TA100 (Smith)


Commentary 14 (to C11, by Searle)



by Slavoj Hontela

2 March 2008, posted 15 March 2008


I didn't have the opportunity to read the last book of John R. Searle, ‘Freedom and Neurobiology’, but keeping in mind his opinion about ‘consciousness’ in 1994 (‘Minds, Brains, and Science’), in 1999 (‘Discovery of the Mind’), then using thought and consideration on the recent book by Searle by Herbert Müller (KJ Forum TA 100 C8 :  ‘John R Searle and his common sense’ on 9 February 2008), and finally from David Papineau’s review of that book, I am gaining the impression that Searle is not coming with any new information about the problem of the consciousness since his previous book edited in 1994.


His sovereign-certainty declaration (in C11) that “all my conscious processes are caused by neuronal processes (apparently in the thalamo-cortical system) and they are going on right there in the brain", remind me of thoughts I heard already a very long time ago.  It seems to me quite surprising when Searle confirms his above mentioned opinion by the dictum “I put this by saying that consciousness is caused by and realized in the brain".  Further Searle rejects “any philosophical theories ... taking the facts any time … getting as close to the truth as he can” against views that he thinks are mistaken.  Not so long ago (1997) Ken Wilber in the pages of the “Journal of Consciousness Studies'' talked about 52 theories trying to explain the problem of consciousness.  Searle’s ideas might be summarized in a question.  What, and where, are the facts Searle talks about ?


I presume all living beings possess a certain type of consciousness.  What about an octopus (my personal experience) in whose aquarium were repeatedly found leftovers of crab shells and fish gills and tails, although this animal, for scientific reasons, was not fed with that food, while another octopus was.  But that one has its aquarium about 3 meters distance from the first one !  An infrared photo-camera was installed, surveying happenings in the aquarium room during the night. To our surprise almost immediately the light in aquarium room went out in the evening, the octopus (the one with crab and fish residuals) crawled out from his water-tank, crossed those 3 meters of distance on the floor, crawled up into the aquarium of the octopus usually fed with crabs and fishes, picked up the food and crawled back into his home aquarium.


It is certainly possible that this animal presented activities considered as essential for presumption of consciousness, namely memory, a purposeful way of thinking, and ability of “decision making".


I would like to repeat the question: where has the octopus its thalamo-cortical brain formation ?  Could anybody be in doubt that the octopus has consciousness ?  In what category of MIR entities does consciousness belong ?  It is not testable, nor verifiable, but falsifiable.  Is it therefore metaphysical (?).  I doubt that.


According to Searle all these entities are questionable.




Slavoj Hontela

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