John Searle:

Home | The whole bibliography | My book on Consciousness

(Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

The book collects essays, or, better, reviews of other people's books. By definition, it is a rather fragmentary work that fails to provide an organic view of Searle's theory of consciousness (his "biological naturalism"). Mostly, Searle argues against everybody else for the sake of arguing (something he can do very well). Mostly, he debunks the hot theories of the decade.

The reader does not gain any insight into consciousness, learn any new developments of the field, or comprehend Searle's overally idea. Other than his proverbial "brains cause minds" (See my critique of that view). Hence Searle believes that we will understand consciousness when we understand in detail how the brain does it. I don't think so. I think this is very similar to claiming that a blind neurologist will feel "red" when she knows every detail of how the brain processes colors.

His views on Artificial Intelligence are more obscure than ever. Searle became famous when he attacked the very notion of an "intelligent machine" with his "Chinese room" thought experiment, basically arguing that a machine that behaves like a human being would not know that it is behaving like a human being and therefore not be truly "intelligent". However, he now says that he never wanted to deny the possibility of building intelligent (and conscious) machines. He does not claim that the stuff of the brain is necessary but simply sufficient to yield consciousness. Well, every person knows that: my brain is sufficient to be what i am. The real question is whether it is also necessary: is there any other thing that could be like i am? It turns out that Searle never had an answer for the real question. He only attacks an odd statement (without quoting who ever claimed it) that every computer program would automatically constitute a mind. Searle seems to imply that both Dennett and Chalmers accept this extreme view of any computer program being a mind, but i don't remember reading this in their work.

I think his biggest mistake is to dismiss Chalmers' theory and panpsychism in general as "absurd". In my opinion, it is actually the only theory of consciousness that makes logical sense. Quote: "We know too much about how the world works to take this view seriously as a scientific hypothesis". He won't be alive decades from now to deeply regret he ever wrote these words. He himself writes: "If you were designing a machine to produce consciousness, who would think of a hundred billion neurons". Doesn't that prove that we know very little (not "too much") about how the world works?

One sentence stands out in this book and it's at the very beginning: "Future generations, I suspect, will wonder why it took us so long in the twentieth century to see the centrality of consciousness in the understanding of our very existence".

TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi

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