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John Searle

John Searle

John Searle


John Rogers Searle (born July 31, 1932 in Denver, Colorado) is the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is widely noted for contributions to the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind, and for his views on practical reason and the characteristics of socially constructed versus physical realities. He was awarded the Jean Nicod Prize and the Jovellanos Prize in 2000, and the National Humanities Medal in 2004. Read more on Last.fm
John Rogers Searle (born July 31, 1932 in Denver, Colorado) is the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is widely noted for contributions to the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind, and for his views on practical reason and the characteristics of socially constructed versus physical realities. He was awarded the Jean Nicod Prize and the Jovellanos Prize in 2000, and the National Humanities Medal in 2004. Contents [hide] Biography Aside from strict academics, Professor Searle was also the first tenured professor to join the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley. He later published a book on the subject, The Campus War: A Sympathetic Look At the University in Agony (1971). He frequently comments on philosophical and political topics for the New York Review of Books.

A collection of his reviews on the topic of consciousness was collected as The Mystery of Consciousness (1997). Searle was educated at Christ Church, Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He often publishes under the name "J. R. Searle." Philosophy Speech acts and their illocutionary force Searle's early work, which to a great extent established his reputation as a estimable philosopher, was on speech acts.

It built upon the efforts of his Oxford teachers J. L. Austin and P. F.

Strawson. In particular Searle's Speech Acts sets out to develop Austin's analysis of illocutionary acts, acts performed in saying something, as exposed in How To Do Things with Words. In Searle's analysis the sentences (Searle 1969, 22) Sam smokes habitually. Does Sam smoke habitually? Sam, smoke habitually! Would that Sam smoked habitually. each have the same propositional content, Sam smoking, yet they differ in their illocutionary force, respectively a statement, a question, a command and an expression of desire. Searle originally assumes that the illocutionary forces of a sentence consists in the subjection of this sentence to certain specifiable rules. These rules set out the circumstances under which it is admissible to utter the sentence, and what this uttering counts as.

Searle assumes four general categories of such rules: propositional content, preparatory conditions, sincerity condition, and general intent. In order to provide an account of the illocutionary forces to which sentences are supposed to be subject, he sets out to develop an account of "illocutionary acts" in three steps (see Searle 1969, 54): (a) to provide an analysis of the act type of promising, assuming that it is a prototypical example of such an "illocutionary act"; (b) to test the categories used in this analysis in application to other (supposed) "illocutionary act types"; (c) finally, to define what "illocutionary acts" are supposed to be in terms of those categories which apply to each of these types. It is, however, not easy to see where step 3 is supposed to be executed (see Searle 1969, chapter 3). Furthermore, it can be asked whether there is any hope to proceed along the lines of this program at all; at least, according to Searle's own analysis, hardly one of the categories applied in the analysis of promising does apply to each and every illocutionary act type (see Searle 1969, 64 ff.). According to Searle's original account in 'Speech Acts', illocutionary acts involve the production of conventional consequences, such as rights, duties, and obligations. In the view he adopts, these conventional consequences are constituted by those rules which make up the meaning of a sentence indicating the performance of the act.

Thus, when I state that Napoleon died at Elba by saying "Napoleon died at Elba" then I thereby commit myself to the truth of the proposition that Napoleon died at Elba; and the commitment I undertake is constituted by the meaning of the English sentence "Napoleon died at Elba". One might object that I can make the same statement without using a sentence indicating the performance of the act: against this Searle argues with reference to what he calls the "principle of expressibility", which says that whatever is meant might as well have been said. According to Searle, illocutionary acts typically have some specifiable propositional content. For instance, a request that Bill leave the room will have as its content 'that Bill leaves the room'. Some illocutions have no propositional content, e.g.

greeting someone. Certain background conditions are necessary for the success of illocutionary acts, many of which are characteristic for certain types. For instance, to successfully perform a request, it is necessary that the hearer be able to perform the requested action and that the speaker believe that the hearer can perform the action. For a greeting to be successful, the hearer and the speaker will have either just met or just been introduced. Searle called these preparatory conditions. Illocutionary acts can be insincere.

In order, for example, for a statement to be performed sincerely it is necessary that the person performing it believes herself that what she is stating is true; and in order to sincerely ask a question, the speaker has to want the answer. Searle called this the sincerity condition. Sincerity it is not necessary for the mere occurrence of the act, but if insincerity is present the act is "defective". According to Searle, each illocution can be described in terms of, either what the utterance counts as, or what the speaker is attempting to do in issuing it. So an assertion counts as a commitment to the truth of the content; a question counts as an attempt to elicit some information.

Thanking someone counts as an expression of gratitude. This assumed intent of the speaker became a prime focus in Searle’s later work. Searle's speech-act theory has been challenged by several thinkers, and in a variety of ways. A wide-ranging critique is in F C Doerge Illocutionary Acts.[1] Whole collections of articles referring to Searle's account are: Burkhardt 1990[2] and Lepore / van Gulick 1991.[3] See also Jacques Derrida 'Limited Inc'[4] and, in (brief) reply, Searle 'The Construction of Social Reality'.[5] Intentionality and the intentional Background Searle next generalised this rules-based description of illocutionary force, treating it as a specific case of intentionality. (Intentionality is a technical philosophical term meaning aboutness, indicating that someone has attached some meaning to an object, such as a belief about it, possession of it, contempt towards it, and so on.

It includes, but is somewhat larger than, the ordinary use of intention). He focuses on a property of intentional phenomena called their direction of fit.[6] For example, when one sees a flower, one's mental state is made to fit with the state of the world. The direction of fit is mind-to-world. But if one raises one's hand to pick the flower, one is aiming to make the world fit with one's mental state.

So the direction of fit is world-to-mind. He also introduces a technical term, [the] Background,[7] which has been the source of some philosophical discussion. Roughly speaking it is the context within which an intentional act occurs, and in particular contains all that is presupposed by that act. Importantly, it includes the actor's understanding of the world, including that others can and do participate in intentional activities. (There is a parallel here with Wittgenstein's Private language argument; Searle has also said "the work of the later Wittgenstein is in large part about the Background, especially On Certainty"[8]). To give an example, two chess players might be engaged in a bitter struggle at the board, but they share all sorts of Background presuppositions: that they will take turns to move, that no-one else will intervene, that they are both playing to the same rules, that the fire alarm won't go off, that the board won't suddenly disintegrate, that their opponent won't magically turn into a grapefruit, and so on indefinitely.

As most of these possibilites won't have occurred to either player,[9] Searle thinks the Background must be unconscious, though elements of it can be called to consciousness (if the fire alarm does go off, say). Strong AI John Searle is very well known for his development of a thought experiment, called the "Chinese room" argument, directed against what he calls "strong AI". He sets out to show that human thought is not simply computation. The point of his argument is that a computational process in itself does not imply an 'understanding' of events and processes. Simply put, Searle tries to show that we can imagine entities that do not 'understand' things like a language, but nevertheless can process such information as, e.g., linguistic signs. There has been a great deal of controversy over the examples he uses to demonstrate this.

In his "Chinese room argument", Searle describes a scenario in which a person is isolated in a room. The individual receives pieces of paper marked with Chinese characters from under the door. Even though the person does not understand Chinese, if there is a formal sorting process for the characters then they can be filed into a meaningful order. The room is supposed to be an analogy for a computer.

Those who argue the point say that the analogy should hold for the entire brain. They maintain that "a person's understanding of Chinese is an emergent property of the brain and not a property possessed by any one part."[10] The argument should perhaps be viewed as part of a broader positive position on the issue of the relations of mind and body. Searle opposes both dualism and reductionism in favor of a position he calls "biological naturalism." This view characterizes consciousness as an emergent phenomenon of the organism that is an entirely physical property (analogous to the way the pressure of gas in a container is an emergent property of many gas molecules colliding). While there may very well be machine designs that are conscious the way humans are (indeed, he points out that humans are "one such machine"), his point is that this consciousness does not arise per se out of the information interchange within the brain itself.

A mechanical device that operated identically to the human brain would not necessarily produce a conscious mind. Intentionality lies at the heart of Searle's Chinese Room argument against artificial intelligence which proposes that since minds have intentionality, but computational processes do not, minds cannot be intentional in virtue of carrying out computations. The whole point of the Chinese Room is to expound on the point that syntax does not imply semantics; in Searle's words: t's ludicrously simple. Minds are defined by the possession of mental phenomena -- consciousness, intentionality. Computer operations are defined syntactically, in terms of formal symbol manipulation.

And that's neither sufficient by itself for, nor constitutive of, consciousness. ... The funny thing is that in all these years nobody's got that point. [2] Ontological vs epistemic subjectivity Searle calls factual judgements 'epistemically objective' and value judgements 'epistemically subjective'.[11] In both cases the contrasting qualifier is 'ontological'.

The following examples will illustrate this: A. "McKinley is higher than Everest" B. "McKinley looks higher than Everest (to me)" C. "McKinley looks prettier than Everest (to me)" D.

"McKinley really is prettier than Everest" B and C should be construed as reporting the speaker's sense data, so they will be true if the speaker is telling the truth about how things seem to them. Hence B might be true even though its propositional content (A) is false, and C might be true even though its propositional content (D) is a value judgement. A scientist can refute A by measuring both mountains, whereas to refute B and C they could at best try administering a lie-detector test or a brain-scan on the speaker. To use Searle's terminology,[12] the actual heights of mountains have an objective ontology, but someone's impressions of their heights (or prettiness) have a subjective ontology. So scientific investigation of D may not be possible at all, because D makes an (ontologically) objective claim about an (epistemically) subjective judgement. Searle thinks his proposed senses of 'objective/subjective' are crucial to neurology: "The fact that many people have back pains, for example, is an objective fact of medical science...but the mode of existence of these pains is subjective".[13] In a notoriously ill-tempered exchange in the New York Review of Books,[14] Searle accused Daniel Dennett[15] of excluding back pains from the data of science because of a mistaken view that science requires (ontologically) objective data, whereas in Searle's view[16] it is merely necessary to analyse data with (epistemic) objectivity.

Hence, a science that excludes subjective data will be incomplete. This view is highly controversial. Social intentionality Searle provides a strong theoretical basis for the application of intentionality in a social context (see Intentionality, above). In Collective intentions and actions Searle seeks to explain collective intentions as a distinct form of intentionality. In his previous work he has provided rules-based accounts of language and intentionality.

He develops this theme by looking for a set of rules that are essential for collective intentionality. Searle supports this analysis with five theses. The first three are: 1. Collective intentional behaviour exists, and is not the same as the summation of individual intentional behaviour. 2. Collective intentions cannot be reduced to individual intentions. 3.

The preceding two theses are consistent with two constraints: a. Society consists of nothing but individuals; there is no such thing as group mind or group consciousness. b. Individual or group intentionality is independent of the truth or falsehood of the beliefs of the individual. In order to satisfy these theses, Searle develops a notation for collective intentionality that links an individual intention with a collective one, but keeps the two types of intentions distinct. In effect, an individual intention can have as its outcome a collective intention.

Forming a collective intention presupposes that one understands that others can participate in the intention. Therefore: 4. Collective intentionality presupposes a Background sense of the other as a social actor – as being able to participate in collective activities. Together, these theses lead to the claim that: 5. The theory of intentionality, together with the notion of a Background, are able to explain collective intentionality. Constructing social reality Searle has more recently applied his analysis of intentionality to social constructs.

His interest is in the way in which certain aspects of our world come into being as a result of the combined intentionality of those who make use of them. For example, a five dollar note is a five dollar note only in virtue of collective intentionality. It is only because I think it is worth five dollars and you think it is worth five dollars that it can perform its economic function. This is entirely independent of the supposed role of the government in backing the value of its currency.

Imagine a case in which you were attempting to make a purchase from someone who did not recognise the value of the note. Until you can convince them of its value, all you have is a coloured piece of paper. Such socially constructed objects permeate our lives. The language we use, ownership of property and relations with others depend fundamentally on such implicit intentionalities.

Searle extends his analysis of social reality to the creation of institutions such as marriage and universities. He claims that the value of the five dollar note and the institution of a university are created by the function of three fundamental primitives: collective intentionality, the assignment of function, and constitutive rules. Searle’s approach to social construction is quite distinct and divergent from those who would suggest that there is no such thing as a mind-independent reality – that what we call reality is a social construct. Towards the end of The Construction of Social Reality Searle presents an argument for realism. His arguments are not for the social construction of reality but rather construction of social reality--that is, a five dollar note really is a five dollar note, but for reasons that have nothing to do with its physics.

He claims that "all of social reality has a logical structure and that structure is linguistically constituted" in a paper titled Social Reality and Linguistic Representation. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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