[Editor’s Note: Here’s a guest post from Evan Gould, who was good enough to record the second discussion of the Not School Philosophy of Mind group for your pleasure. Go sign up to be a PEL Citizen so you can listen to the discussion now.]
Within roughly the first half of his 2004 book Mind: A Brief Introduction, John Searle provides a sweeping overview of the progression of the philosophy of mind from Descartes’s Substance Dualism, through developing stages of thought characterized by various facets of Materialism, and onto his own view: Property Dualism… No. Wait. Scratch that. Searle is not a Property Dualist. He’s even written a paper emphatically stating as much. He is a Biological Naturalist.
Biological Naturalism is the term Searle uses to describe his own approach to the philosophy of mind, and it is the one and only ‘ism’ he is willing to subscribe to. This approach sees mind as a sort of “surface feature” which manifests itself in the brain only macroscopically; though it’s existence and activity are completely causally explained by neurobiological activity. He maintains his view by asserting Causal Reduction of Mind to Brain, yet denying Ontological Reduction.
In our initial discussions of this book, the Philosophy of Mind Not School group grappled with and attempted to divine the sense in which Searle conceives of the division between first-person ontologies and third-person ontologies, without allowing for metaphysically distinct ontological realms.
In a recent conversation involving Bill Burgess, Alan Cook, Steven Lindsay, Daniel Cole, and myself, there was a general consensus that Searle does not seem to put forth enough effort to convince the reader that he has done the work necessary to settle mind-body problems (at least in this book). The assertions made by the author are presented more like foundational axioms than as hard won syntheses.
Among other topics touched upon were whether or not sunsets are driven into non-existence with reductive explanation, whether or not Alan’s robot will experience preference for light given it’s behavior, and more importantly we dive into Searle’s raison d’être: Intentionality, and why it’s important.