Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review of The Rediscovery of the Mind by John Searle

John Searle--presently at Berkeley--wrote The Rediscovery of the Mind back in 1992. The book attempts to explain how the philosophy of mind has gone wrong in the last century or so and how Searle thinks it can be corrected. In this review, I'll argue that Searle's criticisms of popular forms of materialism are persuasive, that his criticisms of dualism are thinly developed, and that his own proposal--biological naturalism--is conceptually flawed.

I will begin with contemporary materialism. Searle levels a pretty serious offensive against materialist theories of mind in the first half of the book or so. Versions of materialism have been dominating the philosophy of mind (and much of academic philosophy generally) for the bulk of the 20th century and into the 21st, so Searle's going against the grain here was no way to guarantee popularity with his contemporaries. Searle is confident in his position though, and says with characteristic candor, "How is it that so many philosophers and cognitive scientists can say so many things that, to me at least, seem obviously false?" (p.3).