The Trouble With Searle's Biological Naturalism
Author: Corcoran, K.
Source: Erkenntnis, Volume 55, Number 3, December 2001 , pp. 307-324(18)
Abstract:John Searle's The Rediscovery of the Min is a sustained attempt to locate the mind and the mental firmly in the realm of the physical. ``Consciousness'', claims Searle, ``is just an ordinary biological feature of the world … '' More specifically, ``[t]he mental state of consciousness is just an ordinary biological, that is, physical feature of the brain''. Searle is adamant: ``Consciousness, to repeat, is a natural biological phenomenon''.
The purpose of this paper is to establish the claim that Searle's version of biological naturalism, articulated in Rediscovery and defended elsewhere, is an incoherent theory of the mind. I attempt to make good on this claim by showing (i) that Searle's biological naturalism is committed to four claims which are individually plausible but not possible for Searle to hold simultaneously, (ii) that Searle's biological naturalism is, despite Searle's protests to the contrary, a form of dualism, and therefore (iii) that Searle's biological naturalism is enmeshed in the same philosophical tradition from which Searle claims to be departing, and finally (iv) that Searle's commitment to the joint notions of nonreductivism and causal closure of the physical domain creates a problem his theory of the mind lacks the resources to solve plausibly.
Document Type: Regular Paper
Affiliations: Department of Philosophy Calvin College 3201 Burton Street Grand Rapids MI 49546 U.S.A.
Publication date: 2001-12-01