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Unformatted text preview: AN ALTERNATIVE EXPLANATION OF MIND IN NATURE: LESSONS FROM SEARLE AND LONERGAN Erik Sorem The thesis is submitted to University College Dublin for the degree of PhD in the College of Human Sciences November 2011 UCD School of Philosophy College of Human Sciences Head of School: Professor Maria Baghramian Supervisor: Dr James R. O’Shea This work is dedicated to my loving wife, Melissa. ii TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT ......................................................................................................................... v STATEMENT OF ORIGINAL AUTHORSHIP ................................................................... vi ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS..................................................................................................vii INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................. 1 1. SEARLE’S BIOLOGICAL NATURALISM: A CRITIQUE OF CONTEMPORARY MATERIALISM ........................................................................................................... 11 1.1 The Doctrine of Materialism According to Searle ...................................................... 12 1.2 Materialism‘s Common Assumptions and Methodological Presuppositions ............ 16 1.3 The Historical Origins of Materialism ......................................................................... 21 1.4 Common Sense and Science According to Searle ................................................... 27 1.5 Searle‘s Arguments Against the Doctrine of Materialism Being an Appropriate Application of the Scientific Method ........................................................................... 30 1.6 Is Biological Naturalism a Simple Solution? .............................................................. 34 2. INTENTIONALITY AND ITS PLACE IN THE MENTAL WORLD ............................ 44 2.1 Consciousness, Intentionality, and the Mark of the Mental ....................................... 47 2.2 Searle‘s Connection Principle .................................................................................... 53 2.3 Searle‘s Account of the Structure of Intentionality ..................................................... 69 2.4 The Background.......................................................................................................... 83 iii 3. THE ONTOLOGICAL STATUS OF CONSCIOUSNESS ......................................... 97 3.1 Reductionism and Searle ........................................................................................... 99 3.2 Searle‘s Theory of Emergence and Emergent Properties....................................... 109 3.3 Different Levels of Description ................................................................................. 114 3.4 H2O Analogies, Different Levels of Description, and the Mind-Body Problem ....... 119 3.5 The Ontological Status of Consciousness According to Searle .............................. 154 3.6 From H2O and Piston Engines to Consciousness ................................................... 166 4. AN ALTERNATIVE EXPLANATION OF MIND IN NATURE ................................. 178 4.1 Inadequacies of Searle‘s Biological Naturalism ....................................................... 183 4.2 The Unity of Consciousness ..................................................................................... 197 4.3 The Ontological Framework of Levelism and Higher Systemizations .................... 213 4.4 Explaining Unity in Nature: Forms and Emergent Systems .................................... 217 4.5 The Unity of the Higher-level Systemizations of Aggregates in Nature .................. 225 4.6 Emergent Probability ................................................................................................ 236 CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................ 244 BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................................................................................................. 251 iv ABSTRACT This thesis examines the idea that we are in need of an alternative explanation of the nature of the mind and its place within the natural world. There are compelling reasons to think that the received theories and their presupposed conceptual frameworks are inadequate for satisfactorily resolving many of the longstanding philosophical difficulties concerning the mind: for example, concerning intentionality, the subjectivity of consciousness, mind-body interaction problems, and mental causation. A central contention of this thesis is that our inability to satisfactorily resolve these problems, and effectively explain the nature of the mind arises from certain inadequacies in our present explanatory models, and I argue that finding a satisfactory solution requires approaching the problem from the perspective of an alternative conceptual scheme. Toward this end, I examine the philosophy of John Searle in order to determine whether his theory is capable of providing an alternative explanation of the standing of mind in nature, one that can adequately overcome many of the aforementioned difficulties. After a detailed examination of Searle‘s theory of biological naturalism, I offer a sympathetic critique of his theory, and propose an alternative explanation of the nature of the mind in the world. While accepting some of Searle‘s insights, and the general motivation for his account, I conclude by presenting an alternative to both his biological naturalism, and to the theories he rightly criticizes. I outline the philosophical grounds for an alternative approach to the mind that is consistent with both the AristotelianThomistic philosophical tradition, and with the results of modern science, an approach inspired by key insights gathered from Bernard Lonergan‘s philosophy. v STATEMENT OF ORIGINAL AUTHORSHIP I hereby certify that the submitted work is my own work, was completed while registered as a candidate for the degree of PhD in the College of Human Sciences, and that I have not obtained a degree elsewhere on the basis of the research presented in this submitted work. vi ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I first and foremost want to thank my loving wife, Melissa Ewertz, for all her support and encouragement throughout this difficult process, without which, I am sure that I never would have completed this work. Despite the immense hardships both of us endured from her health problems and severe pain over these years, her patience, longsuffering love, and continued faith in me and my work, provided the strength I needed to overcome the times of despair and inspired me to finish this dissertation. I would also like to thank my doctoral supervisor, James O‘Shea, who has patiently believed in me and my project. I am grateful to him for his thorough readings of earlier versions of this thesis, together with his careful guidance and astute advice throughout the years. I would also like to thank Fr. Brendan Purcell for his constant support and for introducing me to the works of Bernard Lonergan. So much of my intellectual development is due to their thinking and writing. Acknowledgement is also due to my friends, Evan Dempsey and Tziovanis Georgakis, whose editing and advice helped me complete this dissertation in time. I would also like to thank all the staff members of UCD School of Philosophy who supported me during my difficult times, with special thanks to Helen Kenny and Margaret Brady for all their help over the years. Finally, I am extremely grateful and indebted to all my family, friends, and colleagues who supported and motivated me through the years of my PhD program. vii INTRODUCTION For philosophers and scientists alike, the topic of mind and its place in the natural world is an issue of central importance. The various theories and attempts to adequately address the issues surrounding mind in the world have been plagued by numerous wellknown philosophical problems. Consequently, this has left many concluding that the available theories of cognition and mind as well as the general conceptual frameworks in which they are embedded are inadequate for satisfactorily resolving many of these problems, and hence are incapable of successfully explaining the nature of the mind and its place in the natural world. The aim of this dissertation, therefore, is to offer an alternative approach for explaining mind in nature by constructing the main outlines of an alternative cognitional framework that can successfully overcome many of the philosophical dilemmas that continue to arise concerning the nature of the mind. If the goal in reconstructing a philosophical account of cognition is to offer an adequate alternative explanation of mind in nature, then we must seek to identify the necessary conditions that make human cognition possible. Toward this end, in the following thesis I will examine Searle‘s and Lonergan‘s explanations of the nature of the mind in the world, considering their theories as pedagogical lessons in how to develop a cognitional theory that might provide a viable alternative to both current materialist and neo-dualist accounts. Although these two philosophers come from two very different traditions (Lonergan from a neo-Thomistic background and Searle from contemporary analytic philosophy), there are many places where their theories converge and their 1 points of agreement offer us clues and insights into how we might rethink the challenges of the mind-body problem. Furthermore, this thesis will examine whether these two philosophers‘ accounts suggest some new methodological approaches for carrying out a successful philosophical investigation of mind, while also exploring the possibility that certain philosophical assumptions and methodological presuppositions might actually hinder such a project. Chapter 1, ―Searle‘s Biological Naturalism: A Critique of Contemporary Materialism,‖ provides an introduction to many of the philosophical problems about mind mentioned above through the lens of Searle‘s biological naturalism. Here I identify the various theories Searle thinks are inadequate for resolving these problems and I examine why he rightly finds such theories to be problematic. Furthermore, I explore why Searle thinks that his own account should be considered a viable alternative to these views and why it alone should be understood as a solution to the current philosophical dilemmas concerning mind. According to Searle, both current materialist theories as well as neodualist accounts are problematic and incapable of satisfactorily resolving these issues. In Chapter 1, I examine and focus primarily on his critique of contemporary materialism and what he thinks is its inability to satisfactorily address the mind-body problem. In The Rediscovery of Mind, Searle makes a spirited attempt to offer what he characterizes as his own ―simple solution‖ to the mind-body problem in his biological naturalism. One of the primary intentions of this chapter, however, is to show that the solution he offers, while insightful in some crucial respects, is not simple and is in fact incoherent as it currently stands. I begin by focusing on Searle‘s twofold claim that the 2 key to solving the mind-body problem is to first reject the system of conceptual categories that underlies materialism and then to adopt his own ‗biological naturalism.‘ I argue that the positions articulated in this theory appear to generate serious inconsistencies that make his proposal look either incoherent or suggestive of precisely the sort of property dualist position he is also concerned to reject. Furthermore, because Searle lacks compelling arguments against these particular accusations, and because it is not clear that biological naturalism is the obvious or common-sense position that he says it is, I conclude that his proposal, as it stands, cannot constitute a solution to the mind-body problem, ―simple‖ or otherwise. Having identified the apparent inconsistencies within Searle‘s biological naturalism, I proceed to investigate his theory of mind further in the next chapters to determine whether he can possibly overcome the various philosophical difficulties outlined in this chapter. In Chapter 2, ―Intentionality and Its Place in the Mental World,‖ I examine Searle‘s contention that any solution to the philosophical problems pertaining to mind will require a theory that can both account for and sufficiently explain what he takes to be the four major features of mind: consciousness, intentionality, subjectivity, and mental causation. His belief is that the proper analysis of any one of these major features will necessarily lead to an analysis of the others. Although this may not appear contentious, I show in this chapter that Searle‘s theory of biological naturalism (i.e. his proposed solution to the mind-body problem) depends on what he calls the connection principle, which does prove contentious. The connection principle is Searle‘s idea that ―our notion of the 3 unconscious is logically connected to the notion of consciousness.‖ 1 I argue that the connection principle, so central to Searle‘s theory of mind, requires a particular understanding of mental states that is problematic. After examining certain objectionable premises in his argument for the connection principle, I argue that in the end his argument appears to reduce to the fallacy of affirming the consequent. In the hope of discovering possible ways for Searle to circumvent the apparent problems with the connection principle, I make an effort to uncover and further articulate his position on intentional states by examining his particular understanding of the structure of intentionality. Searle argues that all intentional states are essentially mental states that have representative content accompanied with a particular psychological mode, e.g. believing, hearing, desiring, remembering, etc. What is troublesome, however, is that this appears to be inconsistent with his view that consciousness is actually the mark of the mental and that intentionality is in fact distinct from consciousness. 2 In order to distinguish intentionality from consciousness, Searle is forced to reason that intentional states can be unconscious while admitting that there is no such thing as an actual unconscious mental state. This appears to generate a serious problem for Searle. His way around this difficulty is to attribute aspectual shape 3 to all mental states, and conclude that unconscious intentional states can be considered mental insofar as they have ‗derived‘ aspectuality. Consequently, Searle argues, this makes all intentional states asymmetrically ontologically dependent on consciousness, 1 Searle, Mind: A Brief Introduction, 171 (italics mine). Searle, Intentionality, 2-3. 3 Aspectual shape is originally coined by Searle and is equivalent in meaning to sense in the familiar Fregean contrast between sense and reference. 2 4 since ‗intrinsic‘ aspectuality can be had only by conscious states. In other words, according to Searle, unconscious intentional states have aspectuality and are what they are only in virtue of being potentially conscious. The problem, however, is that Searle also provides an account of intentionality solely in terms of nonintentional capacities, abilities, and dispositions that have no necessary relation to consciousness at all. I argue that this poses a serious difficulty for Searle insofar as one account of intentionality requires a connection to consciousness, while the other does not. Having found reasons to doubt whether intentionality is logically connected to consciousness in the way Searle explains, I proceed to consider the nature of consciousness itself in Chapter 3, ―The Ontological Status of Consciousness.‖ This chapter approaches the investigation into the nature of consciousness by considering the role that our explanations, theoretical models, and ontological and methodological commitments play with regard to revealing the real nature of our mental states as they exist in the physical world. In particular, I investigate Searle‘s stance concerning the ontological status of consciousness as an irreducible phenomenon. I explain how he argues for the irreducibility of consciousness, and I discuss the various challenges he faces in carrying out his task. In order for Searle to argue for the ontological irreducibility of consciousness (as he conceives it), he must first deal with the concept of reduction in general. Here I examine the different types of reduction identified by Searle and discuss what he believes is the only type of reduction that applies to consciousness: causal reduction. This chapter then proceeds to investigate Searle‘s idea of higher-level emergent system features within 5 his overall theory of emergence and emergent properties. This inevitably leads to a treatment of his theory of different levels of description. In particular, I consider Searle‘s H2O and combustion engine examples within his account of the role of different levels of description in order to determine whether such analogies are as useful as Searle think they are for thinking about the nature of consciousness. As I show, the analogies, when carried over to the case of consciousness, create definite problems for Searle. Describing consciousness as a higher-level emergent system, that is strongly analogous to the way in which liquidity is a higher-level system feature of H2O, threatens to commit Searle, against his own intentions, to advocating some form of property dualism or epiphenomenalism. Nevertheless, it is his contention that although consciousness is a higher-level emergent system feature that is ontologically irreducible, it is not a property over-and-above the neurophysiological system of the brain. In order to defend his position against the accusations of epiphenomenalism, Searle has to argue that mental states have real causal efficacy upon other physical events. After examining Searle‘s arguments as they pertain to the problems of causal overdetermination, this chapter ends by investigating whether Searle‘s account of consciousness as articulated in his theory of biological naturalism can, as he maintains, both preserve the causal closure of the physical domain and avoid causal overdetermination.4 Having identified several deficiencies with Searle‘s theory of biological naturalism, I attempt to offer an alternative explanation of mind in nature, one that can accommodate 4 Roughly speaking, causal overdetermination is said to occur when two (or more) events cause the same event to occur, either of which was sufficient alone for the event to occur. 6 some of the insights that Searle‘s criticism of the received views has opened up. In the final chapter, ―An Alternative Explanation of Mind in Nature,‖ I thus provide an alternative to Searle‘s alternatives. I offer the groundwork for an explanation of the place of mind in the natural world that is consistent with both the Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophical tradition and with modern science, and is inspired by certain insights gathered from Bernard Lonergan‘s philosophy. My intention in introducing an Aristotelian-Thomistic perspective on these difficult matters is to open up an alternative explanation of mind that considers consciousness, not as constituted by isolated occurrences and operations, but as a whole whose parts are the various instances of consciousness that unfold on the level of experience, understanding, and judgment. In contrast to the account of consciousness found in Searle‘s biological naturalism, I offer an explanation of consciousness that integrates our various conscious experiences and operations into a single unity within the nature of the human being itself. In this chapter, I argue that this unity, which binds all our conscious occurrences together, is the concrete human being (this person); however, the sour...
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