(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
The book provides (yet another)
summary of Searle's philosophical investigations.
Consciousness is one more time at center stage, and Searle repeats his mantra: consciousness cannot be reduced to the neurophysiological processes that cause it, but it is a biological feature of the brain.
Brains cause minds, although we will not find feelings and emotions in the material processes of the brain, because feelings and emotions are higher-order features of the brain. Searle reiterates his attack against the Cartesian tradition: both dualism and materialism make no sense. The division of the world into matter and spirit is arbitrary and counterproductive. We simply have to face the facts: consciousness is caused by brain processes, but consciousness cannot be reduced to those brain processes because it is a "first person" phenomenon and the brain processes are "third person" phenomena. To Searle, the mind-body problem has never existed: Descartes invented a vocabulary, a terminology, not a real problem.
Searle compares the mind-body problem to explaining how electricity arises from electrons. This is what the school of "supervenience" has always claimed, even if Searle always omits the term.
Searle realizes that Physics can explain how the features of electricity correspond to the features of electrons, whereas we can't explain (yet) how the features of consciousness arise from the features of neurons. For reasons that are not completely clear, Searle decides that it is not just a fact of today's neurophysiology (likely to change with time), but that this will always be the case, that it is impossible to provide a material explanation of the features of consciousness. Searle thus ends up contradicting himself and admitting a crucial difference between consciousness and electricity or liquidity or digestion: consciousness is special in that it cannot be explained. He seems to invoke McGinn's principle that consciousness cannot be grasped my humans, no matter how hard they try.
What he misses is that electricity, liquidity and so forth are also aspects of our consciousness and not aspects of matter. A being with different senses would perceive the features of electrons in a different way. Electricity, liquidity and so forth are much more similar to consciousness than Searle realizes: they are the same thing.
Searle also discusses intentinality (again, grounded in a biological definition) and speech acts.