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Mind: A Brief Introduction

by John Searle, Oxford University Press, 2004

Searle recognizes the role that neurobiology plays in memory, consciousness and intentionality. But rather than reduce consciousness to any kind of materialist essence, Searle stays with science and takes the agnostic position. He is suspicious of isms, including "materialism." Searle holds that causality regarding consciousness is one of those questions that science and mathematics cannot answer.

He writes of humans having intentions rather than just being conscious, and he writes that what matters about the mind is its "capacity for information processing."

Searle criticizes the seventeenth century philosopher René Descartes for his dualism: Descartes' idea that humanity's consciousness is a spiritual entity completely separate from the material body – that we are ghosts (spirits) in a physical machine.Searle finds no basis for concluding such a separation. He writes that Descartes' kind of dualism – substance dualism – does not connect well with modern physics:

Physics says that the amount of matter/energy in the universe is constant; but substance dualism seems to imply that there is another kind energy, mental energy or spiritual energy, that is not fixed by physics. So if substance dualism is true then it seems that one of the most fundamental laws of physics, the law of conservation, must be false. (p. 42)

Searle writes that we don't know how free will in the brain "could possibly work," and he adds:

But we also know that the conviction of our own freedom is inescapable. We cannot act except under the presupposition of freedom. (p. 234)

Searle believes in freedom of choice insofar as he believes in intentionality. He separates the randomness of quantum mechanics and the question of free will. "Free will, he writes." is not the same as randomness. Quantum mechanics gives us randomness but not freedom." (p. 231)

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.