Freedom and Neurobiology

Freedom and Neurobiology: Reflections on Free Will, Language, and Political Power

John R. Searle
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Freedom and Neurobiology
    Book Description:

    Our self-conception derives mostly from our own experience. We believe ourselves to be conscious, rational, social, ethical, language-using, political agents who possess free will. Yet we know we exist in a universe that consists of mindless, meaningless, unfree, nonrational, brute physical particles. How can we resolve the conflict between these two visions?

    In Freedom and Neurobiology, the philosopher John Searle discusses the possibility of free will within the context of contemporary neurobiology. He begins by explaining the relationship between human reality and the more fundamental reality as described by physics and chemistry. Then he proposes a neurobiological resolution to the problem by demonstrating how various conceptions of free will have different consequences for the neurobiology of consciousness.

    In the second half of the book, Searle applies his theory of social reality to the problem of political power, explaining the role of language in the formation of our political reality. The institutional structures that organize, empower, and regulate our lives-money, property, marriage, government-consist in the assignment and collective acceptance of certain statuses to objects and people. Whether it is the president of the United States, a twenty-dollar bill, or private property, these entities perform functions as determined by their status in our institutional reality. Searle focuses on the political powers that exist within these systems of status functions and the way in which language constitutes them.

    Searle argues that consciousness and rationality are crucial to our existence and that they are the result of the biological evolution of our species. He addresses the problem of free will within the context of a neurobiological conception of consciousness and rationality, and he addresses the problem of political power within the context of this analysis.

    A clear and concise contribution to the free-will debate and the study of cognition, Freedom and Neurobiology is essential reading for students and scholars of the philosophy of mind.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51055-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. INTRODUCTION Philosophy and the Basic Facts
    (pp. 1-36)

    This book has had an unusual publication history, and in this introduction I am going to explain its history and attempt to locate its two chapters within the larger research project of which they are a part.

    In late Spring of 2001, I gave a series of lectures at the Sorbonne, one a large public lecture in French on the general topic of language and political power, and some presentations in English to smaller groups, ranging from lectures to seminar discussions, under various auspices and on topics ranging from the freedom of the will to the semiotics of wine tasting....

  4. CHAPTER ONE Free Will as a Problem in Neurobiology
    (pp. 37-78)

    The persistence of the traditional free will problem in philosophy seems to me something of a scandal. After all these centuries of writing about free will, it does not seem to me that we have made very much progress. Is there some conceptual problem that we are unable to overcome? Is there some fact that we have simply ignored? Why is it that we have made so little advance over our philosophical ancestors?

    Typically, when we encounter one of these problems that seems insoluble it has a certain logical form. On the one hand we have a belief or a...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Social Ontology and Political Power
    (pp. 79-110)

    The Western philosophical tradition has an especially influential component of political philosophy. The classics in the field, from Plato’s Republic through Rawls’s Theory of Justice, have an importance in our general culture that often exceeds even most other philosophical classics. The subjects discussed in these works include descriptions of the ideal society, the nature of justice, the sources of sovereignty, the origins of political obligation, and the requirements for effective political leadership. One could even argue that the most influential single strand in the Western philosophical tradition is its political philosophy. This branch of philosophy has an extra interest because...

  6. INDEX
    (pp. 111-118)