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John Searle on seeing things as they are

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Readers may remember philosopher of mind and proponent of direct realism John Searle (John Searle on the two big mistakes philosophers make).

Here’s Los Angeles Review of Books on his new book, Seeing Things As They Are

There is an external world, and it is full of things: tables, crocodiles, textures, etc. These things and this world exist whether I like it or not: their existence is independent of my beliefs, opinions, or preferences, and hence we say that such an existence — or, to use the technical term, such an ontology — is objective. There is also a subjective world, and it consists of internal states of mind. Such states are not ontologically objective, but subjective: they depend for their existence on the person who has them. Moreover, there is generally something that it feels like to be in or occupy a state of mind: we all know what it is like to be mad or tired, and we similarly know (although this case is more complicated) that believing something feels different from not believing it. The central claim of direct realism is that perception puts the external world into contact with the subjective one. Thanks to the rise of modern vision science, we have a basic sense of how this story might go: an internal causal process is initiated by arrays of light moving from entities in the external work to sensory receptors in our retinas; these arrays of light are then processed by a module in ours head that constructs an output perceptual representation on the basis of proprietary perceptual principles. This perceptual representation has content: it encodes conditions of satisfaction that are either accurate or inaccurate, depending on the extent to which the representation corresponds with the scene that initiated the causal process. While beliefs, desires, and other mental states are also associated with representational contents — beliefs can be evaluated as true or false, desires can be fulfilled or unfilled, and so forth — perceptual representations are special in that they cannot be detached from, or entertained independently of, the scenes that prompt them. In the more contemporary philosophical jargon, perception provides a non-conceptual means by which minded creatures get in touch with an objective world.

There seems to be a lot to recommend this basic picture of perception. How could we plausibly deny that perception plays a central role in connecting us to, and helping us acquire knowledge about, the empirical world? According to Searle, however, the picture has not only been denied; it has been denied by “just about every famous philosopher who writes on this subject.” More.

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG Much to fuel a Sat nite chat into the wee hours, if one is among friends inclined to philosophy of perception, mind, or science.

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Note: The book seems to be retaining interest.

5 Replies to “John Searle on seeing things as they are

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    Thanks News!

  2. 2
    Mapou says:

    Searle:

    While beliefs, desires, and other mental states are also associated with representational contents — beliefs can be evaluated as true or false, desires can be fulfilled or unfilled, and so forth — perceptual representations are special in that they cannot be detached from, or entertained independently of, the scenes that prompt them.

    I like Searle. I would add that the perceptual apparatus of the brain makes several a priori assumptions about the way the world behaves. For example, babies are known to have an innate understanding of physics:

    Babies are born with a grasp of physics, researchers claim

    PS. I’m not Catholic like you, News, but I appreciate your tireless work in finding and sharing these golden nuggets with the rest of us. So I join Mung above to say: thank you, News.

  3. 3
    EvilSnack says:

    The reason that all of “the Greats” of Western philosophy reject direct realism is because to be accepted as one of these Greats by the Western philosophical establishment, one must reject direct realism; name a direct realist (ie., Rand), and I’ll show you a philosopher who is rejected out-of-hand by the establishment.

    This would also explain why so much of their ideas are waffle. Exactly how much value can a fellow’s ideas hold if the very act of publishing them, according to those ideas, is starkly impossible?

  4. 4
    Robert Byers says:

    I don’t think its that complicated.
    We see reality entirely thorough our memory which is called the mind/brain.
    So whats put into the memory very quickly is the way we reflect on things.
    We are a soul meshed to a memory machine.
    not that complicated. Not about perceptions jazz. Our only perception is comparing one memory data to another with a reflective soul/heart.

  5. 5
    Axel says:

    Surely, QM suggests that the material world should be seen as a puzzle, a game, set before us by the Creator. The puzzle should be seen by us as real, although in QM as long as it can be practicably applied. As regards the metaphysics, never.

    As we approach death, I suspect the rather solipsistic notion that we each live in a little world of our own, each coordinated by God with everyone else’s world, will sound increasingly plausible. Christianity and QM (and according to BA77, Relativity) will meet, to the detriment of neither science nor religion, but rather to the fulfilment of science and the completion of a part of the religious puzzle.

    I believe there is a saying of a Jewish Cabalist of yore, to the effect that when a man dies, a whole world dies with him.

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