Minds, Brains, and Science Critical Context - Essay

John R. Searle

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Minds, Brains, and Science is important for two reasons. First, it explores questions that have fascinated people in the West since the time of Plato; second, it presents the material in a format apprehensible by the interested nonspecialist. It succeeds admirably at its second task and provides the nonspecialist with a cogent introduction to some important modern philosophical questions.

Minds, Brains, and Science explores questions that interest not only philosophers but also computer scientists and cognitive scientists. The six essays fit into Searle’s own exploration of the questions, including his article “Minds, Brains, and Programs,” which discusses the “Chinese room,” and Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind (1983), which in part claims that mental properties are higher than the neurophysiological level of the brain. Minds, Brains, and Science explores questions of major scholarly inquiry, such as the relationship between the mind and the brain/body (see, for example, Mind and Brain: The Many-Faceted Problem, 1982, edited by Sir John Eccles), the relationship between philosophy and science (see, for example, Hilde Hein’s On the Nature and Origin of Life, 1971), and artificial intelligence (as in, for example, Theodore Roszak’s The Cult of Information: The Folklore of Computers and the True Art of Thinking, 1986). Specifically, there is a large amount of secondary critical literature that discusses both Searle’s ideas and his conclusions, and Minds, Brains, and Science is in part an answer to essays critiquing “Minds, Brains, and Programs” and Intentionality.