John Searle: biography of this influential philosopher

John Searle (1932-) is an American philosopher known for his contributions to the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. His proposals have had significant repercussions not only in these fields, but also in epistemology, ontology, the social study of institutions, practical reasoning, artificial intelligence, among others.

Below we will see John Searle’s biography, As well as some of his major works and contributions to philosophy.

    John Searle: Biography of a Pioneer of the Philosophy of Language

    John Searle was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1932. He was the son of an executive and a physicist, with whom he moved on several occasions until finally settling in the state of Wisconsin, where he started his career.

    After obtaining his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford in 1959, Searle devoted himself to teaching at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of California at Berkeley.

      The theory of speech acts

      While studying at the University of Oxford, John Searle trained with the British philosopher John Langshaw Austin, who had developed the theory of speech acts. Much of Searle’s job has been to pick up and continue the development of the latter.

      Declarative acts and illocutionary acts

      Through this theory, Austin criticized the tendency of contemporary philosophers, specifically the philosophers of logical positivism, Who propose that language is only descriptive, that is, the only possible language is one that makes descriptive statements, which may or may not be true only depending on the context.

      According to Austin, there are defining linguistic expressions (which are descriptive statements), but they occupy only a small part of the significant uses of language. More than factual statements, for Austin there are performative statements (To whom he called “speech acts”). These speech acts have different levels, one of them is “ilocutivos acts” or “ilocucionarios acts”. These are statements that have specific social functions and effects.

      For example, promises, orders, requests. That is to say that these are statements which when naming the shares, or to say the reverse, these are actions that are only performed when designated.

      The contributions of this thinker

      John Searle took up the theory of speech acts, and focused specifically on the analysis of illocutionary acts, their propositional content and the rules that flow from them (under the conditions necessary for a statement to have performative effects).

      According to Searle, a speaking act is a situation that includes a speaker, a listener, and a broadcast speaker. And an illocutionary or illocutionary act is the minimum unit of linguistic communication. For the philosopher, linguistic communication includes acts, And this is because by themselves, noises and written signs do not establish communication.

      For linguistic communication to be established, there must be certain intentions. The latter means that when we communicate (when we ask or say something) we act, we are part of a series of semantic rules.

      John Searle elaborates on this complex proposition through describe both the semantic rules, Like the different kinds of illocutionary acts, their propositional content, the situations in which the discourse occurs, among other elements.

      Contributions to the philosophy of the mind

      In his academic and intellectual career, John Searle has significantly linked language with the mind. For him, speech acts are closely related to mental states.

      He was specifically interested in the relationship between intentionality and consciousness. He proposes that not all mental states are intentional, however beliefs and desires, for example, have an intentional structure in that they relate to something in particular.

      It also suggests that consciousness is an inherently biological process, so this is not possible. build a computer the processor is the same as that of our consciousness. His contributions have been particularly important to cognitive science, philosophy of mind, and discussions about the possibility of creating strong artificial intelligence (which not only mimics the human mind, but actually reproduces it).

      To challenge the latter, John Searle proposed a mental experiment known as The China Room, from which he explains how an operating system could mimic human mind and behavior if it was equipped with ‘a series of rules for specifically ordering a series of symbols; without necessarily having the operating system understand what these symbols mean, and without developing intentionality and awareness of it.

      John Searle made an important contribution to the discussion of the division and the relationship between mind and body. For him, these two substances are not radically different, as Descartes had established since the seventeenth century, nor can they be reduced to each other (for example, the brain is not exactly the same than the mind), but these are phenomena that are intrinsically linked.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Fotion, N. (2018). John Searle. Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed June 5, 2018. Available at
      • Valdés, L. (1991) (ed.). The search for meaning. Philosophy of linguistic readings. Tecnos: University of Murcia.

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