BOOK REVIEW / Quantum leaps: The rediscovery of the mind by John Searle, MIT Press pounds 9.95
Sunday 13 December 1992
handedly, for an intelligent, common-sense refutation of the wilder claims of Artificial Intelligence. He has always done so with wit, clarity and an entertaining pugnacity. Now Searle aims to 'put the final nail in the coffin of the theory that mind is a computer program' with a blistering attack on the crude materialist claims of the AI theorists, and with his own solution to the mind / body problem from the viewpoint of 'biological naturalism'.
Seeing that Newtonian physics tell them the world consists only of particles and forces, the behaviourist, the functionalist and the AI enthusiast try to account for human beings and our psychology in the same way. They are driven to this 'obviously false' position, Searle says, by an understandable fear of the anti-
scientific and 'spiritualist' claims of traditional dualism. In over-reaction, they reduce the mental to a process of computation. They confuse thinking with the simulation of thought.
What is left out of all computer theories of mind is consciousness. Modern philosophers of mind can't see that its subjective properties have any place in Newton's objective natural world. But according to Searle's 'biological naturalism', consciousness is a feature of the brain, and thus subjectivity must have its rightful place as a feature of the biologically natural world. He introduces the idea that it is an 'emergent' property of certain neurobiological processes. That is, it is a radically new property of their complex structure, just as liquidity or solidity are emergent properties of certain molecular groupings. This is both the most promising and the weakest feature of his position.
Searle admits that emergence as he defines it has no new causal properties. In this he displays an ignorance of quantum physics all too characteristic of most mind /
body philosophers. Any emergent quantum system has new causal properties up to a point. Something like a superfluid has them in large degree. Thus Searle makes a strong case for including consciousness within physics, but his own understanding of physics is ultimately too limited to get him where he would like to go.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food