The Rediscovery of the Mind

MIT Press
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In this major new work, John Searle launches a formidable attack on current orthodoxies in the philosophy of mind. More than anything else, he argues, it is the neglect of consciousness that results in so much barrenness and sterility in psychology, the philosophy of mind, and cognitive science: there can be no study of mind that leaves out consciousness. What is going on in the brain is neurophysiological processes and consciousness and nothing more—no rule following, no mental information processing or mental models, no language of thought, and no universal grammar. Mental events are themselves features of the brain, "like liquidity is a feature of water."

Beginning with a spirited discussion of what's wrong with the philosophy of mind, Searle characterizes and refutes the philosophical tradition of materialism. But he does not embrace dualism. All these "isms" are mistaken, he insists. Once you start counting types of substance you are on the wrong track, whether you stop at one or two. In four chapters that constitute the heart of his argument, Searle elaborates a theory of consciousness and its relation to our overall scientific world view and to unconscious mental phenomena. He concludes with a criticism of cognitive science and a proposal for an approach to studying the mind that emphasizes the centrality of consciousness to any account of mental functioning.

In his characteristically direct style, punctuated with persuasive examples, Searle identifies the very terminology of the field as the main source of truth. He observes that it is a mistake to suppose that the ontology of the mental is objective and to suppose that the methodology of a science of the mind must concern itself only with objectively observable behavior; that it is also a mistake to suppose that we know of the existence of mental phenomena in others only by observing their behavior; that behavior or causal relations to behavior are not essential to the existence of mental phenomena; and that it is inconsistent with what we know about the universe and our place in it to suppose that everything is knowable by us.

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About the author

John R. Searle is Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Additional Information

Publisher
MIT Press
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Published on
Jul 8, 1992
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Pages
286
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ISBN
9780262261135
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Cognitive Psychology & Cognition
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Consciousness seems to be an enigmatic phenomenon: it is difficult to imagine how our perceptions of the world and our inner thoughts, sensations and feelings could be related to the immensely complicated biological organ we call the brain. This volume presents the thoughts of some of the leading philosophers and cognitive scientists who have recently participated in the discussion of the status of consciousness in science. The focus of inquiry is the question: "Is it possible to incorporate consciousness into science?" Philosophers have suggested different alternatives -- some think that consciousness should be altogether eliminated from science because it is not a real phenomenon, others that consciousness is a real, higher-level physical or neurobiological phenomenon, and still others that consciousness is fundamentally mysterious and beyond the reach of science. At the same time, however, several models or theories of the role of conscious processing in the brain have been developed in the more empirical cognitive sciences. It has been suggested that non-conscious processes must be sharply separated from conscious ones, and that the necessity of this distinction is manifested in the curious behavior of certain brain-damaged patients.

This book demonstrates the dialogue between philosophical and empirical points of view. The writers present alternative solutions to the brain-consciousness problem and they discuss how the unification of biological and psychological sciences could thus become feasible. Covering a large ground, this book shows how the philosophical and empirical problems are closely interconnected. From this interdisciplinary exploration emerges the conviction that consciousness can and should be a natural part of our scientific world view.
"Cognitive psychology," "cognitive neuroscience," and "philosophy of mind" are names for three very different scientific fields, but they label aspects of the same scientific goal: to understand the nature of mental phenomena. Today, the three disciplines strongly overlap under the roof of the cognitive sciences. The book's purpose is to present views from the different disciplines on one of the central theories in cognitive science: the theory of mental models. Cognitive psychologists report their research on the representation and processing of mental models in human memory. Cognitive neuroscientists demonstrate how the brain processes visual and spatial mental models and which neural processes underlie visual and spatial thinking. Philosophers report their ideas about the role of mental models in relation to perception, emotion, representation, and intentionality. The single articles have different and mutually complementing goals: to introduce new empirical methods and approaches, to report new experimental results, and to locate competing approaches for their interpretation in the cross-disciplinary debate. The book is strongly interdisciplinary in character. It is especially addressed to researchers in any field related to mental models theory as both a reference book and an overview of present research on the topic in other disciplines. However, it is also an ideal reader for a specialized graduate course.Examines the theory of mental models from the perspectives of cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience and philosophy of the mindIntroduces new empirical methods, experimental results, and interdisciplinary yet complementary approachesServes as a reference book and an overview of current research
What is consciousness? How do physical processes in the brain give rise to the self-aware mind and to feelings as profoundly varied as love or hate, aesthetic pleasure or spiritual yearning? These questions today are among the most hotly debated issues among scientists and philosophers, and we have seen in recent years superb volumes by such eminent figures as Francis Crick, Daniel C. Dennett, Gerald Edelman, and Roger Penrose, all firing volleys in what has come to be called the consciousness wars. Now, in The Conscious Mind, philosopher David J. Chalmers offers a cogent analysis of this heated debate as he unveils a major new theory of consciousness, one that rejects the prevailing reductionist trend of science, while offering provocative insights into the relationship between mind and brain. Writing in a rigorous, thought-provoking style, the author takes us on a far-reaching tour through the philosophical ramifications of consciousness. Chalmers convincingly reveals how contemporary cognitive science and neurobiology have failed to explain how and why mental events emerge from physiological occurrences in the brain. He proposes instead that conscious experience must be understood in an entirely new light--as an irreducible entity (similar to such physical properties as time, mass, and space) that exists at a fundamental level and cannot be understood as the sum of its parts. And after suggesting some intriguing possibilities about the structure and laws of conscious experience, he details how his unique reinterpretation of the mind could be the focus of a new science. Throughout the book, Chalmers provides fascinating thought experiments that trenchantly illustrate his ideas. For example, in exploring the notion that consciousness could be experienced by machines as well as humans, Chalmers asks us to imagine a thinking brain in which neurons are slowly replaced by silicon chips that precisely duplicate their functions--as the neurons are replaced, will consciousness gradually fade away? The book also features thoughtful discussions of how the author's theories might be practically applied to subjects as diverse as artificial intelligence and the interpretation of quantum mechanics. All of us have pondered the nature and meaning of consciousness. Engaging and penetrating, The Conscious Mind adds a fresh new perspective to the subject that is sure to spark debate about our understanding of the mind for years to come.
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.

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