John Searle, Freedom and Neurobiology: Reflections on Free Will, Language, and Political Power, New York: Columbia University Press, 2006
By Christopher Franklin
In this short book John R. Searle proves again why he is one of the most innovative and thoughtful philosophers of our time. Known best for his work on consciousness, Searle has recently turned his philosophical gaze towards agency (see also his book Rationality in Action). The book is composed of seemingly two unrelated chapters that both grew out lectures delivered in Europe. However, both chapters are attempts to move us closer to a solution to what Searle calls the single overriding question in contemporary philosophy: How do humans fit in? How do we square the fact that the world is wholly composed of “mindless, meaningless, unfree, nonrational, brute physical particles” with our ordinary conception of ourselves as “conscious, intentionalistic, rational, social, institutional, speech-act performing, ethical and free will possessing agents”? (p. 5)
Chapter 1 concerns the problem of free will and its attendant problems of rationality, consciousness, and the self. Chapter 2 focuses on social ontology and political power. Given the venue of this post, I found it appropriate to focus my discussion on Chapter 1.