MIND by John R. Searle

MIND

A Brief Introduction
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KIRKUS REVIEW

It seems fitting that the one indispensable tool of philosophy is also one of its major problems. Here's an attempt to show general readers the key issues.

Searle (Philosophy/Berkeley; Mind, Language, and Society, 1998, etc.) begins by flatly stating that all the major theories of mind are false. By that he refers explicitly to dualism—Descartes’ hard-and-fast distinction between the mental and the physical—and materialism, the belief that the working of the mind can be explained entirely by physical processes. The problem, according to Searle, is that both positions seem reasonable in isolation, yet neither can account for things that we experience daily. The dualist, for example, can't explain how we can perform the simplest voluntary acts, such as raising an arm; and the materialist can't explain the subjective realm of emotions, idea, and sensations that each of us inhabits. Searle gives detailed summaries of these two schools, then offers his refutations. Traditional categories of “physical” and “mental,” he argues, beg the question, forcing us to believe that we must choose between alternatives. Searle’s common-sense proposal: that while mind is indeed the product of physical processes of the brain, it operates on a higher level—just as the solidity of matter is a higher-level result of interactions of atoms and physical law. He labels his synthesis “biological naturalism,” then goes on to discuss several of the key questions raised by modern theories of the mind: consciousness and unconsciousness, intentionality, free will, perception, the self. The reader untrained in philosophy may find much of this—in particular the discussion of intentionality—heavy going. But Searle makes a determined effort to provide real-world examples of his subject, and those who stick with him will find his insights persuasive.

An often-fascinating look into a subject we all know intimately—but that even the experts don't fully understand.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-19-515733-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2004




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