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"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 o "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.


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"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 o "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.

30 review for Mind: A Brief Introduction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    The question of the mind is a convoluted mess. Until recently I'd not given too much thought to the whole mind/body question, it's one of those questions that continental philosophy just doesn't give too much attention to. There are intersubjective questions like The Other, and that gets played out quite a bit, but to get into the real logical / science of it all is just something left to those unsexy analytical eggheads. The ridiculousness of the question is that it's based on a bunch of assump The question of the mind is a convoluted mess. Until recently I'd not given too much thought to the whole mind/body question, it's one of those questions that continental philosophy just doesn't give too much attention to. There are intersubjective questions like The Other, and that gets played out quite a bit, but to get into the real logical / science of it all is just something left to those unsexy analytical eggheads. The ridiculousness of the question is that it's based on a bunch of assumptions that have been fought over to logical death for the past few hundred years, and no one outside of philosophers really give a shit about the question. Just take the perception part of the mind problem, there are a great many philosophers, really smart men (I don't know of any women who said these things), who believe we don't see the world, but only some sense of the world, that may or may not be an accurate representation of the world, that may or may not even be there, but could be, or could just be an idea in our minds, based on the fact that when we look at a coin at different angles the shape can change from being a circle to being elliptical, and that a table can look differently depending on if you are on one side, or crouch down at eye-level with it, or standing above it. Because these things look different it means that we don't see the thing it-self, but only some kind of impression of it, that is only our perception and not the thing-it-self (roughly). A five year old has the cognitive ability to realize that changing ones point of view makes something look different but doesn't change the thing, and that it is impossible to see anything from all sides and perspectives at once. When you read grown men arguing about this stuff, and proving that this means something, one wonders why half of the philosophical world just threw their hands up, called an end to philosophy and went literary with no regard for the logic that can make otherwise intelligent people seriously believe things like this. One can blame Descartes for all of this, and then Hume who brought a certain logical paradox between a person and their relationship to the world that got taken as being a true psychological or mental state instead of being a problem (even though Hume probably thought he was right and was describing the mind as it was, or maybe not, I don't know). Searle's book is an attempt to clear out all of the bullshit that the questions of the mind have resulted in to, and give his own interpretation of the problem and it's solution. He does a nice job of clearing away the rubble of centuries of misguided formulations of the problems, and shoots lots of holes in contemporary attempts to solve the nature of the mind problem, but I have no idea if his solution is any better. This isn't the kind of book where he goes into enough detail for me to know that. Instead of the title the book has, it should be called, Mind: A Brief Introduction to John Searle's Take on the Mind, not that this is a problem, it's just not shall I say an unbiased look at the mind problem. From my own opinions and knowledge, I think that Searle might be partly right about the mind problem, but I think that there is something missing in his view, and maybe in his other works he gives a clearer explanation, or a more detailed description of what he actually thinks. I, of course, have my own unfounded opinion about the solution to problems brought up in this book, but I have no proof, and I'm sure other people have thought of my ideas first, and I'm just going to keep it to myself for now, because it's much more fun playing with the logic in my head and trying to figure out how to put it into words at this point. One thing that I think is missing in this book is any real focus on memory. It's brought up from time to time, but a few of the topics could have been expanded further by going into what Searle thinks memory is. The only time he really uses memory is in the chapter about the self, where I found it problematic. Is memory really a necessary condition to our knowledge of our self? Don't other people have a say in our conception of believing ourselves to be a self? I'm thinking of an extreme example, but recently I saw a documentary about a guy who just suddenly lost all memory of who he was, and he filmed himself on his quest to find out who he was. Is this man a new person? A different self? What about the people who knew him before, do they see him as the same person? There are problems that arise in this documentary that don't seem adequately covered in criteria of 'self-hood' that Searle plays with. A second problem was in his distinction of conscious and unconscious states. He dismisses the unconscious, which could be ok, but puts certain things that one would say are unconscious in a non-conscious part of the mind, such as breathing and natural functions that happen regardless of what we are thinking about. This is fine, but the line he draws is too cut and dry since ones consciousness can move into the non-conscious part of the mind with the right focus, or training or whatever you want to call it. Think Buddhist monks that can cause radical shifts in their body through meditation, bringing their pulse and breathing down to really low levels, or if you don't like the Eastern kind of example, then how about military trained snipers, who learn to control their body to get a better shot in between heartbeats and breathing? The point of these two examples is that the functions of the mind that Searle designates as non-conscious can in fact be consciously controlled in the right situations, which in the scope of the chapter in this book, means that the realm of consciousness is possibly farther reaching, or at least more dynamic than he is acknowledging. Which means (I think) that there is a more complex system at work than the simplified duality he posits (which one could draw an analogy to being similar to the mind/body duality he is (I think) successfully arguing against in the first half of the book. It's almost as if when we enter into the realm where science hasn't quite gotten the whole story on what is happening that Searle is reverting to the phantoms of either/or thinking that limit problem in such a way that the entire premise, or assumptions could be faulty. I'm kind of rambling, I started this review feeling awake, and now I'm feeling like sleeping. I apologize if some of the last two paragraphs make no sense. I'll probably try to clarify some of what I'm thinking in my blog in the near future.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kyle van Oosterum

    "Philosophy begins with a mystery and wonder at what any sane person regards as too obvious to worry about." - John R. Searle. An extremely compelling introduction to consciousness, perception, causation and personal identity. Full to the brim with whimsical thought experiments - the zombie, 'what is it like to be a bat?', the brain in a vat - one really begins to understand the problems that plague the Philosophy of Mind. "Philosophy begins with a mystery and wonder at what any sane person regards as too obvious to worry about." - John R. Searle. An extremely compelling introduction to consciousness, perception, causation and personal identity. Full to the brim with whimsical thought experiments - the zombie, 'what is it like to be a bat?', the brain in a vat - one really begins to understand the problems that plague the Philosophy of Mind.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Full disclosure before beginning this review of John Searle's Mind. Outside of speculative fiction and impressive displays of raw logic, I'm not a big fan of philosophy, far preferring empirically-based observation. I like to tell myself that I'm comfortable with the unknown. Got a way to discover something? Great! You do it (or at least describe it so others can do it). Just don't come yammering your certainties at me based exclusively on your own navel gazing. For me, faith is a pasttime, not Full disclosure before beginning this review of John Searle's Mind. Outside of speculative fiction and impressive displays of raw logic, I'm not a big fan of philosophy, far preferring empirically-based observation. I like to tell myself that I'm comfortable with the unknown. Got a way to discover something? Great! You do it (or at least describe it so others can do it). Just don't come yammering your certainties at me based exclusively on your own navel gazing. For me, faith is a pasttime, not a means of ordering my world. So why, then, bother to read a book on the philosophy of mind? Well, I do enjoy books which promise to reveal the answers at the back so-to-speak, and this one promised to deliver by recapping the evolution of thought on thought… and the last chapter was supposed to synopsize the state of the art of cognitive neuroscience, so hey, not too shabby. Searle is an extremely elegant writer, who takes extreme care to avoid obfuscating academic mumbo-jumbo and jargon. For example, at page 84, he debunks attempts to dismiss subjectivity as a superficial by-product of organic brain activity with, "There are lots of concepts where the surface features of the phenomena are more interesting than the microstructure. Consider mud or Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Mud behavior is molecular behavior but that is not the interesting thing about mud, so few people are anxious to insist: 'Mud can be reduced to molecular behavior,' though they could if they really wanted to. Similarly with Beethoven…. The music critic who writes, 'All I could hear were wave motions,' has missed the point of the performance." (On that note, what makes going to a performance of Beethoven's Ninth like listening to the ocean? All you can hear are… oh, never mind.) Seriously, Searle can really be a delight to read, and he in fact does deliver on the book's promise to trace (and then debunk) theories of consciousness from Rene Descartes' mind/body dualism to David Chalmers' avowed belief in the existence of a conscious thermostat (cited on p. 104). Personally, I prefer Philip K. Dick's proposition of a pair of happy brown oxford shoes, but hey, to each his own. As Searle defines it, intangibility is the problem of consciousness that has so troubled philosophers through the ages. Pain is intangible. Our perception of color is intangible. My desire to enjoy an oreo-chip hot fudge sundae while nattering on about the way the brain works is intangible (but, I hope, widely-shared nonetheless). While Searle does walk the reader through the various attempts to solve this problem (in the process almost making me care about it), I was immensely disappointed when it came time for him to offer his own solution. I mean here's a self-described philosopher who professes, "It is a logical possibility, though I think extremely unlikely, that when our bodies are destroyed, our souls will go marching on. I have not tried to show that this is an impossibility (indeed, I wish it were true), but rather that it is inconsistent with just about everything else we know about how the universe works and therefore it is irrational to believe in it." (p. 92) That pretty much sums up my world view right there. The problem I have is that Searle moves from this rigorous statement of rationality to one which throws the whole argument out the window. Recall my Searle quote about Beethoven and mud two paragraphs up. Well, it turns out that's the crux of the matter. Searle asserts that consciousness is a nonsuperficial neurobiological by-product. It's just what happens when the nervous system works properly. Sure we don't know why that is, but so what? Just accept it. Don't get me wrong. I agree with this position. It's essentially what I came to this book believing anyway. However, it completely takes the wind out of a book's sails to take great lengths to analyze a concept only to dismiss it out of hand as superfluous and be done with it. I mean, why bother at all? Searle goes on to tackle free will (sort of, he concludes "We really do not know how free will exists in the brain, if it exists at all," at p. 164); how it is that our sense of self can survive unconsciousness (uh, Searle? It's called 'memory,' you can look it up); and the problem of perception (a bubble he bursts on p. 181 with "I think the argument most likely to convince most people in the history of [the subject of how it is that we can see our hand waving in front of our face:] is the argument from science. But in the history of philosophy the argument that has been more influential among philosophers is called the argument from illusion.") Searle goes on of course from here at length with the argument from illusion, but at this point, I'm wholly in the camp of the "most people." I simply couldn't care less. Why does Searle?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    When I read John Searle-- unlike many of the other analytic philosophers-- I get the feeling I'm dealing not with a specialist, but with a broad-ranging and fierce intellect. That being said, he faces what I feel to be the number one problem facing modern analytic philosophy-- a lot of it seems to be a very pointless language game, relying more on misapprehension of definition than anything else. That being said, it is a very good primer on philosophy of mind, and I really do feel that Searle's C When I read John Searle-- unlike many of the other analytic philosophers-- I get the feeling I'm dealing not with a specialist, but with a broad-ranging and fierce intellect. That being said, he faces what I feel to be the number one problem facing modern analytic philosophy-- a lot of it seems to be a very pointless language game, relying more on misapprehension of definition than anything else. That being said, it is a very good primer on philosophy of mind, and I really do feel that Searle's Chinese room concept is a very valuable concept. It's just not ideal. I'm still curious to hear more of the man's ideas.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David Withun

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  6. 5 out of 5

    jeremiah

    Searle, the hobgoblin of philosophy of mind, lets his overly defensive, grating personality shine through in this breezy introduction.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jakob

    This book is John Searle's attempt at giving a brief overview of what he sees as the most pressing questions in the philosophy of mind. The most central issue of them all is to give an account of the nature of consciousness and how it fits into what we know about the world. For Searle, the two most influential ways of answering this problem—dualism and materialism—do not hold water. When it comes to dualism, it's simply not very coherent. It supposes that mind and body are different things altoge This book is John Searle's attempt at giving a brief overview of what he sees as the most pressing questions in the philosophy of mind. The most central issue of them all is to give an account of the nature of consciousness and how it fits into what we know about the world. For Searle, the two most influential ways of answering this problem—dualism and materialism—do not hold water. When it comes to dualism, it's simply not very coherent. It supposes that mind and body are different things altogether, consisting of different types of substance or in different realms if you will. It's hard to find any satisfying account of how these separate realms are able to intersect causally, and it does not jive very well with what we know from modern science: everything points to consciousness being quite inseparable from the physical body—the soul can be altered by surgery, chemicals, a lack of oxygen, or any other influence upon the physical brain. Various forms of materialism, on the other hand, are more fashionable these days, especially among the scientifically minded. There are so many flavors in this group, but the basic premise underlying them is that the world consists entirely of physical particles in fields of force, and nothing over and above this. The mind, being a part of our world, must therefore also be entirely be explainable in these physical terms. So far, so good, right? The problem for Searle is the extent that these views tend to end up in reductionism. Everything is ultimately to be reduced to the lowest level of explanation, and these explanations take the form of third-person ontology. However, it seems quite vividly to us that our consciousness has certain subjective qualities, experiences that have a first-person ontology: there is a certain feel to my experience of the color red right now, for instance. The answer of many radical materialists is to in some way or another explain away this phenomena, often suggesting that it is an illusion. One famous example of this thinking taken to its extreme, and by now the butt of several jokes, is behaviorism. The behaviorists had the idea that the postulation of a mind couldn't be studied at all, and hence it must be disposed of—all there really is, is behavior. In that vein, some philosophers have suggested that consciousness isn't something that really exists, only something we postulate out of convenience for explaining behavior. Searle, in my view correctly, caustically points out that this is as silly as suggesting that feet is only something we postulate for the convenience of explaining our walking behavior. We know very well from our experience that we have both feet and subjective conscious experiences. Searle spends a good deal of time on the somewhat more sophisticated materialist thesis of functionalism, and first and foremost the functionalism that has come to be known as computational theory of mind. Here he also gives an outline and defense of his famous Chinese room argument. I won't go into the details of this discussion But what, then, is Searle's own answer to the problem of the nature of consciousness? The way to proceed is to get rid of some of the old and loaded terminology inherent in the schism between the mental and physical. If you look at the facts of what we know, what we're left with is consciousness being a feature of the brain at the systemic level. As such it is causally reducible to the micro-level behavior of the neurons and neurotransmitters, and so on. However, it is not thereby ontologically reducible to these micro-level explanations—we still have a qualitative, subjective conscious experience that can not be captured in such third-person accounts. Consciousness is a biological feature of the brain at the system-level, much like digestion is a biological feature of the digestive system. Searle calls his view biological naturalism. I think I generally agree with the view that he outlines. However, certain things appear a bit unclear to me. He proposes that the question of how our consciousness functions is to be answered by neurobiology, something I again generally agree with. But while neurobiology will undoubtedly give us plenty of answers to the technical and empirical questions about consciousness, and may do it in a way that doesn't have to deny the fact of our qualitative experiences, won't the explanations in a fundamental sense still be third-person explanations? Even if we were at the point where we could give a full neurobiological account of the functions our brain carries out, wouldn't the so-called hard problem of consciousness still persist to some extent? Perhaps not, I am not sure. Outside of this question, Searle also gives some treatment to topics like intentionality, mental causation, free will, the unconscious, and the self. A prime virtue of the book is his admirably clear writing style. He doesn't seek to obfuscate, but lays out the arguments clearly and logically. I do get the feeling, here as in some of his other work, that he is at times somewhat uncharitable to his opponents, perhaps arguing some straw men, and he does sometimes jump rather quickly to the point of "let's just do it like this, and poof, you see I'm obviously right". Nonetheless, on the whole, I found this to be an accessible and reasoned introduction to some of the most tantalizing questions of contemporary philosophy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pishowi

    While this book was not what I expected nor what the title seems to advertise, I was pleasantly surprised and immensely enjoyed reading it. Based upon the title (and no additional research), I assumed that this book would indeed by "a brief introduction" to the philosophy of mind. I expected something like a "Philosophy of Mind for Dummies" approach as is typical of such books and set out to introduce myself to the topic. Within the first chapter, however, I encountered the lament of the author While this book was not what I expected nor what the title seems to advertise, I was pleasantly surprised and immensely enjoyed reading it. Based upon the title (and no additional research), I assumed that this book would indeed by "a brief introduction" to the philosophy of mind. I expected something like a "Philosophy of Mind for Dummies" approach as is typical of such books and set out to introduce myself to the topic. Within the first chapter, however, I encountered the lament of the author that he is not able to simply inform his students and readers of the truth (as he sees it, though he wouldn't acknowledge that point) but instead must tell them about the other opinions and the history of those opinions. Any introduction that starts that way is no longer an introduction. That said, Searle does, in a sense, and certainly with a great deal of bias, introduce us to many of the most important issues in the philosophy of mind. He does so, of course, in a way that will lead us to his own opinion and, he hopes, convince us of it, but he does introduce nonetheless. Having said all of that, I do think that Searle's approach is a very interesting one that is perhaps one of the best (that is, one with the fewest problems) approaches within philosophy of mind today. He seeks to overcome the historical categories and diametric opposites such as "dualism" and "materialism" and instead posit a sort of "third way" which he views as the common sense approach in between the two extremes. While this is clever and, as I've already said, leads us out of many of the problems of dualism and materialism, I think that it also brings his ideas into an area which suffers from many of the same problems as dualism and materialism. That is, while avoiding certain problems of each philosophy, he has taken on certain problems from both. Overall, this book is an excellent and very readable read (which is saying a lot for a book on the philosophy of mind; "readable" is rarely an apt description for works on such a subject). I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the philosophy of mind and especially anyone who wasn't lost the child's ability to question things that everyone else just takes for granted.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Robert Fischer

    I thought a lot about whether to give this book four or five stars. Ultimately, I am giving it five stars because although the book is superb, it's a strangely written little book. Purportedly, John R. Searle set out to write an "intro to" text on the philosophy of the mind, and this book is that "intro to". Yet the text is not really for a new-comer to the field of cognitive science or philosophy of the mind — although I disagree with pretty much every conclusion and method in the text, I'd sug I thought a lot about whether to give this book four or five stars. Ultimately, I am giving it five stars because although the book is superb, it's a strangely written little book. Purportedly, John R. Searle set out to write an "intro to" text on the philosophy of the mind, and this book is that "intro to". Yet the text is not really for a new-comer to the field of cognitive science or philosophy of the mind — although I disagree with pretty much every conclusion and method in the text, I'd suggest Consciousness Explained as a better book for a new-comer. You probably also want to pick up Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain or The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human to get a good handle on the cognitive science and some of the complexities of the mind's structure. Once you have those books under your belt, this is a superb read, absolutely worth five stars...but it's definitely not the "intro to" that it advertises itself to be, so I'm giving it four stars for its pedagogical fib. It's a cute rhetorical move on Searle's part, but the book is a lot easier to read if you realize it's not what it is making itself out to be. The book starts with recounting Descartes, because that is where both the philosophy of the mind started and where it was placed on the wrong track. Although the temptation for a journeyman philosopher might be to skip this part, don't — Searle's framing of the argument is actually setting up his response to it, so pay careful attention to what it is he is laying out. The bulk of the book lays out and defends Searle's biological naturalism, with the final few chapters turning towards frontiers in Searle's philosophy on the matter. The book was extremely convincing to me (although I was fondly disposed towards him to begin with), excepting Searle's treatment of free will (which even he admits is fragmentary). As a comprehensive overview of the philosophy of mind and Searle's most concise portrayal of his particular take, this book is absolutely superb. Searle argues that we have been using the wrong models of the body and mind, and if we instead refocus our attention on the actual facts of the matter, a lot of the problems simply evaporate. Although that sounds arrogant, the book is actually surprisingly humble, and Searle comes out on a couple of different occasions and outright admits that he does not know the answer to certain questions. All in all, the book is very enjoyable, insightful, and entertaining. It is a kind of "real world" engagement by a philosopher with serious technical chops, which is absolutely wonderful to experience. Definitely read it if you've made it this far into my review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gary Bruff

    This concise work by an important philosopher of language provides a somewhat intriguing but ultimately wrong-headed if not outright dangerous approach to the phenomena of language and cognition. There are many category errors in MIND: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION. I will mention only two. First of all, Searle shares with Chomsky and with most mainstream linguists a certain dogmatic belief. Roughly, this belief is that language is for thinking, and any other reflexes that are enabled by the minds of us This concise work by an important philosopher of language provides a somewhat intriguing but ultimately wrong-headed if not outright dangerous approach to the phenomena of language and cognition. There are many category errors in MIND: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION. I will mention only two. First of all, Searle shares with Chomsky and with most mainstream linguists a certain dogmatic belief. Roughly, this belief is that language is for thinking, and any other reflexes that are enabled by the minds of us rational animals (society, art, religion, economics, law, auto repair, intimacy, family, whatever) are secondary, maybe even wholly derivative and epiphenomenal, to the real purpose, telos, and function of the MIND, which is to stand at the professor's podium and say stuff that sounds good and rational. To suggest that a culture that is expressed by mind(s) and a society that hangs together by mind(s) are solely unintended consequences of the human brain is to admit a clear lack of understanding of humanity's essentially collective and shared existence. We speak because we think, yes, but we more significantly speak because there is someone to talk to. Let that segue to my other point. To treat the mind as a fundamentally autonomous system that controls through our egocentric intentions our other systems ('I want to raise my arm, so I do' is the irrelevant example he continues to return to), or to see the intent of the individual as basic to the mind's functioning, is to reduce the person to a machine, an automaton, a thing. We now know the un-dividable individual is an abstraction of the Bourgeois era, a hyperbolic gesture to the man who is an island, and not anything that can provide the basis for a theory of human nature and cognitive primacy, raising arms or not. If you are interested in the philosophy of language or in logic and pragmatics, don't read this book. If you have any knowledge of hermeneutics or phenomenology, then don't read this book. If you think the social is in many ways the telos of the cognitive, don't read this book. But if you want to learn more about how the mind works, then please, don't read this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris Ziesler

    Searle's book provides an excellent overview to both the history of the philosophy of mind and the current state of understanding of this important area. His primary concern is the philosophical but he never shies away from describing how our philosophical understanding of the mind has to be aligned with and informed by neurobiological understanding and research. What I found most refreshing about Searle's approach was his ability to ground his arguments in everyday experience and common sense. H Searle's book provides an excellent overview to both the history of the philosophy of mind and the current state of understanding of this important area. His primary concern is the philosophical but he never shies away from describing how our philosophical understanding of the mind has to be aligned with and informed by neurobiological understanding and research. What I found most refreshing about Searle's approach was his ability to ground his arguments in everyday experience and common sense. He systematically works his way through a sequence of thorny philosophical topics: the mind-body problem; consciousness; causality; free-will; perception; and provides a sound and well-argued framework to understand why these issues have caused such deep debate between philosophers over the years and the gives his own view as to the best resolution. He is completely candid about where the limits of our current knowledge are and which problems will benefit from more scientific research and which problems need better philosophical research. I found that in the sections dealing with specifically philosophical arguments, for example the section on Intentionality-with-a-t compared with Intensionality-with-an-s, the philosophical vocabulary made the material dense and opaque, but Searle brings back the topic to concrete examples wherever he can which found helpful. One aspect of the book that I found a little disappointing was that Searle only touched very lightly on Artificial Intelligence and the possibility of machine-learning and consciousness. Given that he has been so involved in that debate - see The Chinese Room thought-experiment - I had hoped that he might have included more discussion of this important current topic. Overall, I very much appreciated his style which mixed a comprehensive knowledge of the subject with humor and insight.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Raymond Raad

    The mark of a great thinker is being able to discuss complex issues deeply while using simple language that’s easy to understand. John Searle does that beautifully. He penetrates deeply into the questions in the philosophy of mind, and finds common sense answers to many of them. He has a tendency, like Aristotle, to reject extremes. He rejects dualism as well as materialism. Dualism is easy to refute, but he goes further and refutes even in the more modern form of “property dualism”. He then tur The mark of a great thinker is being able to discuss complex issues deeply while using simple language that’s easy to understand. John Searle does that beautifully. He penetrates deeply into the questions in the philosophy of mind, and finds common sense answers to many of them. He has a tendency, like Aristotle, to reject extremes. He rejects dualism as well as materialism. Dualism is easy to refute, but he goes further and refutes even in the more modern form of “property dualism”. He then turns to materialism in its various types. This is the doctrine that physical particles exist and that all properties must be reducible to these physical particles. In other words, that there are no larger level properties or functions that are not reducible to the level of physical particles. He goes through the types and the problem with them. Then he offers his common sense alternative: that the mind exists with all its functions, that it is material, but not fully reducible. It is brought about by physical properties but the subject experience of it cannot be reduced to those properties. He then goes on to address various other problems in philosophy of mind, using his simple common sense approach. Most fascinating is that he gets at the real problems in the enlightenment and in Hume’s philosophy that have impaired further progress in this area. Their problem was that the thought that people can only perceive sensations rather than real entities. Their other problem (particularly hume’s) was that we can only know about atomistic experiences, and not larger entities and processes that are implied by the experiences we have. I was pleasantly surprised to see him endorse perceptual realism - a position I came to after reading David Kelley’s The Evidence of the Senses.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marts (Thinker)

    I think this is a rather informative overview by Searle, where he highlights mind's uniqueness and the uniqueness of any such attempt at analysis. Here he begins by looking into various existing issues in approaching the philosophy of mind which include materialism, the mind/body problem, explanations on consciousness, intentionality, free will, and mental causation. Searle also considers the place of consciousness in the broader world, where the dualism concept of mind and body being distinct c I think this is a rather informative overview by Searle, where he highlights mind's uniqueness and the uniqueness of any such attempt at analysis. Here he begins by looking into various existing issues in approaching the philosophy of mind which include materialism, the mind/body problem, explanations on consciousness, intentionality, free will, and mental causation. Searle also considers the place of consciousness in the broader world, where the dualism concept of mind and body being distinct comes into play, and then there being views on materialism including functionalism and his Chinese room argument, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera... Views on mind are complicated and possess great depth, I'll advise those with an interest to read the book, its a good introduction and can be downloaded...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael Gallagher

    Stopping at Chapter 4 to potentially be picked up later; Searle starts dipping exclusively into his own theory of mind, which is not really what I want from an introductory PhilMind book. Still, first three chapters are a good history of thought, even if Searle occasionally butts his head in to give his opinion, which isn’t always good (he critiques inferring minds for using argument by analogy but then uses it himself in arguing for animal consciousness, c’mon dude)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steve Adkins

    Excellent. I am reading a lot of philosophy recently and I found his normal language explanations refreshing. Too many philosophers seem to become bogged down in jargon. Whether the intent is to show how much they know, or to obscure what they do not, is not always clear. It seems clear to me that the author is in good command of his material and is honest enough to share with the reader when he is not. Recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dillon

    Very interesting Introduction in the sense that it's scope is primarily the author's accepted, and often quite underdeveloped, theories concerning the parts of discussion. I understand the "brief" nature of the work may have limited to scope of argumentation, but still so many of the arguments were presented with a sense of assurance and common-sense necessity while being poorly developed or even primarily linguistic. If nothing else, this work gives a brief summary of Searle's other work in phil Very interesting Introduction in the sense that it's scope is primarily the author's accepted, and often quite underdeveloped, theories concerning the parts of discussion. I understand the "brief" nature of the work may have limited to scope of argumentation, but still so many of the arguments were presented with a sense of assurance and common-sense necessity while being poorly developed or even primarily linguistic. If nothing else, this work gives a brief summary of Searle's other work in philosophy of mind, and though based on certain phrasings it may seem to be orthogonal to his intention, alleviates you of the need to spend too much time exploring those works..

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stu

    A very readable overview of a selection of philosophical positons. Arguments for or against theories were logical and believable. The author hints to a significant reveal later in the book that is briefer than what I expected based on the hint. An update from the author reflecting latest developments in neurological science and physics would be something I would enjoy.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Zach Galvin

    Three stars is probably a biased review because I'm not a huge philosophy fan. There were some interesting ideas, but I think they could have been better covered in a nice list of bullet points or just as proofs. Three stars is probably a biased review because I'm not a huge philosophy fan. There were some interesting ideas, but I think they could have been better covered in a nice list of bullet points or just as proofs.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I had to read this book for my philosophy class. It wasn’t the best, but it was still easier to understand and more concise than the Kant, Descartes and Hume I had to read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael Dorais

    This was well worth reading. Searle describes his biological naturalism theory of mind while giving a review of other theories of mind which works well as a in introduction to the topic. I read this right after Ryle's Concept of Mind, which although its logical behavioral view left something out he did a good job for helping me to see how what is going on with our mental capacities and activities is nothing other-worldly or fundamentally mysterious, but something that is an integral part of the This was well worth reading. Searle describes his biological naturalism theory of mind while giving a review of other theories of mind which works well as a in introduction to the topic. I read this right after Ryle's Concept of Mind, which although its logical behavioral view left something out he did a good job for helping me to see how what is going on with our mental capacities and activities is nothing other-worldly or fundamentally mysterious, but something that is an integral part of the natural world. Searle's view keeps mind completely grounded as a part of the natural world, without reducing the first person aspect of experience that we already know exists to something that can be described only objectively from the third person (or even view from nowhere) point of view. He rejects Cartesian dualism and identifies it as a source of a series of mistakes in theories of mind, with the non-problem of how mind and body, in completely separate domains interact, or one side doesn't exist in dualism, idealism, materialism. Quote from Page 113: " I will state biological naturalism about consciousness as a set of four theses: 1. Conscious states, with their subjective, first person ontology, are real phenomena in the real world. We cannot do an eliminative reduction of consciousness, showing that it is just an illusion. Nor can we reduce consciousness to its neurobiological basis, because such a third-person reduction would leave out the first-person ontology of consciousness. 2. Conscious states are entirely caused by lower level neurobiological processes in the brain. conscious states are thus causally reducible to neurobilogical processes. They have absolutely no life of their own, indpendent of the neurobiology. Causally speaking, they are not something "over and above" neurobiological processes. 3. Conscious states are realized in the brain as features of the brain system, and thus exist at a level higher than that of neurons and synapses. Individual neurons are not consious, but portions of the brain system composed of neurons are conscious. 4.Because conscious states are real features of the real world, they function causally. My consious thirst causes me to drink water for example. " Note how he distinguishes between ontological reduction vs. causal reduction. Searle includes a chapter on Intentionality, sometimes described as that characteristic of mental properties to be about something, which is a good introduction to the subject. He outlines the structure of intentionality in terms of: 1. propositional content and psychological mode (belief, fear, hope, desire, perception, memory, intention in action, prior intention), 2. direction of fit (in terms of how the intentional state is related to the world, in terms if what needs to fit what, mind vs. world, to succeed), 3. conditions of satisfaction, and 4. Causal self-referentiality (whether the intential state stands on its own vs. needing to be appropriately caused by something in the world). 5. Direction of causation. He also briefly explains the often confused intentionality-with-a-t vs. intensionality-with-an-s. Searle devotes a chapter to mental causation in which he sees the mental causation as involving higher level system features that are mental involving intentionality, reasons, and are experienced in the first person view that are nevertheless realized by lower level neurobiological causes. In the chapter on perception Searle argues against the sense-datum theory and for direct realism. Although Searle admits to not providing a full explanation, I think he rightly takes the view that there are fundamental features of mental existences that cannot be dismissed by attempts philosophical theories that insist on the exclusive existence of the objective third person phenomena, or by scientific discoveries. Instead he places the mental existences as a part of the natural world. I see no reason why advances in scientific discoveries will shed increasing light on what is going on at the neurological level that have the kind of content richness that permit it to realize the real first person experience we already know to exist. Be forewarned though. As you read this you may be annoyed by his repeated using of his voting for Bush in examples as well has is subtle jabs at left political views. Being a "lefty" myself, I survived that and was able to improve my understanding of mind with what I think is a better place on which to build.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mac

    This is a fairly seductive book, in that it guides a reader very stealthily into fairly gnarly philosophical and scientific territory, all the while maintaining the voice of an old codger at the bar. If you’re so inclined, Searle uses this and a few others of his books as the primary texts for his Philosophy 132 course at UC Berkely, which is available as a podcast from iTunes U. Free & stuff. A library card and an iPod will get you a free class at Berkely. Just saying. Anyway, Searle’s theories This is a fairly seductive book, in that it guides a reader very stealthily into fairly gnarly philosophical and scientific territory, all the while maintaining the voice of an old codger at the bar. If you’re so inclined, Searle uses this and a few others of his books as the primary texts for his Philosophy 132 course at UC Berkely, which is available as a podcast from iTunes U. Free & stuff. A library card and an iPod will get you a free class at Berkely. Just saying. Anyway, Searle’s theories – folksy though the telling may be – are well within the analytic tradition, though they tend to rely on scientific knowledge as much as logic. Which, really, is fair – since biology undoubtedly has something to do with the mind (in that, when the biology goes away, so does the mind). His main point, that consciousness is an organic process in the brain, much like digestion is a process in the stomach and intestines, is hard to refute and seems correct. He describes this theory in what he believes is stark relief to both materialism (monism) and Cartesian dualism, but I think he’s much more of a materialist than he believes he is. Because, if consciousness is a biological process in the brain, how is that different than saying that a mental state is concordant with a physical state (of neurons) in the brain? That’s a theory he outright rejects, though his version doesn’t seem particularly different, just differently phrased. He argues that proponents of that theory – functionalism, if I recall correctly, though I’m sure I’m getting it mixed up with some other of the 20,000 “isms” he refutes – are describing epiphenomenalism, where two phenomena are occurring simultaneously but aren’t connected – but there’s no reason for that. His analogy to solidity or liquidity is very helpful: the solidity of a substance can be described as a way that the molecules of said substance are interacting with one another (spinning in a lattice structure, apparently, though I might be getting my physics wrong), but that doesn’t mean that the macro-level solidness – ability to hold things up, impenetrable by other objects – is gone, we’re just looking at two different viewpoints. So it is with the brain – consciousness, as we experience it, is a macro-level process that exists via micro-level processes in the brain. So that all is simple enough. It may not quite be the revolutionary answer to the mind-body problem that he thinks it is, but it does simplify things immensely. His discussion of intentionality follows from this, and is fairly straightforward and plausible, though I’m not sure I come away knowing the difference between intentionality and intensionality, though I at least know that I don’t know it. His accounts of perception are less intuitive, and I’m not sure I’m on board here. He spends a great deal of time refuting the idealists, who believe that people only have access to the contents of their own minds – ideas, hence idealism. But his framing of this way of thinking seems incorrect – as he puts it, idealists of any stripe (phenomenologists, solipsists, transcendentalists, etc.) are making a mistake of grammar, equating the content of a perceptual experience with the direct object of that experience because of grammar. I don’t think it’s this simple, and I think his outlining of the opposing view is oversimplified as well. This may just be a Continental/analytical split, and I’m coming down on the side of the Germans, but I’m not sure his refutation is as strong as he thinks it is, nor is his counter-explanation particularly persuasive. Still, this is an interesting book that gets fairly technical, but only to a point. I was not a philosophy major and only took one class in college, but I feel like I could keep up fairly well and only had to resort to Google once or twice. While it doesn’t answer as many questions as it thinks it does, the book still does move us forward in an important way to understanding how the mind works, and exactly what it is.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael Holm

    The author argues that moral debates are interminable because there is no consensus about community goals nor is there a moral framework or priority list. It is necessary to restore teleology to the moral discussion and advocates a return to Aristotle's telos. He argues that the emotivists are incorrect, that our values can be based upon human needs. He considers five moral traditions which are personified by Homer, Aristotle, the New Testament, Jane Austen and Benjamin Franklin. Homer's values The author argues that moral debates are interminable because there is no consensus about community goals nor is there a moral framework or priority list. It is necessary to restore teleology to the moral discussion and advocates a return to Aristotle's telos. He argues that the emotivists are incorrect, that our values can be based upon human needs. He considers five moral traditions which are personified by Homer, Aristotle, the New Testament, Jane Austen and Benjamin Franklin. Homer's values everyone doing what is required by their role in society. Aristotle values the polis and the citizen striving for the good of the city-state. The New Testament values hope for a better life in the future. Jane Austen's goal was an improved marriage for women. Ben Franklin valued success and prosperity using the utilitarian system. These are shown to be inadequate except for the New Testament which is not fully considered in this book. The modern problem is that the nation-states currently existing contain too many different cultures to make consensus on a goal for the nation-state possible. The idea that morals are based upon communities rather than individuals has merit. This book is an erudite and sensitive discussion of virtue-centered morals. There are many thoughtful observations and criticisms offered. His writing suffers from very complicated sentences which slows the reader down. It is rather defensive, perhaps due to a familiarity with current discussions. After Virture merits its reputation but I didn't see a viable solution to the described disarray in moral philosophy and politics. If anyone does see a solution in this book, please leave a comment. In summary, this is a very worth-while book to read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tom Pepper

    Nothing really new here. There are better introductions to the philosophy of mind (Feser's for example). I enjoy introductions that don't pretend to objectivity, and Searle does present his "solution" to the big problems. But they all just assert the problem is a false one, and assert the existence of the things that philosophy is meant to explain. For instance, he solves the problem of consciousness and free will by simply asserting that, pace Hume, we simply have a "capacity" for self-directed Nothing really new here. There are better introductions to the philosophy of mind (Feser's for example). I enjoy introductions that don't pretend to objectivity, and Searle does present his "solution" to the big problems. But they all just assert the problem is a false one, and assert the existence of the things that philosophy is meant to explain. For instance, he solves the problem of consciousness and free will by simply asserting that, pace Hume, we simply have a "capacity" for self-directed action, over and above our bodies and experiences. He insists this closes the explanatory gap, but doesn't say how. It seems to me to be just begging the question. Same things with the assertions that consciousness can't be reduced to brain states--he insists that it is identical with brain states, but that it can't be "reduced" to them. It isn't clear, other than his repeated invocation of the phrase "first person ontology," exactly how something can be identical to something else in every way but not reducible to it. What advantage, other than making us feel better, does this refusal of reduction offer? Others agree that consciousness is not reducible, but they generally offer an explanation for what it can do that mere brain state can't, and try to explain why it can do those things. In short, the book is a bit frustrating, because he mostly just asserts that he has an answer, and then simply begs the question.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Strangely, I'd recommend it less as an introductory text than one to [quickly] read if you are already deeply interested in the philosophical problems of the mind. We all know, those of us who are captivated by this stuff, that there is a whole lot of bullshit in this subfield of Philosophy. But a lot of that bullshit is cleverly presented. Here, Searle cleverly dismantles much of this clever bullshitting. His own theory of the mind is not one I agree with, but it is essentially as convincing as Strangely, I'd recommend it less as an introductory text than one to [quickly] read if you are already deeply interested in the philosophical problems of the mind. We all know, those of us who are captivated by this stuff, that there is a whole lot of bullshit in this subfield of Philosophy. But a lot of that bullshit is cleverly presented. Here, Searle cleverly dismantles much of this clever bullshitting. His own theory of the mind is not one I agree with, but it is essentially as convincing as any other that I've read. The high rating may seem out of order when you compare this with some of the other texts with four star ratings on my Philosophy shelf. Nothing less feels right, however. This is a great book. It's deft and well-written and precise. Just know going in that it's not an introductory text, an anthology, or really a philosophical work in itself. It's something in the middle of all that. And as such maybe not so useful as an introduction, but totally impressive in its own little category.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jerrod

    As a skeptic reading into the philosophy of mind I can understand that the skeptical questions cannot be 'acknowledged.' Skepticism really needs it's own area of philosophy or nearly no recognition at all... there is not much room for a middle ground. So I do my best to move beyond my doubts and read the dogmatic works of authors 'wiser' than I. I enjoy Searle and find most often his opinions are not hidden, but displayed for all to see. Perhaps that goes to far, but I really can't stand reading As a skeptic reading into the philosophy of mind I can understand that the skeptical questions cannot be 'acknowledged.' Skepticism really needs it's own area of philosophy or nearly no recognition at all... there is not much room for a middle ground. So I do my best to move beyond my doubts and read the dogmatic works of authors 'wiser' than I. I enjoy Searle and find most often his opinions are not hidden, but displayed for all to see. Perhaps that goes to far, but I really can't stand reading opinionated pieces that have the inclination to hide opinion as fact. The truth of the matter is that so much of the philosophy of Mind is predicated on assumptions. Searle does well to place the philosophies and theories out for one to judge. Though opinion and assumptions are underlying characteristics most are necessary to moving on beyond skepticism.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    Searle attempts to summarize the current state of philosophy of mind as well as expound his own views in 240 very small pages. He does an admiral job of accomplishing the first goal and does a serviceable job on the second. Since this is a "brief introduction" I suppose detail must be left out somewhere, but at least a couple times I found myself puzzled by what Searle meant in expositions of solutions that he seems to think are crystal clear. It helps to have some background in philosophy to fo Searle attempts to summarize the current state of philosophy of mind as well as expound his own views in 240 very small pages. He does an admiral job of accomplishing the first goal and does a serviceable job on the second. Since this is a "brief introduction" I suppose detail must be left out somewhere, but at least a couple times I found myself puzzled by what Searle meant in expositions of solutions that he seems to think are crystal clear. It helps to have some background in philosophy to follow his arguments, but reading this work could also serve as a reasonable first step into analytic philosophy in general. Many of the questions and examples that arise in epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science, and ontology are addressed in some way here.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Micha

    While reading theory for my class on cognitive linguistics I saw Searle in the citations and grew curious. Was it the same Searle that I picked from the shelf at random? There was once a mystique to this Searle fellow, producing books of good introductory philosophy with excellent cover art that could change the way a girl thinks about thought. It's strange to be in an environment where my professor is an associate of Searle's. I'm still being introduced to this world of academia. I remember bein While reading theory for my class on cognitive linguistics I saw Searle in the citations and grew curious. Was it the same Searle that I picked from the shelf at random? There was once a mystique to this Searle fellow, producing books of good introductory philosophy with excellent cover art that could change the way a girl thinks about thought. It's strange to be in an environment where my professor is an associate of Searle's. I'm still being introduced to this world of academia. I remember being struck in particular when Searle discussed solipsism, which seemed to reflect ideas I thought might be individual to me, or which I thought of but didn't have a word for. This is quite a good little project though the closing distance between Searle and myself is the oddest thing.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This is a great overview of many/most/all significant issues related to philosophy of mind, written by one of the giants of the field. Detailed discussions of consciousness and selfhood were among two of the book's numerous highlights. Oddly enough, this became my bathroom book for a time. Read in that context, "dualism" took on a whole new meaning! This is a philosophy book, which means it can be rather slow-going at times on account of the complicated arguments found therein. This complexity, co This is a great overview of many/most/all significant issues related to philosophy of mind, written by one of the giants of the field. Detailed discussions of consciousness and selfhood were among two of the book's numerous highlights. Oddly enough, this became my bathroom book for a time. Read in that context, "dualism" took on a whole new meaning! This is a philosophy book, which means it can be rather slow-going at times on account of the complicated arguments found therein. This complexity, coupled with the book's location bowl-side, meant it took me some time to get all the way through to the end. Now, did I mention that I haven't left my bathroom for the last six months? - HM

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    This might be more accurately sub-titled as "A Brief Introduction to Searle's Thought." I cannot fault him for wanting to promote what he feels is the correct philosophy of mind, but you'll only get a taste of the dissenting opinions. Regardless, I do feel his analysis is correct for the most part. However, I can't help but feel that western philosophical approaches to the mind are misguided in trying to force rigid categories onto our experience. Early on, Searle argues that much of our difficu This might be more accurately sub-titled as "A Brief Introduction to Searle's Thought." I cannot fault him for wanting to promote what he feels is the correct philosophy of mind, but you'll only get a taste of the dissenting opinions. Regardless, I do feel his analysis is correct for the most part. However, I can't help but feel that western philosophical approaches to the mind are misguided in trying to force rigid categories onto our experience. Early on, Searle argues that much of our difficulty comes from the traditional (from Descartes) and misguided division between "mental" and "physical."

  30. 4 out of 5

    J

    This is a very engaging book about the philosophy of mind. The most interesting idea of the book is that consciousness is a "property" of our brain, much like magnetic field can be a property of metal, or "wave" can be a property of a flock of birds. There is one problem though: this doesn't explain the free will, at least in my view. The author also writes that he doesn't know of a sufficient explanation of free will. The problem can be roughly put as: can the property affect the objects that c This is a very engaging book about the philosophy of mind. The most interesting idea of the book is that consciousness is a "property" of our brain, much like magnetic field can be a property of metal, or "wave" can be a property of a flock of birds. There is one problem though: this doesn't explain the free will, at least in my view. The author also writes that he doesn't know of a sufficient explanation of free will. The problem can be roughly put as: can the property affect the objects that caused it? After the free will section, I believe the book is rather uninteresting, because there is always the "free will gap" in the logic, which I couldn't ignore.

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