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What brain for god's-eye? Biological naturalism, ontological objectivism and Searle

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Mainstream cognitive science shows a strong tendency to explain the mind by postulating a level of analysis separate from the biological and the sociological, and by assuming that the idea of computation is essential. John Searle has challenged these assumptions and suggested a solution to the mind-body problem (biological naturalism). I endorse his view that mental phenomena, consciousness and cognition, are genuine biological phenomena, but argue that Searle ignores some important entailments relative to essential features of the living phenomenon. First, these entailments are in conflict with the objectivistic tradition on which Searle's work rests. This reveals a more serious problem underlying basic assumptions of cognitive science and the philosophy of mind: the inadequacy of ontological objectivism. Secondly, they point to the fact that biological naturalism ignores the very interactive and co-defining nature of biological systems that take place beyond the level of the individual. As a consequence it is incomplete in its foundations and limited in its ability to account for sociocultural processes as inseparable constituents of the mind. To overcome these difficulties a view is outlined (ecological naturalism) that gives a coherent account of the mind and cognition without endorsing objectivism. This view emphasizes the non-separation between the mind and the medium in which it evolves, their biological co-definition, and also the supra-individual nature of the biology of mental phenomena.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Cognitive Studies, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.

Publication date: 1995-02-01

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