John Searle is Mills Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, and is noted for contributions in the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and consciousness, and on the characteristics of socially constructed versus physical realities.
Searle's early works built on the efforts of his teachers, J. L. Austin and P. F. Strawson. In particular Searle's Speech Acts developed Austin's analysis of performative utterances. Searle focused on what Austin had called illocutionary acts, acts performed in saying something. In this analysis the sentences (Speech Acts p. 22)
- Sam smokes habitually
- does Sam smoke habitually?
- Sam, smoke habitually!
- would that Sam smoked habitually
Searle describes how the illocutionary forces of a sentence can be described as obeying various rules. These rules delimited the propositional content, set the background conditions and assumed intent of the speaker, and reveal what it was the sentence was intended to do. The assumed intent of the speaker, or the intentionality of the sentence, became a prime focus in later work. Intentionality lies at the heart of the Chinese Room. This argues against artificial intelligence by proposing that since minds have intentionality, but computers do not, computers cannot be minds.
Searle has more recently applied his analysis of intentionality to social constructs. A five dollar note is a five dollar note only in virtue of collective intentionality. It is only because I think it is worth five dollars and you think it is worth five dollars that it can perform its economic function.
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2 Books by John Searle
3 Other Books