Wednesday, July 19, 2006

From John Searle's Rediscovery of the Mind on physicalist reductions of intentionality

So far no attempt at naturalizing content has produced an explanation (analysis, reduction) of intentional content that is even remotely plausible. ...A symptom that something is radically wrong with the project is that intentional notions are inherently normative. They set standards of truth, rationality, consistency, etc., and there is no way that these standards can be intrinsic to a system consisting entirely of brute, blind, nonintentional causal relations. There is no mean component to billiard ball causation. Darwinian biological attempts at naturalizing content try to avoid this problem by appealing to what they suppose is the inherently teleological [i.e., purposeful], normative character of biological evolution. But this is a very deep mistake. There is nothing normative or teleological about Darwinian evolution. Indeed, Darwin's major contribution was precisely to remove purpose, and teleology from evolution, and substitute for it purely natural forms of selection.54

54 Searle, John, Rediscovery,. 50-51.


Blue Devil Knight said...

Searle is led, by his logic, to the claim that statements in biology like "The function of the heart is to pump blood" are not objectively true. I don't think he has quite grasped that natural selection's teleology is not the teleology of the theist (where something is consciously guiding evolution). The teleology in evolution is blind, but pushes phenotypes to hills in fitness landscapes. That is, evolution solves optimization problems.

Searle has some nutty claims. For instance, he believes in a causal but not ontological (whatever that is) reduction of consciousness to neuroscience. But, he adds, he thinks consciousness is just another biological property like bile production. But no other biological property is immune from 'ontological' reduction to the cellular level.

Inti said...
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Anonymous said...

Nothing "nutty" about that! His point is that consciousness is unlike any other natural phenomenomn in being ontologically subjective. That is, it's not that our knowledge of consciousness is subjective, as with other kinds of things; it's that nature of consciousness to exist as something that is subjective. He's trying to refute the mistaken belief that consciousness can't be studied scientifically because it's subjective, and science only deals with the objective. And I think he's convinced me, so far.