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Book Review – Mind, Language And Society: John Searle

May 28, 2019

Mind, Language And Society: Philosophy In The Real WorldMind, Language And Society: Philosophy In The Real World by John Rogers Searle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thought-provoking account, and nice to see a philosopher willing to make an attempt at synthesis and provide an overall world view, rather than hiding safe in technical details and rabbit holes. I am not convinced that this provides the answers, but I think it could possibly orientate us more in the right direction. Affective neuro science and its recent advances could be seen for instance to be an extension of this more considered approach of how the mind is related to the brain and the human organism.

It is an easy temptation to create a dichotomy between mind and matter on some ground, but maybe his approach in this book of keeping it open when we have these dichotomies and not coming down on one side but delaying judgment could be a good approach. I think there are a few gaps in his account in relation to how we get from the physical ontology of matter in motion to intentionality for instance. I also don’t have his same trust in this scientific ontology combined with contingently related phenomena through random natural selection. I think we can accept the preeminence of realism without being committed to this ontology, which to be frank represents a kind of late 19th century scientific vision of ontology more than it does current science or any other thing.

So I see no reason why we could not question this as our basis on many grounds. Still, with the premises Searle chooses to work from, he follows it through very reasonably and consistently and comes up with some interesting concepts along the way. The notion of direction of fit, in speech acts, word to world in one type of speech acts and world to word in another type and how this can connect up with intentionality as a cause of our actions in the world and society is a fascinating suggestion for how we could combine a natural science world, with a social understanding that does not reduce humans to zombies or bots without free will, but retains that free will in line with a notion of intentional causation and reasonable motivations for action.

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