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Consciousness and Language Paperback – July 15, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0521597449 ISBN-10: 0521597447

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521597447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521597449
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,070,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lucidly exploring the philosophically hot topics of consciousness, intentionality and language, this set of essays provides a useful overview of Searle's (Rationality in Action) recent work. All but one of the essays, written over the last two decades, have been previously published, yet they gain by being assembled not only in convenience but in seeing how the problems and proposed solutions connect. The overarching issue, which Searle, a philosophy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, says has "preoccupied" him throughout his professional life, is how to reconcile our commonsense view of ourselves as conscious, mindful beings with a world that supposedly "consists entirely of brute, unconscious, mindless... physical particles in fields of force." In the first group of essays, Searle rejects both dualist and materialist accounts of consciousness as traditionally construed, arguing instead that "the conscious mind is caused by brain processes and is itself a higher level feature of the brain" with an irreducible "first-person ontology" and the power to cause behavior. He goes on to apply this philosophy of mind to a number of related issues, including animal minds (notably that of his dog, Ludwig Wittgenstein Searle), intentionality (that feature which links mental states to something in the world), collective "we-intentions," social science explanations and speech acts. Throughout, he spars with rivals, particularly in the final essays, where he attacks Dennett's functionalism, Quine's indeterminacy thesis and Kripke's reading of Wittgenstein. This is not an introductory-level book: many of the issues are abstruse and technical. But Searle's prose is admirably clear and plain, and he is deft at cutting through jargon to defend a commonsense view of the reality of minds. (May 13) Forecast: Searle is a major philosopher, and university libraries are a lock. Searle's frequent contributions to the New York Review of Books may draw in some readers, but because most of this work has been previously published, expect few trade reviews.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"The scope and consistency of these views, which have now became classical, is truly impressing...Searle is doing some genuinely pioneering work here, suggesting some genuinely new research programs in philosophy of mind."- Alexandre Billon, Metapsychology Online Reviews

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Flounder on July 17, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Searle has collected a large and important variety of articles in this text, which spans several years of thinking on issues such as: the nature of consciousness, free will, the mind-body problem, rationality, and collective action. Only one article on Kripke's meaning skepticism has been not previously published.
The vigor and force of questions that Searle queries regarding how it is possible to reconcile our intuitions about having a 'free will' in a world of physical laws and (all things being equal) deterministic principles is important and fundamental. I highly recommend this volume, which conveniently assembles previous articles, and it makes clear Searle's position on these problems. Indeed, it makes clear exactly how difficult and challenging philosophical problems and questions are--and why philosophers stay awake at nights thinking about them...and why no easy solution is forthcoming in philosophy or science...
The articles are written in Searle's usual style--with problem solving on his mind--clearly stating the problem to be addressed and evaluated--a model of philosophical prose...
And I might add...the cover photograph of Searle is splendid--him in a tweed coat...autumn leaves...just in case you've wondered what a suave academic is supposed to look like nowdays...
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By H. K. Quirn on May 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
Yeah, so, I'm going to avoid the part where i think that a couple of important things in this book are stated too vaguely for a responsible philosopher, or where i mention that he seems to make one or two blatant errors of omission. I'm going to avoid these things for the dual reasons that a) they aren't really relevant to whether you should read this or not, and b) i allow for the possibility that i'm imagining these gaps because i haven't understood him, in which case i'm the stupid one. Given my presistent commitment to Legends of the Hidden Temple, that's a distinct possibility.
In spite of what i consider some overly-squooshy language in a handful of places, this is a great book. I'd read intentionality, but never speech acts, and this book seems to tie all of searle's ideas into one large discussion about speech, intention, consciousness, with a few of the expected cuts on AI. It's really put together very well, and the flow from discussions of consciousness to intention to speech acts makes each of the constituent pieces more poigniant. Searle very rarely drifts into blustering territory, writing clearly and concisely in most of the cases where i found a need for really detailed exposition. Good stuff.
So, like i say, 7 times out of 10, i find Searle less than compelling, but this is a really nice survey of a lot of his ideas, and worth a read either as an introduction to his thinking or as a piece that ties together a lot of his older ideas into one coherent package. He's an important guy with important ideas who has helped shape a lot of important discussions, agree or disagree, this book articulates these contributions well.
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By Reader on October 23, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Published in 2002 by Cambridge University Press `Consciousness and Language' is a collection of essays by John Searle. Searle is a long-time professor of philosophy at University of California Berkley and a pre-eminent contemporary American philosopher.

Potential purchasers are advised to check the on-line table of contents prior to buying given that all but one of these essays have been previously published (the exception being the response to Kripke's sceptical private language argument). That said, the text provides a handy compilation of disparate papers which would otherwise be difficult to track down. The essays range across Searle's major areas of interest; language, society and the mind. While there are many excellent papers in the collection, I especially enjoyed the responses to Quine and Kripke. The writing as one would expect is characterized by Searle's trademark clarity and rigour

This text would make an excellent addition to the library of any Searle fan. Readers that enjoy Searle may also enjoy some of courses available through itunes/itunes u.
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It is difficult to summarize and critique in a short paragraph all that Searle presents in what is already a succinct and clear argument that requires 264 pages of exposition. In general, his thesis is that we cannot study the nature of consciousness in the same way that scientists study physical phenomena because consciousness is not a physical thing; it is a mental state that, admittedly, has its basis in physical brain processes;but by its very essence consciousness is "self-referential" and subjective. This view does not deny the fact that lower level" brain processes on the synaptic neuronal level causes "higher level" consciousness. Searle posits that consciousness is an "emergent property" caused by the micro elements of the system of which that are themselves features, but it is not merely a manifestation of or a conjunction of those lower level brain functions such as processing sense impressions. This is a case of "the whole being greater than the sum of its parts" in layman's terms. Searle rejects the reductionist neurobiological stance that consciousness is "just" a response to physical stimuli. This awareness, which we call consciousness, is neither an objective "thing" nor a "metaphysical and inscrutable entity" but rather a natural biological process, which in its essence is not unlike other biological processes such as digestion. (Some would argue that this analogy, which would be supported by reductionist theorists, is spurious in its simplicity. Searle's own theory of the "underestimation" of available data would bear this out.) While digestion is sub-conscious, consciousness in the brain causes us (or enables us) to examine and manipulate our subjective states. (Unlike digestion, we would point out.Read more ›
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