Review of ‘Philosophy in a New Century’ by John Searle (2008) (review revised 2019)

In The Logical Structure of Human Behavior. Las Vegas, NV USA: Reality Press. pp. 425-444 (2019)
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Before commenting on the book, I offer comments on Wittgenstein and Searle and the logical structure of rationality. The essays here are mostly already published during the last decade (though some have been updated), along with one unpublished item, and nothing here will come as a surprise to those who have kept up with his work. Like W, he is regarded as the best standup philosopher of his time and his written work is solid as a rock and groundbreaking throughout. However, his failure to take the later W seriously enough leads to some mistakes and confusions. Just a few examples: on p7 he twice notes that our certainty about basic facts is due to the overwhelming weight of reason supporting our claims, but W showed definitively in ‘On Certainty’ that there is no possibility of doubting the true-only axiomatic structure of our System 1 perceptions, memories and thoughts, since it is itself the basis for judgment and cannot itself be judged. In the first sentence on p8 he tells us that certainty is revisable, but this kind of ‘certainty’, which we might call Certainty2, is the result of extending our axiomatic and nonrevisable certainty (Certainty1) via experience and is utterly different as it is propositional (true or false). This is of course a classic example of the “battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by language” which W demonstrated over and over again. One word- two (or many) distinct uses. His last chapter “The Unity of the Proposition” (previously unpublished) would also benefit greatly from reading W’s “On Certainty” or DMS’s two books on OC (see my reviews) as they make clear the difference between true only sentences describing S1 and true or false propositions describing S2. This strikes me as a far superior approach to S’s taking S1 perceptions as propositional since they only become T or F after one begins thinking about them in S2. However, his point that propositions permit statements of actual or potential truth and falsity, of past and future and fantasy, and thus provide a huge advance over pre or protolinguistic society, is cogent. As he states it “A proposition is anything at all that can determine a condition of satisfaction…and a condition of satisfaction… is that such and such is the case.” Or, one needs to add, that might be or might have been or might be imagined to be the case. Overall, PNC is a good summary of the many substantial advances over Wittgenstein resulting from S’s half century of work, but in my view, W still is unequaled once you grasp what he is saying. Ideally, they should be read together: Searle for the clear coherent prose and generalizations, illustrated with W’s perspicacious examples and brilliant aphorisms. If I were much younger I would write a book doing exactly that. Those wishing a comprehensive up to date framework for human behavior from the modern two systems view may consult my book ‘The Logical Structure of Philosophy, Psychology, Mind and Language in Ludwig Wittgenstein and John Searle’ 2nd ed (2019). Those interested in more of my writings may see ‘Talking Monkeys--Philosophy, Psychology, Science, Religion and Politics on a Doomed Planet--Articles and Reviews 2006-2019 3rd ed (2019), The Logical Structure of Human Behavior (2019), and Suicidal Utopian Delusions in the 21st Century 4th ed (2019)



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Thinking, Fast and Slow.Daniel Kahneman - 2011 - New York: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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