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Mind, Language And Society: Philosophy In The Real World (Masterminds) Paperback – December 10, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0465045211 ISBN-10: 0465045219 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Masterminds
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (December 10, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465045219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465045211
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

John Searle's summation of earlier writings is not just an essential tie-up volume for existing readers; it is also a perfect introduction to the work of one of the clearest heads in the philosophy of mind. Searle's book is a riposte to all those academics who make a career out of contradicting and complicating such default positions as the existence of an external reality, the reality of personal consciousness, and the reasonable fit of language to the perceived world. Certainly, we should examine these positions! But the first duty of philosophy, Searle argues, is that it should attempt to accommodate what is known. As far as we can tell, for example, consciousness is a biological product, but there is a long-running contention between the materialists--whose reductive descriptions of consciousness arrive, finally, at an embarrassed denial that consciousness exists at all--and the dualists, who cannot describe consciousness without evoking some supernatural involvement. Neither position is tenable--each offers some corrective to the other. The good explanation is in there somewhere, but the sheer intractability of the debate won't let it be expressed. In situations like this, Searle argues, it is always the terms that are wrong. Terms, mind you, that in this case include "matter," "mind," "physical," and "mental"! Searle--married as he is to common sense--is of necessity one of our most iconoclastic and creative thinkers. --Simon Ings, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

For years, Searle (Intentionality; The Mystery of Consciousness; Minds, Brains, and Science), a professor of philosophy at UC-Berkeley, has battled against philosophical fashion to insist that the world is, in fact, intelligible to the human mind. This may sound unremarkable to laypeople. But, as Searle remarks, at a time when postmodernism and deconstruction are in vogue, intellectuals, to be taken seriously, often must believe that different cultures have different rationalities and that the world as a whole is unintelligible. Searle, however, defends the naturalistic belief that there does exist a real world, which is perceivable and comprehensible and is not changed by the angle of our observation. Among his most forceful arguments are that consciousness is a genuine phenomenon caused by knowable physical processes; that intention is real, produced by causal mechanisms in the brain; and that language expands the possibilities of intentionality. In an interesting aside, Searle speculates that contemporary thinkers reject an objectivist theory because of "an urge to power." They don't want to be answerable to the world but for the world to be answerable to them. To Searle, however, realism "is not a theory at all but the framework within which it is possible to have theories."
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This book is an excellent example of how to write clearly about very complex topics.
bronx book nerd
I only hope time will bear the fruit of Searle's views on ethics, one field in which he has been curiously silent.
D. S. Heersink
This work then is an excellent introduction to his thought as well as an excellent introduction to philosophy.
Steve Jackson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Heersink on June 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
About fifteen years ago, Mortimer Adler wrote a slim volume, "Ten Philosophical Mistakes," which received little attention. Adler was deemed not a professional philosopher and was thus summarily dismissed. Moreover, he argued cogently for a return to what in philosophical parlance is know as "naive realism," but all the chic thinkers then, and now, debunk such a world view as archaic and not very interesting. It didn't help, perhaps, that Adler repeatedly appealed to Aristotle and Aquinas to justify his positions - whether these sages have something to contribute or not.
Now comes John Searle, a very professional philosopher and a distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He's written a great many books, some of which have been standards in the field of language and psychology throughout the world. He's Oxford trained and is widely respected. And, like Adler, he has a few philosophical mistakes he'd like to clear up. And does so incisively against those who attack the external world, mind, consciousness, intentionality, society, and language with clarity, elegance, style, and wit. Unlike Adler, he applies the Anglo-American style of analytic philosophy, the most rigorous intellectual approach, but one doesn't need to know logic to understand the force of his compelling arguments.
In many ways, this is Searle's best book. Not because it is a detailed examination of every philosophical nuance, but because he brutally demythologizes idealism and all attending -isms that have no foundation, no raison d'etre, no excuse, other than the "will to power" to force _their_ reality onto others. In 161 short pages he turns many philosophical "puzzles" into enigmas of someone else's making, not perplexities we have to live with. It's a refreshing and enjoyable read. I only hope time will bear the fruit of Searle's views on ethics, one field in which he has been curiously silent.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on January 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In this somewhat informal presentation, philosopher John R. Searle condenses a lifetime-to-date of thought on various issues surrounding the so-called "mind-body" problem.

The solution to this problem, he contends, is to regard mind as a natural phenomenon that depends causally on the brain but also has causal powers of its own (much like such macro-properties of matter as "solidity" and "color"). In this way, he argues, we can do justice to the empirical facts without falling into either of the twin errors "dualism" and "materialism," both of which he ascribes to an inherited philosophical language that is frankly better dispensed with.

He summarizes his views on consciousness and "intentionality," quickly but precisely describing the essential features of mental activity that set it apart from other natural phenomena.

On this foundation, he builds his theories of speech acts and socially-constructed reality, never losing sight of the fact that each of these depends on a "background" of what he calls "external realism" (the view that there is a given reality that exists independently of our minds, which he correctly notes is not really a "view" but the implicit basis on which _all_ "views" are held).

And there are other delights along the way: for example, we are also treated, in summary fashion, to Searle's engagingly straightforward defense of the aforementioned "external realism" (presented more fully in the three closing chapters of his previous work, _The Construction of Social Reality_).
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 9, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent summation of Searle's thought. The first section is an attack on antirealist (i.e., there are no facts in the world independent of facts we construct with thoughts and language) strains in contemporary intellectual circles that is right on the money. The next section reiterates Searle's position that consciousness is a biological phenomenon and the product of the brain. While I think that Searle avoids ontological issues, his main aim is to do away with the Cartesian (i.e., the mind is a distinct substance from matter) framework that haunts the mind-body debate.
Finally, Searle presents his thoughts on how social and institutional facts (like "money", "points in a ballgame", "marriage", etc.) enter into the world. The conclusion of the book talks about what the role of philosophy is and how philosophy makes progress. That is, Searle explains the importance of philosophy.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
As a student of philosophy, I found, first of all, Searle's methodological approach to philosophical analysis and conceptual mapping very helpful. The clarity, rigor, and logical structure that Searle writes with are to be admired. For anyone looking for well-done and well-written philosophy text, this is certainly a book to consult.
Although I am not sympathetic to analytic philosophy and its problems, this book deserves to be read and thought through. Furthermore, even though this book was intended to scratch the surface of conscienceness, language, etc., it is certainly not lacking in rigor.
Finally, Searle has an interesting philosophical tool to analyzing philosophical problems: he attempts to get past the dominant and current categorization of problems (for example, materialism and dualism when talking about the mind and constitution) and form his own way of talking about the problem (and thus forming his own category). I am not sure if the methodological approach is of any help (because it just creates another category). But I will say that his break with the traditional notions of dualism and materialism is helpful and rather thought provoking.
My one question: Even though Searle attempts to get past these traditional categories in thinking about the mind and its structure, I think that, even though he says he does not, he has a prior commitment to a naturalistic worldview. If so, fine. I just wish he was explicit. If not, then what is he?
Great book. Read it and enjoy. Simply put: this is great philosophy and done very well.
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