Searle on consciousness and dualism

In this article, I examine and criticize John Searle's account of the relation between mind and body. Searle rejects dualism and argues that the traditional mind-body problem has a 'simple solution': mental phenomena are both caused by biological processes in the brain and are themselves features of the brain. More precisely, mental states and events are macro-properties of neurons in much the same way that solidity and liquidity are macro-properties of molecules. However, Searle also maintains that the mental is 'ontologically irreducible' to the physical, a view which follows from his understanding of the status and nature of consciousness. Consciousness is essential to the mind; subjectivity is essential to consciousness; and no purely objective, physical description of consciousness could ever capture or explain its essentially subjective character. None the less, Searle maintains that irreducibility is a 'trivial' result of our 'definitional practices' and is entirely compatible with his theory. I contend that this latter claim is based on an equivocation: Searle's conclusion only seems to follow because he alters and trivializes what philosophers ordinarily mean by 'reduction'. I also maintain that Searle's position is reductionist in the ordinary, nontrivial sense. For this reason, his theory fails to accommodate the subjective character of consciousness and fails to solve the traditional mind-body problem. Finally, I briefly discuss Searle's claim that he is not an epiphenomenalist, and argue that given the assumptions of his view there is no interesting causal role for consciousness in the physical world.
Keywords Body  Consciousness  Dualism  Metaphysics  Mind  Searle, J
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