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John Searle on the two big mistakes philosophers make

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Interesting piece on John Searle by Frank Free
man at Weekly Standard:

Mistake Number One is the idea “that there is some special problem about the relation of the mind to the body, consciousness to the brain, and in their fixation on the illusion that there is a problem, philosophers have fastened onto different solutions to the problem.” Mistake Number Two “is the mistake of supposing that we never directly perceive objects and states of affairs in the world, but directly perceive only our subjective experiences.”

So that’s all right then. All the people who perceive a problem can just take a well-deserved break.

A proponent of Direct Realism, Searle argues,

Like Wittgenstein, but with less openness, he seems to assume that there is nothing to be said about metaphysics:

As the problem of life is now seen as a biological problem—vitalism is out of the question—so I believe the problems of consciousness and intentionality are also biological problems—metaphysical dualism is out of the question—even though the details of the solutions to the problems are by no means obvious to us now.

But why are vitalism and metaphysical dualism out of the question? As Searle himself writes later, “Always beware of what a philosopher takes for granted as so obvious as to be not worth arguing for.” More.

Prediction: naturalism of any kind will prove about as useful to the study of consciousness as it has to astrobiology.

See also: Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away
and

See also: What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness.

You know there is a problem when great physicists see something immaterial about consciousness but philosophers try to explain it away.

Note: Direct Realism is not to be confused with William Dembski’s informational realism
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11 Replies to “John Searle on the two big mistakes philosophers make

  1. 1
    Box says:

    Naturalism is out of the question—unless, of course, one is willing to believe that blind forces can do anything.

  2. 2
    AnimatedDust says:

    …and everything.

  3. 3
    harry says:

    Box @1, AnimatedDust @2

    One could at least understand why some assumed blind forces could have accomplished anything and everything back when it was believed those blind forces had had an infinite amount of time and resources to work with. Now that we know the blind forces of nature have only had a finite amount of time and resources to work with, that assumption has become absurd.

    Atheistic naturalism now requires a rejection of belief in both God and mathematics.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    Blind forces have no concept of time, resources, or work.

    That’s anthropomorphizing.

  5. 5
    Box says:

    Harry,

    I agree. BTW how did one reconcile a beginningless universe with a universe that has not diminished to a state of no thermodynamic free energy—aka heat death?
    In Bertrand Russell’s days the big bang was not yet excepted, but the 2nd law was, so how did he explain that stars weren’t “dead” already?

  6. 6
    harry says:

    Box @5

    Right. And besides the problem the 2nd Law presents, life coming about by chance alone was virtually impossible. Those who have read Signature in the Cell will see that that is what the following was derived from:

    What is the most optimistic estimate for the number of possible events that could have occurred since the Universe began? French mathematician Emil Borel set that figure 10^50. University of Pittsburgh physicist Bret Van de Sande estimated it at 2.6 * 10^92. MIT computer scientist Seth Lloyd set the number at 10^120. Using a much more generous estimate based on the number of seconds since the Big Bang (roughly 10^16), the number of elementary particles in the observable Universe (10^80), and the number of physical state transitions possible per second (10^43), a figure of 10^139 is arrived at as the maximum number of events that could have occurred since the Universe began.

    Let’s apply that generous number to the difficulty of arriving at life mindlessly and accidentally.

    There are twenty amino acids in the biological, protein building “alphabet.” A small functional protein would be 150 amino acids in length (the average is more like 350 amino acids in length). So there are 20^150 (or 10^195) different sequences possible in a 150 amino acid protein, most of which are non-functional.

    MIT biochemist Robert Sauer has estimated that the ratio of functional sequences of amino acids to non-functional sequences is 1 in 10^63. We have a roughly 1 in 2 chance of getting the necessary peptide bonding between two amino acids, which, for 150 amino acids would be about 1 in 2^150 (or 1 in 10^45). We have the same odds of getting the necessary left handed amino acids.

    So we have a 1 in 10^45+45+63, or 1 in 10^153 chance of accidentally assembling ONE small functional protein from our prebiotic soup assuming its ingredients and the environment are conducive to that happening at all. And that protein accidentally forming really means nothing without a context in which it is “functional.” Even so, assuming a minimally complex cell would require 250 small, 150 amino acid proteins, to construct them we would have to accomplish that which has a 1 in 10^153 chance of happening 250 times, which gives us a 1 in 10^38250 chance of accidentally building the number of functional proteins that would be required by a simple cell. Long before we could ever get our 250 proteins built we would have used up in unsuccessful attempts our (generous) 10^139 possible events the entire Universe could have generated since it began. (All we really had to work with were the events that could have taken place on planet Earth, a tiny speck in the vast Universe.)

  7. 7
    Box says:

    I highly recommend this article, by Bill Vallicella, on John Searle.

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    Thanks Box! So Searle basically wants to have his cake and eat it too.

  9. 9
    Box says:

    Bornagain77,

    Yep! Logically inconsistent or not, just like so many others he insists on death being the ultimate end. He doesn’t want there to be a meaning to life, he doesn’t want there to be a God, he doesn’t want the universe to be like that.
    All he wants is to fit in with the cool crowd.

    Bill Vallicella:

    The last quotation explains why Searle is not a materialist: he is not trying to reductively identify something essentially first-personal with something essentially third-personal. So far so good. But then why does he fight shy of being called a dualist? Even if he is not a substance dualist like Descartes, why does he not own up to being a property dualist?

    The answer, I am afraid, is that he is in the grip of the ideology of scientific naturalism. In contemporary philosophy of mind, nothing is worse than to get yourself called a dualist. For then you are an unscientific superstitious fellow who believes in spook stuff, ghosts in machines, and worse. Next stop: the Twilight Zone.

    Searle is in a tough bind. He appreciates the irreducibility of mind and sees clearly the hopelessness of behaviorism, identity-materialism, and functionalism. But at all costs he must contain his insight into irreducibility and not allow it any spiritual or dualistic significance.

  10. 10

    “metaphysical dualism is out of the question”

    In our next installment, a panel of expert geo-political analysts will discuss how the balance of power in the world may shift in the next century, but without any reference to China, the USA or Russia.

    Following that, the history class will be led by some very learned professors in an examination of the causes of the 2nd world war. No mention of national socialism, Germany or any events in between 1600-1939 will be allowed.

    Isn’t this game fun? To think that whole lifetimes in academia are invested in playing it…

  11. 11
    gpuccio says:

    It is so simple, after all: the most fashionable position is to be what it is impossible to be.

    So, if you are a compatibilist, you believe in free will while you remain a determinist.

    And if you are Searle, you accept irreducibility of consciousness without accepting dualism.

    What else? Why bother with these old distinctions?

    After all, all philosophers have been wrong, up to now, but we have been finally saved from those terrible errors.

    What a pity. And yet, his Chinese room argument remains a very good one…

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