Hussearle's representationalism and the “hypothesis of the background”

Synthese 112 (3):323-352 (1997)
Abstract
John Searle''s hypothesis of the Background seems to conflict with his initial representationalism according to which each Intentional state contains a particular content that determines its conditions of satisfaction. In Section I of this essay I expose Searle''s initial theory of Intentionality and relate it to Edmund Husserl''s earlier phenomenology. In Section II I make it clear that Searle''s introduction of the notion of Network, though indispensable, does not, by itself, force us to modify that initial theory. However, a comparison of this notion to the notion of horizon from Husserl''s later phenomenology and an interpretation of Husserl''s conception of the determinable X as providing a solution to the problem of perceptual misidentification lead me to conclude that in his discussion of ''twin examples'' Searle had better modified his initial theory. Finally, I critically examine Searle''s claim that anyone who tries seriously to follow out the threads in the Network will eventually reach a bedrock of non-Intentional capacities. In Section III I show in detail, partly in a rather Husserlian vein, that Searle''s four official arguments for the Background thesis, though containing some very valuable contributions to a theory of linguistic skills, are not convincing at all if they are to be understood as going beyond the scope of (Hus)Searle''s ''content-cum-Network'' picture of Intentionality. The upshot of these considerations is that the Background thesis should be read as a thesis concerning the causal neurophysiological preconditions of human Intentionality rather than concerning the logical properties of Intentional states in general. Recently Searle himself has come to the same result, but he does not say for which reasons. The present essay makes it clear why Searle just had to arrive at this important result.
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