dualism, to explaining how the mind creates an objective social reality to how language works. While this subject could easily be intimidating, Searle writes as if he were explaining it to you over a beer at your favorite pub.
This is a well-written, delightful book, and one you will want to reread every few years.

4-0 out of 5 stars Most of the criticisms are apt, but
...I like it anyway. I just really like John Searle's personality. Yes, he's smug, yes, despite being sloppy, yes, almost surely he sets up straw men quite regularly, and yes, he would definitely sneer at anyone who argued with him. If you disagree with Searle, probably you won't like him very much and if you do agree, you should probably be careful to check whether or not you like him because he's convincing or because he's reassuring. I just really like reading his books and articles for their vast power to entertain.

Chapter 1 is essentially an attack on post-modern nonsense. One of the things I love about Searle is that (like Carl Sagan, perhaps) he's interested in bringing down views that he deems preposterous, and can we argue that this isn't at least a little bit fun? One of my favorite books about the post-modern is "Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul De Man" by David Lehman. Next to Lehman, Searle is downright respectful of the opposition...though to be honest I judge Lehman's approach to be far more along the lines of what is deserved. Chapter 2 begins with a similar treatment of those in analytic philosophy who would embrace dualism or materialism. For about 50 pages, he's convincing, indeed moving in spots. Unfortunately, he sets the problem up far better than he "resolves" it. Indeed, for about 15 pages he blathers on about how consciousness is just "a biological phenomenon like any other" (only not like any other), and how once we realize this we won't be troubled by materialism, dualism, the threat of epiphenomenalism etc. I don't think there's an argument there anywhere, and certainly no one could be convinced or more probably even figure out what he means. However he does at least pause to "wrinkle his nose" at any approach that ignores natural selection (most writers on the mind-body problem avoid this entirely, which is almost surely catastrophic for their views), which I applaud. From there it's on to intentionality, social reality, language etc. in a similar vein.

Ultimately, the value of John Searle as a philosopher is not in any arguments he comes up with, but in the fact that his intuitions are extremely good--he almost always comes down on the right side of the fence. In short, he follows his nose, with an uncanny aptitude for finding what's most apt to wrinkle it at. More importantly, he's not afraid to do so, which I for one find damn refreshing.

4-0 out of 5 stars Searle Summarized
In this short, readable book, John Searle gives an account of how minds, language, and social institutions are situated within a material universe.The account goes roughly like this:consciousness is a biological phenomena;conscious minds exhibit intentionality (i.e., the ability to refer to or "fit" the external world); and intentionality allows human minds to create social institutions and vest meaning in words.Searle transcends standard materialist and dualist positions in philosophy.He insists that mental, social, and linguistic phenomena must be explained in natural terms, but he does not try to "reduce" them to other categories or "explain" them out of existence.Along the way, he discusses a variety of issues ranging from realism to philosophical method.

A professor at UC Berkeley, Searle has a genius for cutting to the heart of a philosophical position and keeping his concepts tied to reality and common experience.He also writes so well that it's hard not to be carried along by his argument.At the same time, I never really bought his argument that consciousness is a purely biological category, especially after he conceded that "first person" conscious experiences cannot be reduced to "third person" facts about brains.Nor did I understand his account of how consciouness operates as a "macro" feature of the brain able to cause effects in "micro" features such as neurons.He draws an analogy with an automobile engine, where macro-features such as pistons and spark plugs have causal effects even though everything in the engine obeys the laws of subatomic physics.Unfortunately, the analogy doesn't convince: whatever else consciousness is, it doesn't seem to function like a piston.Searle blames our inability to see the force of his analogy on our cramped intuitions about causation.He doesn't provide any alternative intuitions.

It seems undeniable that conscious experience is constructed by material brains -- anyone who doubts this should read a few clinical essays by Oliver Sacks or A. R. Luria that describe the deformed consciousness of brain-injured patients.However, the mind also exhibits so many non-physical features that fitting it into "nature" may be harder than Searle lets on.The puzzle isn't solved -- just restated -- by insisting, "The mind is OBVIOUSLY real (so materialism is false), the mind is OBVIOUSLY part of the brain (so dualism is false), the mind OBVIOUSLY can cause effects in the brain (so epiphenomenalism is false)," and so forth.Maybe Searle is right that materialism and dualism are outmoded categories.Even so, consciousness is such a peculiar biological phenomenon, and so totally unlike any other process or feature of our bodies, that dualistic philosophies will inevitably emerge to account for it -- and will, in turn, spawn materialistic counter-philosophies aimed at resolving the paradoxes of dualism.The dualism/materialism debate may be sterile, but I doubt that Searle has brought it to an end.

None of these remarks should be taken as serious criticism of "Mind, Language, and Society," which covers a lot of ground beside the mind/body question.In only 150 pages or so, the book summarizes work Searle has published over the years in modern classics such as "The Rediscovery of the Mind," "Intentionality," and "The Construction of Social Reality."(In fact, I recall that Searle presented some of this material in undergraduate courses at Berkeley in the late 1970s.)Even though Searle doesn't discuss the free will problem or give equal time to opposing positions, his book is first-rate, and I definitely want to read it a second time.Anyone who has already taken a few introductory classes in philosophy and wants to probe deeper into the subject would benefit from reading it.

2-0 out of 5 stars Searle is no scientist.
In this book Searle takes on the broad topics of scientific realism, the mind-body problem and the puzzle of socially constructed concepts (e.g. money), among other things.His goal seems to be to defend the "common sense" view on these topics, but as a philosopher he wants to do so rigorously.In this case, "rigorous" means mixing lots of specialized terminology with an otherwise breezy style, which has the overall effect of making him sound smug.His is a rare style that manages to convey that the author would sneer at any counterarguments to his positions; maybe this is because he stakes out his ground almost wholly by attacking the positions of others and deeming them obviously wrong.

What's worse, despite his fantastic reputation, his philosophy seems really sloppy to me.For example, he claims that "consciousness" is a definite non-physical property of the brain that has evolved.Then, he argues against epiphenomenalism by noting how implausible it would be that something so useful evolved while making no real difference.Seeing as how evolution is a physical theory, Searle seems to be arguing in circles.And that's about how the whole book is, seeing as how you have to buy into his mind-body "resolution" before you can even start pondering his ideas on the other stuff.

So, if you feel that invoking "the way it is like" to drink a glass of wine is a good philosophical argument for consciousness being non-physical and are already dead-certain that rocks have no such sensations, the you might find this book a reassuring read.

Personally, I think that to understand a proposition you have to also understand its negation.And while Searle claims to be an expert at characterizing what it is to be conscious, I have a hard time taking any of his "analysis" seriously, since he surely can't explain to me what it's like to be unconscious.

For those with a scientific bent, there are better authors out there covering similar material.In particular, I recommend "Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience", by Max Bennet and PMS Hacker.Hacker makes sure the philosophy is reasonable, Bennet makes sure the science is accurate.Searle's book falls a little shy in both areas, which makes his smuggness all the more infuriating.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Unorthodox Introduction to Philosophy
I'd like to note, first of all, that I didn't find Searle as uncharitable as some of the other reviewers here. He did give a few low blows, but I think his arguments appeared as straw-man's because rather than refute a lot of the other claims, he was integrating them subtly: dropping off parts which were unnecessary and then using the leftovers to create a greater and more encompassing theory. He never goes into depth of why he finds the parts of theories credible that he does, as this book is not intended for deep analysis. The reader must simply take Searle's word for it at times to understand what he is getting at (Searle does provide a nice "Further Reading" section at the end for readers who are more interested in the "why's" behind his arguments).

Which leads me into the content of his book...

This book is a modern introduction to more recent philosophical issues. Searle sums up in the first chapter most of the out-standing problems in the field that remain unsolved from the last few hundred years. These include the mind-body problem, skepticism, realism, and issues relating to consciousness such as binding and intentionality. Searle has an interesting perspective in that he tries to alleviate conflicts by "going behind the issue and merging premises." With this method he finds complete theories that integrate many perspectives that before seemed contradictory.

The writing of this book is not as thick as his other works. Most of his language is quite precise and his arguments are logically spelled out. The analogies are simple for easy understanding; more advanced readers will probably want to contemplate further implications of Searle's ideas than he discusses.

Searle is yet another voice in the last few decades that has shown a tendency towards integration to solve logical issues. This seems to be a trend with many other authors, and might be called the "leading edge" of philosophical thought right now. The book takes the reader from step one, and slowly builds up a view of reality that integrates mind, society, and language exquisitely.

And if you happen to be a proponent of one of the many theories Searle disagrees with, try to be patient, and see where he's going. He does use a condescending tone now and then. But other than that, recommended... ... Read more

11. The Construction of Social Reality
by John R. Searle
Paperback: 256 Pages (1997-01-01)
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Asin: 0684831791
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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In The Construction of Social Reality, John Searle argues that there are two kinds of facts--some that are independent of human observers, and some that require human agreement. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

5-0 out of 5 stars Nice BOOK
Nice book and make me think something I never thought about. It seems the great book and classic book are really cheap now. Is it because the consideration of more people need knowledge or the less people would like to read them?

3-0 out of 5 stars Searle and the Is/Ought gap
In this book Searle extends upon his argument in his essay "How to Derive Ought from Is", where he argued that the institutional fact of making a promise by definition places one under a moral obligation to fulfill it.I hoped that he would clarify his argument and answer objections (for example, that promises are only kept for the instrumental purpose of maintaining one's reputation).However, I was gravely disappointed because his analysis of institutional facts is self-consciously naturalistic.Under his analysis, an individual's obligation to keep a promise is analogous to, for example, a batter's obligation to stop batting after three strikes.Institutional facts are created by constitutive rules accepted by collective agreement, and the rights and obligations that individuals have are determined by those constitutive rules.This analysis, while normative, seems not only to add nothing to prove the existence of external reasons, but also has some rather problematic consequences for moral philosophy:

1. Rights exist only by virtue of collective agreement and convention.Individuals deserve, are entitled to, or are owed only what society grants them.
2. Obligations should only be followed if it serves some desire or purpose of the individual.While obligations may exist objectively as part of an institution, the individual's reason to fulfill the obligation is purely instrumental.

At the very least, the book is successful at answering emotivist arguments that normative statements are incoherent.Searle provides a very clear alternative: To say, "You ought to keep your promises," is to say, "There is an institution of promise-keeping, and within this institution to make a promise is to place yourself under an obligation to keep them."However, altogether I am unimpressed.

5-0 out of 5 stars Another Gem from Searle
John Searle is a great philosopher and a keen performance artist.Whether writing or lecturing, he likes to roll up his sleeves, speak plainly, define terms, make distinctions, expose sloppy thinking, clear up conceptual tangles, get to the bottomline -- and show how smart he is at every step of the way.Searle doesn't see philosophical puzzles as things to marinate in and examine from a dozen different angles.He sees them as problems to solve, once and for all, like a scientist proving a theory or a lawyer arguing a case.He would probably be insufferable if he didn't make so much sense.(I took undergraduate classes from him at Berkeley.He lectures exactly the way he writes.)

"The Construction of Social Reality" is a typical Searle masterpiece.In it, he sets forth and answers the question, How can facts about social institutions (such as money or marriage) be objectively true in a world made up of atoms and fields of force?His answer is simple but far-reaching:institutions, he says, are constituted by collective beliefs that confer status and powers on physical objects (such as currency notes) or physical events (such as the words, "I do").They are thus mind-dependent but still objective, in the sense that statements such as "Dollars are legal tender in the U.S." or "John and Dawn are married" can be said to be "true" or "false."However, when beliefs die out, change, or are rejected, the institutions they constituted come to an end.The Russian monarchy no longer exists because no one believes in it any more.Searle unpacks this basic idea in intricate detail in fewer than 200 pages.

"The Construction of Social Reality" is lucid, well-argued and subversive:if Searle is right, then our deepest institutions (including property) are constituted by convention and sustained by habit, with no role whatsoever for God, Nature, or Morality except as reinforcing myths.No one could read this book without having his or her view of institutions deepened and perhaps transformed.Maybe Searle hasn't had the last word on social ontology, but he has definitely made a lasting contribution to the literature on the subject.Highly recommended.

1-0 out of 5 stars Searle sinks, swims in unknown waters
With due regard for Mr Searles'eminence, he is out of his depth critiquing the construction of social reality. He neither mentions nor footnotes Berger & Luckmann's "The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge." This 1967 book was the theoretical starting point for the entire recent scholarship now known loosely as social constructionism. Whether you agree with it or not, you at least have to deal with it, and show you have read it. Any book that does not is ipso facto defective.

2-0 out of 5 stars Searching Under the Street Lamp
John Searle is unique among today's Anglo-American philosophers for his understandable and breezy writing style.He tells you what he is going to tell you; tells you; and then tells you what he told you - almost as though he were briefing the Pentagon. Construction of Social Reality is a fine example.

Searle is a philosophical realist and has always made a compelling case for our living in a single world, part of it outside of us and part within us, part objective and part subjective, part ontologic and part epistemic.In this book, in fact, he reviews the various combinations quite neatly.(Searle, in the early chapters, also includes animals other than humans.Another positive!)

In trying to convince us that institutions are as real as the brute facts of existence and mind he stumbles.He is correct on one score; institutions are real.But Searle buildsvirtually his entire argument on the conception of collective intent, or collective intention (or intentionality).On the one hand, he dismisses a version of the collective conscious, or geist as Hegel supposes.He makes no argument, other than the concept does not makecommon sense - especially for a realist.On the other hand, he counters the "opposite" position, that each individual expresses collective intent as "I intend because I believe you intend." That is not the case either, he asserts.Instead he believes that "we intend" operates linguistically and innately - as an a priori mental function. Simply because each sentient being is distinct from each other does not necessarily mean that, through language, we cannot express "we intend." This is pretty much the argument upon which he builds the entire book.

First, Searle does not consider other intentional patterns, such as one individual asserts "I intend" at time t, and another asserts "I [too] intend" at time t+n.In fact, Searle, in his "we intend" (I hesitate to call it an argument, as his case is too shallow for that) conjecture, does not consider time at all, in particular atomicity - wherein events occur or are perceived "simultaneously" within some acceptable bound. I personally prefer the "sequential, but appearing simultaneous," approach to the creation of institutional rules and facts, but this is not the place to make an argument. There are many examples of institutions, great and small, that have been created by a single mind, and then many, more or less, instantly agreed.Thus, the appearance of "we intend."One can think of thousands of examples: Freud and psychoanalysis, George Halas and the National Football League, Marx and Communism, to name three.

It is a great loss indeed that Searle undermines his own case, as he is correct in asserting that institutions are real. In fact, his description of how names, functions, and rules are identified is clear, and his examples of money, baseball, football, and marriage are apt and entertaining.

There are other profound difficulties.In describing his theory of the "logical construction" of social reality, Searle uses what he refers to as "iteration," with a feeble presentation of symbolic logic.In fact, what he is describing is the well-worn and well-understood theory of logical types, proposed by Russell and used in the social sciences, notably by Gregory Bateson, to explain the ever-rising tree of abstraction. Either Searle is unaware of this work, or he must believe that it is inappropriate or simply wrong.In any case, he never mentions it. (He also fails to cite references to "the evening star" expression, which resonates as far back as Parmenides and as recently as Karl Pooper - and many other logicians.He cannot be unaware of this tradition, yet he writes: "there is an expression" [the evening star] ... it has a sense and meaning" as though he were breaking new ground in linguistics and the philosophy of language.)

Another troubling point is this:Searle believes (again he has no sustainable argument) that processes precede the objects they [eventually] correlate with. He devotes an entire
heading (in Chapter 2) to it: "Systematic Relations and the Primacy of the Act over the Object." His answer to why there is this primacy is simply "that the `objects' are really designed to serve agentive functions and have little interest for us otherwise... they are just placeholders of activities [his italics]."This suggestion discards thousands of years of mathematics and its role in philosophy. If we are to presume that human thinking is most exquisitely captured by our mathematics (thus space vessels we launch into outer space contain mathematical symbols in the hopes that other sentient species might understand us), then we cannot avoid what has been proven: that objects are bound by the operations under which they are closed. In fact, there are no placeholders.Processes (to use Searle's word) and objects are intrinsic to one another.Each inheres within the other.
Despite the leap from static mathematical relations to real world activities and objects, I find this to be a far more convincing explanation.This, not just because of its pedigree, but because it also raises the issue of bounded time - as I discussed above under collective intent: What is - in fact - atomic and what is not? Here again Searle does not raise the temporal issue at all. For example, how long are his "placeholder objects" placeholders?A millisecond?A thousand years?Just long enough?

Searle is at his most creative in Chapter 6: "Background Abilities and the Explanation of Social Phenomena." Here he will not truck with previous work, specifically by "Chomsky or Fodor and not even Freud" on consciousness and the unconscious.Instead, he proposes "an alternate form of presentation."Hoping to close in on neurophysiology, he suggests how intentionality is born, speculating upon "states," "functions," and so on, revisiting [uncredited but for his own] work on the will, motivation, learning, and the boundaries between the individual alert mind and the phylogenetic, historical mind.

It is at this point that I more clearly understood Searle's objective.Put broadly, How can we infer the reality of social institutions and their behavior from the metaphors of mind?The question, the objective, suddenly struck me as unimportant. Do Searle's meta-states and pre-intentional background and dispositions and tendencies represent a closed mapping of mental abstraction to brain function and organization? Is it an accurate mapping?Can it be verified? The answer to all is very probably No.But even if the answer were Yes, the answer is meaningless.The question is equivalent to looking for the lost wedding ring only under the street lamp of consciousness, which is of course Searle's field.

Given that the ontology of our institutions and societies have evolved into highly artificial, complex hives of isolation, a fruitful line of questioning would seem to run more towards moral inquiry than brain chemistry.Yes, we live in a world of natural and artificial phenomena.All are real.But, it seems to me, the decisive issue is why mankind, which has evolved to attain a far greater degree of free will than any other being on the planet, persists in creating such a plethora of artificiality, to the point that we are undermining the very world we live in?Why do human beings - perhaps because we know we are living under a death sentence? - try to find solace, not just in groups, but in the fervent pursuit of machines, numbers, religions, money, and acquisitions?
A final comment or two on the book.Chapters 7 through 9 are an add-n, as Searle mentions in the Introduction.As a kind of coda, he replays his view of realism and correspondence theory. While this message could stand to be reread, it did not need to be rewritten; and it upsets the balance of the book. Also, given the number of terms Searle introduces in the book, the index is meager and not particularly helpful.

... Read more

12. Strange but True: A Novel (P.S.)
by John Searles
Paperback: 308 Pages (2005-06-01)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$0.19
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Asin: 0060721790
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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After a mysterious fall from his Manhattan apartment, Philip Chase has moved home with his mother, Charlene, a bitter woman who has never fully accepted the death ofher younger son, Ronnie, five years earlier. Numb from watching too much TV and trading snipes with his mother, Philip is in stasis. But everything changes one winter night when Ronnie's high school girlfriend shows up on their doorstep to deliver the news that she is pregnant ... and the father, she claims, is Ronnie.

So begins the startling tale as Philip and his mother confront Melissa's past and their own. Their search for answers takes them on an emotional journey, placing them in the path of murder and revenge. At once a moving story of redemption and a heart-stopping work of suspense, Strange but True brings to life a cast of characters that no reader will soon forget.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (41)

5-0 out of 5 stars Loved it.
The story was very well written. The story follows an entire family with different views and experiences after the loss of one of their own. It was suspenseful and the ending was thrilling, i was almost sad to finish it :/

4-0 out of 5 stars Need to know
I bought this book on a bargain rack for three dollars. After reading the book, I am baffled as to why it was on the bargain rack in the first place, and I thought that it may be the best three dollars I've ever spent.

I will admit though, I was skeptical for the first fifty or so pages and I had a difficult time getting through them. But I became attached to the characters and their lives. I couldn't put the book down without knowing who the father of this baby was and what events led up to the characters' unfortunate situations they find themselves in. As the book unravels, it becomes more and more suspenseful and becomes more difficult to put down without knowing more. The twist at the end is completely unexpected but very well thought out and written. I could definitely see this book as a suspense/thriller movie, but I don't think it could ever live up to the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Read it in a day
Once I got started I couldn't stop.It seems harder and harder for me to finish books, so this was a welcome surprise.A warning though that I like stories with unusual, possibly tragic, but sympathetic characters - especially when there is a bit of mystery thrown in.Searles masterfully tells this tale with changes in place and time and character development, enticing the reader to stay beyond each chapter to discover more in the next.My only criticism is Searles' apparent need to add, towards the end of this book and in 'Boy Still Missing', a bit of made for TV drama that I personally don't find necessary, though it didn't take away on the whole from the quality of the read for me.

5-0 out of 5 stars Much more than just a mystery
John Searles' "Strange But True" is anchored in a tragedy.Eighteen-year-old Ronnie Chase dies in a car crash on the night of his high school prom.His girlfriend Melissa Moody (Missy) survives but is left disfigured.Five years after Ronnie's death, Missy visits his mom Charlene and his brother Philip, and declares that she's pregnant with Ronnie's baby.From this bombshell of a beginning and through alternating perspectives and timelines, we are led through the intimate thoughts and experiences of several characters.As we learn more about each and the bizarre events that bring them together, the shocking truth behind Missy's strange assertion and the unpredictable actions of a murderer begin to surface.As the story gains clarity, we are at turns startled by the developments and alarmed by the realization that among these seemingly harmless people is one who harbors a deadly secret.

No doubt that "Strange But True" is a mystery/thriller, but it's also a story of faith and aspirations in the face of profound loss.Charlene is all but destroyed by her son's death, with her bitterness leading to her divorce and estrangement from her older son Philip. Missy is helpless in her despair for a boyfriend long gone, and Philip is crippled by his loneliness and frustrations.One understands their grief, but also wants them to mend and rediscover what is good in their lives.Therein lies the pull of this novel--not only does its precise plotting sustain the suspense of its core mystery, its characters arouse empathy, even the minor ones who unwittingly pave the way for the healing our protagonists badly need and deserve.

I will say no more of the story as it is best experienced with very little knowledge.[It is unfortunate that a reviewer here (Ken Liebeskind) has chosen to divulge the entire plot, twists and all.]Much like its titular claim, events here may seem strange, but they don't tax the reader's ability to suspend disbelief.John Searle did an exemplary job with a story I found intriguing by its uniqueness, touching by its candid portrayals, and invigorating by its promise of hope.

5-0 out of 5 stars Best Book Club Book I Have Ever Read!
Out of all the books we have chosen for my book club, I absolutely loved this book the most.I don't even have to think it over.This one soared above all the rest!Searles is an EXCELLENT author!He captured the feelings of the characters in this book 100%There is a scene in the book about high school.I could just picture it all out in my head and escape back to the days of high school when I read this.You feel so emotional reading about the characters in this book.The ending is So intense that you do not want to put the book down.I recommend this to everyone!My book club members all loved it!I cannot wait to read another book by him! ... Read more

13. Rationality in Action (Jean Nicod Lectures)
by John R. Searle
Paperback: 319 Pages (2003-03-01)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$16.95
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Asin: 0262692821
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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The study of rationality and practical reason, or rationality in action, has been central to Western intellectual culture. In this invigorating book, John Searle lays out six claims of what he calls the Classical Model of rationality and shows why they are false. He then presents an alternative theory of the role of rationality in thought and action.A central point of Searle’s theory is that only irrational actions are directly caused by beliefs and desires--for example, the actions of a person in the grip of an obsession or addiction. In most cases of rational action, there is a gap between the motivating desire and the actual decision making. The traditional name for this gap is "freedom of the will." According to Searle, all rational activity presupposes free will. For rationality is possible only where one has a choice among various rational as well as irrational options.Unlike many philosophical tracts, Rationality in Action invites the reader to apply the author’s ideas to everyday life. Searle shows, for example, that contrary to the traditional philosophical view, weakness of will is very common. He also points out the absurdity of the claim that rational decision making always starts from a consistent set of desires. Rational decision making, he argues, is often about choosing between conflicting reasons for action. In fact, humans are distinguished by their ability to be rationally motivated by desire-independent reasons for action. Extending his theory of rationality to the self, Searle shows how rational deliberation presupposes an irreducible notion of the self. He also reveals the idea of free will to be essentially a thesis of how the brain works. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary approach to rationality
In this progressively and amazing treatment of the topic, Searle just goes ahead and displays a thorough analysis on the internal workings of the mind related to rationality. Advancing consistently and clearly through the topics involved in rationality, the book covers a wide range of practical, philosophical and scientific approaches to explain and review the process of conscious rationality of the human brain.
The notion of the self, the workings on deliberation, the creation and recognition of reasons for actions, the acquisition of motivators and the intentionality behind all this process, clears the way for understanding one of the most precious capacities of the human brain, shortly to be able to rationally understand ourselves and others.
I truly recommend reading this book in order to enhance our capacity to cope with reality and to acknowledge the workings of the mind as a resulting/emerging feature of the human brain.
Once again, Searle manages to show us a different point of view much more realistic and complete that clearly states our experience and first person point of view.

5-0 out of 5 stars Lucid and Stimulating
Searle's _Rationality in Action_ is lucid and accessible.The thrust of the book is to show that desire-independent reasons for action are commonplace (as opposed to the traditional or "Classical" model - Hume, Williams, Davidson, modern decision theory, etc. - that reasons for action follow desires).Searle argues that there is a gap between reason and decision, decision and action, and continuing to do an action and that reasons for rational action actually are made effective by the agent (the person).

I found the section distinguishing reasons for action from justification for action quite interesting.The explanation of what Searle calls "weakness of the will" follows very logically from the rest of his argument and is no problem for his theory of rationality.Finally, Searle touches on the question of neurobiological determinism versus freedom of the will.

Anyone who has followed Searle's previous works on intentionality, consciousness, speech acts, and institutional facts will find this as punchy, logical, and clear.

All in all, _Rationality in Action_ is an enjoyable work of philosophy.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent and honest
This book is in many senses a very unusual philosophy one. First, even though, the topic is not easy Searle has showed an extremeeffort and capacityto express himself with clarity. In this book you can always know what the author thinks, based on which premises he believes so, and of course what problem he is trying to solve.
I got surprised when I saw that Searle changed his view respect to the free will expressed in "minds, brain and science" where he reached to the conclusion that no real free will may exist. In this book he not only accept his error, but also produce a completedescription ofthe "gaps" that cannot be filled with necessity and, therefore, require free will. He moves one step forwardand declares that a humean being is not enough to describe human beings, on the contrary a substantial being able of free will is what is required.
So clarity, rigor and honesty is the characteristic of this book.
Goingto the book, it basically says that in our action there are gaps, meaning for gaps, actions that cannot be completely explained by external causes, so we, as free will holders, must decide our actions. This is extensively discussed in it, and so are many of the consequences of that.
In the book Searle tried to provide an explanation for moral commitment based on the compromise derived from the use of language instead of solutions based on cost-benefit analysis.
I believe that he is right in the second, partially right in the recognition of the importance of speech acts as compromisers but I certainly believe that we need more to justify he ethic behavior.
I'll wait for new books from Searle , I want to read more shinning thoughts like those showed in this book and I may end up finding that he keeps improving.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent and honest
This book is in many senses a very unusual philosophy one. First, even the topic is not easy Searle has showed an extremeeffort and capacityto express himself with clarity. In this book you can always know what the author thinks, based on which premises he believes so, and of course what problem he is trying to solve.
I got surprised when I saw that Searle changed his view respect to the free will expressed in "minds, brain and science" where he reached to the conclusion that no real free will may exist. In this book he not only accept his error, but also produce a completedescription ofthe "gaps" that cannot be filled with necessity and, therefore, require free will. He moves one step forwardand declares that a humean being is not enough to describe human beings, on the contrary a substantial being able of free will is what is required.
So clarity, rigor and honesty is the characteristic of this book.
Goingto the book, it basically says that in our action there are gaps, meaning for gaps, actions that cannot be completely explained by external causes, so we, as free will holders, must decide our actions. This is extensively discussed in it, and so are many of the consequences of that.
In the book Searle tried to provide an explanation for moral commitment based on the compromised derived from the use of language more than solutions based on cost-benefit analysis.
I believe that he is right in the second, partially right in the recognition of the importance of speech acts as compromisers but I certainly believe that we need more to justify he ethic behavior.
I'll wait for new books from Searle , I want to read more shinning thoughts like those showed in this book and I may end up finding that he keeps improving.

4-0 out of 5 stars Searle's Photo Not on the Front Cover
Well, here we go again. Back to the proverbial rationality and free will drawing board. I recommend a slew of preliminary texts as an overview of the field, such as Williams, Scheffler, Korsgaard, Scanlon, Velleman, Nozick, etc.

Nevertheless, Searle writes with his usual clear, direct, and economic prose. He enters a crowded practical reason debate with, again, his usual bravado. He argues against Williams's externalist view by describing substantial tautological errors. But this approach tends to oversimplify Williams's complex view. One wonders if Searle's reading of Williams is actually right (or careful enough). I prefer Scanlon's handling of W's externalism in the Appendix to What We Owe to Each Other, and McDowell's well-known article on the subject.

The strength of Searle's book is his defense of an internalist view of rationality and action, which resurrects his views on intentionality and speech acts. He thoroughly demonstrates in one chapter how a Deductive Model in rationality (i.e., a practical syllogism ala Kenny) cannot work. He also clearly identifies the major problems in practical reason, conflicting reasons, and defends a novel approach, what he calls a semantic categorical imperative. This is a controversial view, which navigates between (or circumvents) Humean and Kantian theories on moral motivation.

Another stregth of the book is how Searle connects rationality in action (hence the title of the book) and his theory of intentionality to the free will problem. In the last chapters, he clearly identifies just what the nature of the free will problem is, which is pretty much a rehashing of his chapter in Minds, Brains, and Science (Harvard UP). The reader gets a clear picture of how and why the free will issue is a major contemporary philosophical problem, requiring a correct scientific research project to help solve the problem. One also gets a clear view of a top-notch philosopher at work on this serious problem. It is obvious why this problem has kept Searle awake at nights--why he misses the freeway on-ramp during his drive to work. It is a seemingly insoluable problem, and Searle makes the nature of the problem and the reasons that it keeps philosophers awake at night explicit.

So the book closes, basically, with a challenge for philosophers to continue work on free will and rationality. It is also a challenge for scientists in the labs to work on a research program that would identify the whole problem and its potential solution. ... Read more

14. Consciousness and Language
by John R. Searle
Paperback: 280 Pages (2002-07-15)
list price: US$35.99 -- used & new: US$12.97
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Asin: 0521597447
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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One of the most important and influential philosophers of the last 30 years, John Searle has been concerned throughout his career with a single overarching question: how can we have a unified and theoretically satisfactory account of ourselves and of our relations to other people and to the natural world? In other words, how can we reconcile our common-sense conception of ourselves as conscious, free, mindful, rational agents in a world that we believe includes brute, unconscious, mindless, meaningless, mute physical particles in fields of force? The essays in this collection are related to this broad overarching issue that unites the diverse strands of Searle's work. As many as these essays have previously only been available in relatively obscure books and journals, this collection will be of particular interest to philosophers and those in psychology and linguistics. Since 1959, John R. Searle has been Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, where he is now the Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language. His many books include Mind Language and Society, (Basic, 1998). The Construction of Social Reality, (Free Press, 1997), and Speech Acts, (Cambridge, 1969). His works have been translated in 21 languages. Seale has received many prizes, awards and honors, including the Fulbright Award (twice), the Guggenheim, and ACLS Fellowships. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars Not a fan, but still very good.
Yeah, so, I'm going to avoid the part where i think that a couple of important things in this book are stated too vaguely for a responsible philosopher, or where i mention that he seems to make one or two blatant errors of omission.I'm going to avoid these things for the dual reasons that a) they aren't really relevant to whether you should read this or not, and b) i allow for the possibility that i'm imagining these gaps because i haven't understood him, in which case i'm the stupid one.Given my presistent commitment to Legends of the Hidden Temple, that's a distinct possibility.

In spite of what i consider some overly-squooshy language in a handful of places, this is a great book.I'd read intentionality, but never speech acts, and this book seems to tie all of searle's ideas into one large discussion about speech, intention, consciousness, with a few of the expected cuts on AI.It's really put together very well, and the flow from discussions of consciousness to intention to speech acts makes each of the constituent pieces more poigniant.Searle very rarely drifts into blustering territory, writing clearly and concisely in most of the cases where i found a need for really detailed exposition.Good stuff.

So, like i say, 7 times out of 10, i find Searle less than compelling, but this is a really nice survey of a lot of his ideas, and worth a read either as an introduction to his thinking or as a piece that ties together a lot of his older ideas into one coherent package.He's an important guy with important ideas who has helped shape a lot of important discussions, agree or disagree, this book articulates these contributions well.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Superb Collection of Articles...
Searle has collected a large and important variety of articles in this text, which spans several years of thinking on issues such as: the nature of consciousness, free will, the mind-body problem, rationality, and collective action.Only one article on Kripke's meaning skepticism has been not previously published.

The vigor and force of questions that Searle queries regarding how it is possible to reconcile our intuitions about having a 'free will' in a world of physical laws and (all things being equal) deterministic principles is important and fundamental.I highly recommend this volume, which conveniently assembles previous articles, and it makes clear Searle's position on these problems.Indeed, it makes clear exactly how difficult and challenging philosophical problems and questions are--and why philosophers stay awake at nights thinking about them...and why no easy solution is forthcoming in philosophy or science...

The articles are written in Searle's usual style--with problem solving on his mind--clearly stating the problem to be addressed and evaluated--a model of philosophical prose...

And I might add...the cover photograph of Searle is splendid--him in a tweed coat...autumn leaves...just in case you've wondered what a suave academic is supposed to look like nowdays... ... Read more

15. John Searle and his Critics (Philosophers and their Critics)
Paperback: 420 Pages (1993-04-15)
list price: US$41.95 -- used & new: US$34.50
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Asin: 0631187022
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For more than three decades John Searle has been developing and elaborating a unified theory of language and mind. What has emerged is an impressive and detailed account of intentionality embracing both mental states and linguistic behaviour. Though the developing theory has been presented in a steady stream of books and articles over the last thirty years, two items stand out as major landmarks: the publication of Speech Acts in 1969 and of Intentionality in 1983. Both of these seminal books offer structural theories; that is, they analyze the items within their domains (speech acts and mental states) as having a structure which allows for variation along a number of parameters.

John Searle and His Critics proceeds from an analysis of the importance and influence of these two works to an overall assessment of Searle's impact in the philosophy of language, of mind, of social explanation, and of reference and intentionality. Each of the chapters has been newly commissioned from a leading scholar in the relevant field and each section concludes with a summary and response from Searle himself. ... Read more

16. The Rediscovery of the Mind (Representation and Mind)
by John R. Searle
Paperback: 288 Pages (1992-07-08)
list price: US$29.00 -- used & new: US$12.08
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Asin: 026269154X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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"The computationalists have probably never had such a powerful challenge as this book." -- Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times Book Review "This is as entertaining as serious philosophy gets." -- Theodore Roszak, New Scientist

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. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Irreducibility of the Mind
Elimativist materialism (the view that consciousness can be reduced to brain states) is untenable because we all know that consciousness is quite real. Property dualism is also untenable because it treats the brain and consciousness as seperate things. So, what is a poor philosophic bloke to do?

John Searle, making arguments similar to Colin McGinn and Thomas Nagel, argues for a "biological naturalism" that sees consciousness as part of the brain - but a part of the brain that is quite baffling because of several irreducible properties. Consciousness studies and the philosophy of mind have been quite unsuccessful, Searle says, because in their view that real things must be objective (in a third-person sense), these fields are quite at a loss for what to do about the irreducibly first-person thing called consciousness. So, even though we all know that consciousness is very real (otherwise, what is doing the knowing?) our third-person model of objective science has a lot of trouble dealing with the idea of consciousness.

The best chapters of this book, to me, are the early ones. Particularly, I enjoyed Searle's astute diagnosis of the problems the study of consciousness has encountered, and how it seems to make the same mistakes over and over again. Particularly useful to me and my purposes was the appendix to the second chapter: Is There a Problem About Folk Psychology? It is a mock dialogue between Searle and a believer in the idea that all "mind talk" would be better replaced by "brain talk." Searle uses straight talk and wit to show this position to be absolutely ludicrous.

The later chapters tend to focus on Searle's objections to seeing consciousness as a computer, arguing basically that the mind must be more than this becuase to compute, one must need to recognize the valid inputs and know how to use them. (Speech is more than sybols. It requires an individual to decide what syntax, semantics, etc, to use. That is more than a regular computer can do.)

This view has become, I think, less controversial than when Searle advanced it. Jerry Fodor has espoused similar objections in his The Mind Doesn't Work That Way: The Scope and Limits of Computational Psychology and recently, Jonathan Hawkins has argued for a very different view of intelligence (as predictor rather than computer) in his On Intelligence.

Throughout, Searle's arguments are sharp, his writing is crisp, and he is quite creative in his use of (sometimes humorous) thought experiments. This is an excellent place to start when getting into Searle's view on the philosophy of mind. Also, though, I would still recommend Colin McGinn's very similar case in The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds In A Material World.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent start point
I've found this book excellent as a start point for rethinking the way to study the brain and the mind. Searle states very clear the different aspects of his sketicism against the currently installed ideas and opens the path to a much more interesting way of thinking about the our brains and our mind.
I recommend reading this book in order to start studying the amazing and interesting world of the mind and it also allowed me to research other books related to areas covered by Searle and shed more light in a yet young science and philosophy of the brain and mind.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Highly-Accessible Polemic
What a wonderful book! I had tried to access philosophy of mind through David Chalmers and Roger Penrose to no avail. Talk about arcane and inane philosophy! Then, I decided I might try something "lighter." What a difference Searle's dense, but clear, ideas make! This book is a great place to begin (or end) one's enquiring into the philosophy of mind, and a treasure trove of so much that is intuitive. So much in the field of conscious is counterintuitive that it is refreshing to read someone who subscribes to one's intuitive beliefs.

First, like most philosophically-minded individuals, I like to think philosophy of the mind is not so arcane and inaccessible that we ordinary individuals can't get it, e.g., Penrose, Chalmers, et al. At least Searle treats the reader like educated adults without unnecessary obfuscation. Don't misunderstand me: This is dense reading, and hardly a sentence passes without something important being claimed. But, rather than being unintelligible, it is wholly intelligible. For example, Chalmers tries to explain supervenience over 40 pages, Searle explains in one paragraph. Not simple, but clear and unadulterated exposition.

Second, some other readers must have omitted the Preface and First Chapter. This book is intentionally polemical; Searle makes it clear from the outset. He adamantly opposes some of the philosophical and psychological paradigms currently in cognitive science, and he addresses those problems in the first few chapters (and throughout the book). He opposes dualism and materialism of all sorts and admits that he is a "naive naturalist," whatever that is. His arguments are often contentious, as he admits up front. But as tendentious as he is -- there's a lot riding on the premises and conclusions of others, so in the end he has to highly contentious. Fortunately, he's also persuasive.

Third, as a "naive materialist," Searle argues that the simultaneous firing of neurons and existent mental states (hence the phenomenon "consciousness" is irreducible to anything further) are causally interchangeable, because they are the same phenomenon. Ergo, consciousness is not epiphenomenally, nor occurrently, nor simultaneously, but epistemically, empirically, and ontologically foundational (each a different property of the same phenomenon). This is an important, and liberating, concept, forcefully argued throughout the book. What's inimical about all the other concepts Searle fights is their use of the homunuclus fallacy and their anthropomorphizing of physical processes.

Fourth, he make the claim for a number of other intuitive, contra counterintuitive, claims. For example, the "unconscious" just does not make any sense. It almost seems like a contradiction, and according to Searle it is. As Gertrude Stein once said, "There's no there, there." Again, I've always thought this to be linguistically intuitive, now he makes a broad-based argument against its existence even morphologically (and several more things like "universal grammar" "binary intelligence," etc.).

Finally, I believe this book is necessary reading by all interested in consciousness and the mind. Even if one doesn't agree with his arguments and their conclusions, it's highly important to know and understand them. And because Searle is so accessible, he's a refreshing, indeed cogent, alternative to some of the myopic, convoluted, and constipated thinking going on in the field.

4-0 out of 5 stars Clearest monograph EVER!!!
Searle advocates Biological naturalism" as a valid theory, exposing the misdirectedness of the ever present mind-body problem as being entwined in the western philosophical tradition.Even though Cartesian Dualism has long been predominantly set aside, Searle argues, many of its concepts and vocabulary cloud current theorizing on the subject.Searle argues strongly for recognizing the Subjectivity of consciousness as a 1st-person ontology in itself, unexplainable by an objective epistemology, since its very nature is opposed to that method of investigation.By recognizing this Subjectivity as a property of the brain, and allowing that the mental and physical of the mind-body opposition need not be exclusive, Searle describes consciousness as a property of assemblies of neurons, in the sense that liquidity is a property of H2O moleculse.Unimaginable at the molecular level, but undeniable through a wider point point of view.
The clarity of Searles writing alone makes it worth the read, and his ideas address, if not solve, many of the most interesting topics in the philosophy of mind.Highly recommended to anyone interested in that field.

3-0 out of 5 stars The study of the mind is the study of consciousness.
This book gives a good picture of the structure of the mind and of its irreducibility.
It explains clearly what's the stumbling block of all scientific and philosophical problems with consciousness: the fact that the mind is only a subjective first-person experience.

But the most interesting part, for me, was his convincing attack against cognitivismn (the theory that the brain is a computer and the mind a computer program).

Nevertheless, I found his book 'The Mystery of Consciousness' more interesting, more profound and more specific, because it laid bare the accuracies / errors of other author's who wrote about the same important items. ... Read more

17. John Searle (Continuum Contemporary American Thinkers)
by Joshua Rust
Paperback: 192 Pages (2009-11-23)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$16.37
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Asin: 0826497527
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This book offers a concise and accessible introduction to his work and thought, ideal for students coming to his philosophy for the first time. John Searle is one of the most important and influential analytic philosophers working today. He has made significant contributions to the fields of the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind. This concise and accessible book provides a critical review of Searle's philosophical themes. While Searle began his career as a philosopher of language, this book proceeds thematically, starting with a review of Searle's general ontological commitments. His conception of the mental is then located within that general framework. A theory of intentionality sets the stage for Searle's accounts of action, rationality, freedom, language, and social reality. Searle weaves together this broad array of topics by means of a set of theoretical and methodological assumptions. Part of the task of this book is to articulate some of those unifying tendencies, while locating Searle within the history of analytic philosophy.In addition to comparing Searle's views to those of his interlocutors, the book also attempts to identify changes in those views, as articulated over the course of Searle's career. "The Continuum Contemporary American Thinkers" series offers concise and accessible introductions to the most important and influential thinkers at work in philosophy today. Designed specifically to meet the needs of students and readers encountering these thinkers for the first time, these informative books provide a coherent overview and analysis of each thinker's vital contribution to the field of philosophy. The series is the ideal companion to the study of these most inspiring and challenging of thinkers. ... Read more

18. John Searle (Philosophy Now Series)
by Nick Fotion
Paperback: 256 Pages (2001-01-01)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$9.55
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Asin: 0691057125
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Editorial Review

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One of the world's most important philosophers of mind and language, John Searle (b. 1932) is direct, combative, and intellectually ambitious. His philosophy has made fundamental and lasting contributions to how we think about speech, consciousness, knowledge, truth, and the nature of social reality. Here, with remarkable clarity, a leading authority introduces students and generalists to those contributions.

Nick Fotion explains Searle's ideas in full, while also testing and exploring their implications. He first takes up Searle's philosophy of language, examining how Searle treats speech acts and thinks about the metaphorical use of language. Next, the book sketches Searle's philosophy of mind, including his claims for intentionality and for the centrality of consciousness. This discussion highlights Searle's argument that the mind possesses a subjective character that materialist explanations (including behaviorism and strong artificial intelligence) cannot contain. The author goes on to look at Searle's later writings on the construction of social reality--work that mounts a sophisticated but plainly stated case against deconstructionist, skeptical, and relativistic accounts.

Concluding with general reflections on Searle's position vis-à-vis ontology and epistemology, this book is the first to assess and identify common themes and approaches in the whole range of his extensive thought. In doing so, it presents Searle's extremely influential work for the first time as a coherent philosophy.Amazon.com Review
Only a handful of recent American philosophers are widely read outside university philosophy departments, and John Searle is surely among them. Not only does his work ascend to the rarified heights of analytic philosophy, but he has carved out a niche for himself as a popular defender of commonsense realism and a gadfly to postmodern philosophy. John Searle is part of the Philosophy Now series, published by Princeton University Press, which offers engaging looks at some of today's most prominent philosophers. With consistently clear prose, Nick Fotion guides the reader through the nettlesome thickets of recent philosophy of language, explaining how Searle's philosophy of mind is in many ways a corollary of his views on language.

Fotion, a professor of philosophy at Emory University, does an admirable job of limning Searle's philosophical work. Searle first appeared on the philosophical scene in 1969 with the publication of his seminal Speech Acts, which detailed a new theory of how language has meaning. A student of the well-known British philosopher J.L. Austin, Searle elaborated on the importance of intentionality in language use. Of particular interest to a general readership is his latter-day combat with a cohort of intellectual opponents he calls "antirealists." The salvos appeared in his 1995 book The Construction of Social Reality, in which he defends the existence of objects outside our minds. Sound obvious? It's not, according to his adversaries. On this score, and on others, Fotion does a wonderful job of marrying Searle's polemics to his philosophical rigor. --Eric de Place ... Read more

19. John Searle and the Construction of Social Reality (Continuum Studies in American Philosophy)
by Joshua Rust
Hardcover: 224 Pages (2006-01-25)
list price: US$155.00 -- used & new: US$15.00
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Asin: 0826485863
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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John Searle (1932-) is one of the most famous living American philosophers. A pupil of J. L. Austin at Oxford in the 1950s, he is currently Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1995 John Searle published "The Construction of Social Reality", a text which not only promises to disclose the institutional backdrop against which speech takes place, but initiate a new 'philosophy of society'. Since then "The Construction of Social Reality" has been subject to a flurry of criticism. While many of Searle's interlocutors share the sense that the text marks an important breakthrough, he has time and again accused critics of misunderstanding his claims. Despite Searle's characteristic crispness and clarity there remains some confusion, among both philosophers and sociologists, regarding the significance of his proposals. This book traces some of the high points of this dialogue, leveraging Searle's own clarifications to propose a new way of understanding the text. In particular, Joshua Rust looks to Max Weber in suggesting that Searle has articulated an ideal type.In locating The Construction of Social Reality under the umbrella of one of sociology's founding fathers, this book not only makes Searle's text more accessible to the readers in the social sciences, but presents Max Weber as a thinker worthy of philosophical reconsideration. Moreover, the recharacterization of Searle's claims in terms of the ideal type helps facilitate a comparison between Searle and other social theorists such as Talcott Parsons. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Critique that Explains Social Facts
John Searle And the Construction of Social Reality by Joshua Rust (Continuum Studies in American Philosophy: Continuum International Publishing Group) In 1995 John Searle published The Construction of Social Reality, a text which promises not only to disclose the institutional backdrop against which speech takes place, but also to initiate a new "philosophy of society." Since then The Construction of Social Reality has been subject to a flurry of criticism. While many of Searle's interlocutors share the sense that the text marks an important breakthrough, he has time and again accused critics of misunderstanding his claims. Despite Searle's characteristic crispness and clarity there remains some confusion, among both philosophers and sociologists, regarding the significance of his proposals.
This book traces some of the high points of this dialogue, leveraging Searle's own clarifications to propose a new way of understanding the text. In particular, Joshua Rust looks to Max Weber in suggesting that Searle has articulated an ideal type. In locating The Construction of Social Reality under the umbrella of one of sociology's founding fathers, this book not only makes Searle's text more accessible to readers in the social sciences, but also presents Max Weber as a thinker worthy of philosophical reconsideration. Moreover, the recharacterization of Searle's claims in terms of the ideal type helps facilitate a comparison between Searle and other social theorists such as Margaret Gilbert.
Excerpt: In 1996 Toy Biz, the manufacturer of Marvel Comic's popular X-men action figures, sued US Customs Service in the Court of International Trade. Toy Biz successfully argued that the play¬things should be classified as toys not dolls. According to Customs' classification, dolls purport to be human, toys do not. If the figures are not deemed to represent humans they would be subject to only a 6.8 per cent import duty instead of the higher 12 per cent for dolls.
On the one hand, the X-men seem human. The US government argued that the figures should be classified as humans, and thus dolls, because each character had a "distinctive individual person¬ality". As for their super-human traits, the defense argued that, for example, Wolverine, who has a set of one-foot-long retractable claws on each hand, is simply "a man with prosthetic hands". How¬ever, it must be conceded that the ability to manipulate fire, shape-shift, or control weather systems at will, sharply distinguishes the X-men from ordinary human beings. In January of 2003, Judge Judith Barzilay declared, following the plaintiff's argument, that the X-men figures appeared to be "nonhuman creatures" due to "their extraordinary and unnatural . . . powers". The figures were thus found to merit the reclassification sought by Toy Biz.
One fan laments that the reclassification "is almost unthinkable. . . . Marvel's super heroes are supposed to be as human as you or I. They live in New York. They have families and go to work. And now they're no longer human?"Indeed, since its inception in 1963 the comic book has tended to use the X-men, depicted as being almost universally feared and despised by those in the mainstream, to explicitly allegorize race relations. To those who follow the comic book, the reclassification from doll to toy--from human to non-human--is not without irony.
The doll status of the X-men figures is a good example of what John Searle, in The Construction of Social Reality (CSR), calls an insti¬tutional fact. The rules that constitute institutional facts can be characterized according to the formula, "X counts as Y in context C," where X is a brute fact and Y is an institutional fact. In this manuscript I will refer to the "X counts as Y in C" formula as the "constitutive formula". Searle intends the formula to convey the sense in which an institutional fact Y is embodied or manifest in, but cannot be reduced to, a brute fact X. Using Searle's for¬mula, playthings that purport to be human (X) count as dolls (Y) within the jurisdiction of US Customs (C), and those that do not purport to be human (X) count as toys (Y). It also underscores the sense in which institutional facts can be traced back to our col¬lective acceptances. Moreover, institutional facts often implicate certain rights and obligations (they have a "status-function"), so that the reclassification of the X-men gives Toy Biz the right to pay the lower import duty.
Another example of an institutional fact is the wooden tally. Developed economies need a means to track debt. In medieval Europe one common means was the wooden tally. This consisted of a hazelwood stick on which was inscribed the date, the amount owed, as well as the debtor's name. The stick, along with this infor¬mation, was split into two pieces, starting at about two inches from the bottom. The longer half the "stock"was retained by the creditor, whereas the shorter half--the "stub" was kept by the debtor. If there was any question as to the size of the debt, the two halves could be put back together again. This helped guard against the possibility of fraud. When the debt was repaid the tally would then be destroyed. The stub (X) counts as an indi¬cation that I owe money to a creditor (Y) in medieval Europe (C). However, outside this context the stub (X) is not in itself an indi¬cation of debt-owed (Y).
Dolls, wooden tallies, or--Searle's archetypical example money, cannot be reduced to the physical properties that underlie them: "a dollar" is not just the paper and ink out of which it is phy¬sically constituted. Nevertheless a dollar must be constructed of something, be it green paper and ink or metal. In claiming that all institutional facts--the US Customs' distinction between toys and dolls, indications of debt, money, language, marriage, football games--can be characterized according to the constitutive for¬mula, Searle is claiming that an institutional fact Y is always founded on some brute fact X.
My intention is not to disagree with Searle on this point. It may be the case, as Searle contends, that for any institutional fact there is some constitutive, underlying brute fact to which I can point. Others dispute this and argue that some institutional facts do not seem to have a basis in some brute fact X.2 My princi¬pal aim, however, is not to falsify Searle's account by way of counterexamples.
My concern runs somewhat deeper: disagreement presupposes that I am in the first place clear about what Searle is trying to convey with the constitutive formula. I am not clear.
Nor is Searle particularly helpful when it comes to the framing of his own insights. The constitutive formula is a crucial part of the answer to the questions Searle asks himself at the beginning of his book: "How are institutional facts possible? And what exactly is the structure of such facts?" (CSR, p. 2) But while Searle deter¬mines the structure of institutional facts to be "X counts as Y in C," what does he mean when he asks about how these facts are possible? Is he providing a foundational ontology of social reality, as Bertrand Russell's atomism attempted to identify the logical structure of brute reality? Or is he proffering a kind of mnemonic by which inquiry into institutional reality might proceed? Even though it is clear that Searle has said something interesting and important, there remain metaphilosophical questions about the significance of those claims.
Chapter 1 Searle's Institutional Atomisms
It is clear that the constitutive formula tells us something interest¬ing about the nature of institutional reality. But there remains a question as to how it is interesting. Which puzzle does Searle intend to solve in asking the question, how are institutional facts possible? There may be an analogy between Searle's project and that of the atomists. Perhaps Searle's formula outlines the most general contours of institutional reality in somewhat the same way the atomists attempted to use logic to lay bare the structure of brute reality. This chapter fleshes out the comparison, noting points where the analogy breaks down. The almost stifling self-consciousness with which the atomists formulated the doctrine of philosophical analysis gives us a portrait of how we might under¬stand the significance of the constitutive formula as an answer to Searle's own question.
Chapter 2 First Criticism of Institutional Atomism
The analogy between Searle and the atomists allows me to mar¬shal part of an extensive body of criticism, originally directed against the atomists, against institutional analysis. I appeal to an argument originally advanced by John Wisdom and J.O. Urmson, who claim that there are principled reasons to think that it is impossible to complete the analysis of a given institution. I advance this argument by looking at difficulties that arise in attempting to characterize the institution of money.
Chapter 3 Second Criticism of Institutional Atomism
I argue that Searle, even by his own terms, has no basis by which to uphold the constitutive formula as the logical structure of institu¬tional reality.
If these criticisms are convincing, we are again in the position of needing to ask what Searle hopes to have accomplished when heasserts that "X counts as Y in C". How else might we understand the constitutive formula if not by means of an analogy with the atomists? Using groundwork established in Chapter 4, I take up this question in Chapters 5 and 6. Suggesting that Searle has advanced an ideal type, I will argue that he can avoid these objections.
Chapter 4 Kuhn, Weber, and Instruments of Inquiry
In Chapter 4 I set aside explicit discussion of Searle's view in order to present Max Weber's concept of the ideal type. I use Kuhn's notion of a paradigm as means of introducing the ideal type. This chapter begins with a sketch of Thomas Kuhn's view of inquiry in the physical sciences. I then chart some of the ways in which Max Weber's view of inquiry in the social sciences complements and anticipates Kuhn's depiction.
Both Weber and Kuhn characterize paradigms and ideal types as tools of inquiry, which give rise to puzzles and crises. I look at a number of responses, outlined by Kuhn and Weber, that the social and natural sciences have recourse to in the event of crisis.
Inquiry, I suggest, can proceed linearly, when there is a domi¬nant paradigm or ideal type, or conjunctively, when there are multiple paradigms or ideal types in play. Regarding the latter possibility, Weber contends that there are no principled reasons why a researcher should not expect to employ several, incom¬mensurable ideal types in order to understand a given phenom¬enon. Following Weber I suggest that reality is complex and so we can only expect so much from any one of our abstractions.
My exposition of Weber will help in my attempt to re-characterize the significance of Searle's constitutive formula in light of the atomist objections.
Why discuss Weber in the first place? Searle writes that since he takes himself to be addressing what "might be thought of as problems in the foundations of the social sciences, one might sup¬pose they would have been addressed and solved already in the various social sciences, and in particular by the great founders of the social sciences in the nineteenth century and the early parts of the twentieth century" (CSR, p. xii). Suggesting that the con¬stitutive formula is an ideal type is interesting and provoca¬tive because it has the effect of locating Searle's examination of social reality under the umbrella of one of the founders of the social sciences, namely Weber.
The final chapters of the book reconnect my discussion of Weber to Searle's project. We can distinguish the constitutive formula itself ("X counts as Yin C") from the explication of a par¬ticular institution by means of the constitutive formula (green pieces of paper count as money). Chapter 5 argues that the latter are ideal types whereas Chapter 6 makes the more ambitious claim that the constitutive formula itself is an ideal type.
Chapter 5 Searle and the Ideal Type: Applications of the Constitutive Formula
In this chapter I argue that we should not expect the constitutive formula to help the researcher generate canonical articulations of our institutions. To make this claim I build off my Chapter 2 dis¬cussion of money. Searle holds that green pieces of paper (X) count as media of exchange (Y). A number of economists and sociologists have formulated alternatives to this neoclassical account of money: according to the chartalist account, green pieces of paper (X) count as an indication of debt-owed (Y). I argue that the chartalists and the neoclassicalists are not engaged in a factual dispute, but are rather advancing incommensurable ideal types. They are not making empirical claims but are rather advancing proposals for how a particular research program might proceed. If this is correct then both of these views can coexist.
Moreover, because both accounts of money can be expressed in terms of the "X counts as Y in C" formula, this suggests that the constitutive formula will not represent our institutions in an unambiguous, fully explicit way. This evokes Wisdom's objection, which I discuss in Chapter 2. Wisdom argues that a complete ana¬lysis of an institution is not in principle possible. Bringing Searle's remarks about money under the rubric of the ideal type sidesteps the force of Wisdom's objection. It does so, not by denying his insight, but by reevaluating the atomist's hyperbolic criteria for success. Because the ideal type brings us back to the actual con¬ditions by which inquiry proceeds and succeeds, we need not be worried about the possibility of not being able to characterize a given institution exhaustively.
Chapter 6 Searle and the Ideal Type: the Constitutive Formula and the Status function
In this final chapter I take aim at the constitutive formula itself, and not just particular applications of it. I argue that, just as the claim "green pieces of paper (X) count as a medium of exchange (Y)" is an ideal type, the formula "X counts as Y in C" is itself an ideal type. In this way, since ideal types highlight and suppress aspects of institutional reality, and the constitutive formula is an ideal type, we should expect that there are additional ideal types that uncover characteristics of institutional reality left unturned by Searle's formula. To this end, if the constitutive formula identifies a certain "norma¬tive component" indicative of institutional reality, I compare Searle's account of social reality with other models of normativity, including Aristotle's conception of the phronimos. I conclude, then, that Searle and the Aristotelians have articulated different ideal types, and so have formulated different instruments that attend inquiry.
... Read more

20. John Searle (Contemporary Philosophy in Focus)
Paperback: 304 Pages (2003-08-18)
list price: US$29.99 -- used & new: US$5.00
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Asin: 0521797047
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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From Speech Acts to his most recent studies of consciousness, freedom and rationality, John Searle has been a highly influential figure among contemporary philosophers.This systematic introduction to the entire range of Searle's work begins with the theory of speech acts and proceeds with expositions of his writings on intentionality, consciousness and perception, including, as well, a careful presentation of the so-called Chinese Room argument.Barry Smith is a Julian Park Professor of Philosophy, University at Buffalo and Director of the Institute for Formal Ontology and Medical Information Science in the University of Leipzig.He is the author of Austrian Philosophy (Open Court, 1994) and of some 300 articles on ontology and other branches of philosophy.In 2001 he received the Wolfgang Paul Award of the Alexander on Humboldt Foundation.He is also the editor of The Monist: An International Journal of General Philosophical Inquiry. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars So far, I am pleased
This book is an athology of essays commissioned for this athology. If you are interested in the individual authors and topics, I suggest you take a look, as of writing this review amazon let you look inside the book. I have only read the extensive essay on Searle's Chinese Room Argument. I was very pleased with it.

The article presents a synopsis of what the author takes to be the main force of the thought experiment and argument that Searle continues to present as the Chines Room Argument. It also presents a critical examination of the many critical remarks that have been made of said argument. It is this discussion of the critical remarks that are of particular merit. The author of this essay presents the main types of responses, discusses implications of these responses, and presents any rebuttal Searle may have mustered. For someone that has found it hard to find all the literature on this funny little argument, this little essay was a God send. The bibliography was also quite helpful in directing this reviewer to the literature that is relelevant to this dicussion. I was immensely pleased with the essay overall. If the other articles are as informative and helpful as the one on the Chinese Room Argument, I will be very pleased with the book. ... Read more

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