John Searle Makes A Forceful Case for Studying Consciousness, Where Everything Else Begins

Con­scious­ness is the sin­gle most impor­tant aspect of our lives, says philoso­pher John Sear­le. Why? “It’s a nec­es­sary con­di­tion on any­thing being impor­tant in our lives,” he says. “If you care about sci­ence, phi­los­o­phy, music, art — what­ev­er — it’s no good if you are a zom­bie or in a coma.”

Sear­le is one of today’s pre­em­i­nent philoso­phers of mind. Author of the famous “Chi­nese Room” argu­ment against the pos­si­bil­i­ty of true arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, Sear­le has been a per­sis­tent thorn in the side of those who would reduce con­scious­ness to com­pu­ta­tion, or con­flate it with behav­ior. Despite its intrin­si­cal­ly sub­jec­tive nature, con­scious­ness is an irre­ducible bio­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non, he says, “as much sub­ject to sci­en­tif­ic analy­sis as any oth­er phe­nom­e­non in biol­o­gy, or for that mat­ter the rest of sci­ence.”

Sear­le made his remarks at the May 3 TEDx con­fer­ence at CERN — the Euro­pean Orga­ni­za­tion for Nuclear Research — near Gene­va, Switzer­land. The video above gives a thought-pro­vok­ing overview of his basic con­clu­sions about con­scious­ness, but to delve deep­er into Sear­le’s phi­los­o­phy of mind — and also his phi­los­o­phy of lan­guage and soci­ety — see our ear­li­er post about his online Berke­ley lec­tures: “Phi­los­o­phy with John Sear­le: Three Free Cours­es.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

John Sear­le on Fou­cault and the Obscu­ran­tism in French Phi­los­o­phy

What Do Most Philoso­phers Believe? A Wide-Rang­ing Sur­vey Project Gives Us Some Idea

Down­load 90 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es and Start Liv­ing the Exam­ined Life

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  • Darth Buddha says:

    Been there, done that. Sat for days med­i­tat­ing on the essen­tial self, study­ing the deep­est depths of the con­scious expe­ri­ence. My con­clu­sion?

    Anat­ta. There is no self, not in any essen­tial way. It’s just a con­ve­nient sto­ry we tell, an illu­sion that aris­es from the func­tion of the brain. It’s not a com­fort­ing thought, but the truth rarely is.

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