Sunday, April 19, 2009

50 years of John Searle at Berkeley

To find a 90 minute podcast of this gathering, which is remarkable for the quality of the speeches given in honor of philosopher John Searle, search under "searle 50 berkeley" at iTunes U (or follow this link).

John Searle’s 50 Years at Berkeley—A Celebration

A celebration of John Searle’s 50 years of distinguished service to the UC Berkeley campus, with reflections by Tom Nagel, Barry Stroud, Robert Cole, Alex Pines, Peter Hanks, and Maya Kronfeld.

While I disagree strongly with Searle's most famous philosophical construct -- the so called Chinese room argument against strong AI (see also here) -- I've always found his writing and argumentation to be exceptionally clear, at least for a philosopher ;-)

See also Paul Graham against philosophy.


anon said...

As a policeman once said to me on the New Jersey Turnpike, "You've gotta be kiddin' me." He stopped me for, get this, driving the speed limit in the middle of the night.

John Searle is an analytic "philospher". Like theology the best minds are not attracted to philosphy, and they haven't been for more than a century. Searle is at the same intellectual level as a sociology professor.

It is not quite as bad in continental Europe. Anglo-American (aka ananyltic) philosphy is an oxymoron. It is not philosophy. It is the adolescent pseudointellectual musings of fourth rate minds.

In the last century and a half there have been only three philosphers worthy of the name.

Martin Heidegger
Karl Marx
Friedrich Nietzsche

Needless to say these have all been Germans. Marx was a German Jew and an anti-Semite.

Don said...

Searle was my mentor at Cal in college and graduate school, along with Hubert Dreyfus, George Lakoff, and Gregory Vlastos. From him I developed the following:

Don's Hermeneutics: Like Rabbi Yishmael's Rules, Only Not
"Searle's Sagacity":

"If a person can't explain something simply, then they don't know what they're talking about. The only exception being Kant."

"Corollary to Searle's Sagacity":

"questions should be simple and comprehensible, and meant to elicit a simple explanation."

I also knew Paul Feyerabend, Bernard Williams, and William Craig, well, although I knew Craig too late to learn much from him.

I am a follower of Austin, Wittgenstein, and Merleau-Ponty. I write like them as well, which explains why I'm not an academic. Searle was an excellent teacher.

I'd discuss philosophy, but I want to mention a physics class that I had at Cal in college that taught me two important lessons. It was called "Physics for Poets", and the teacher was Owen Chamberlain.

The TA told me at the beginning of the class that the class was too easy for me since I was sitting in on the Honors Physics class with a couple of my friends. I audited a large number of courses.So I decided to read a few philosophy of physics books instead of paying any attention to the class. I managed, I was quite good at this, to talk Chamberlain into helping me.

One book that I studied was by Max Jammer. I got Chamberlain to read a chapter. When we met to talk about the book he told me that he couldn't understand Jammer because he used a weird mathematical notation and seemed very obscure. I learned then that I couldn't expect even a Nobel Prize winner to have the background to understand everything presented to him about physics.

I learned one other lesson: when the final was held, it was much more mathematical and difficult than I expected. I passed, but it wasn't easy. I never took a class for granted after that.

Don the libertarian Democrat

Steve Hsu said...

Don, thanks for the comments. If you get a chance to listen to the podcast, please post your comments. I found the speeches fascinating and inspiring.

Re: physics, see the Galison quote I put up before. It's not surprising that something Jammer wrote would be difficult for Chamberlain to digest.

''My question is not how different scientific communities pass like ships in the night,'' he wrote in Image and Logic. ''It is rather how, given the extraordinary diversity of the participants in physics -- cryogenic engineers, radio chemists, algebraic topologists, prototype tinkerers, computer wizards, quantum field theorists -- they speak to each other at all.''

anon said...

When I was thirteen I read Wittgenstein. I was a fan. Then I grew up.

Wittgenstein said nothing that an adolescent who can read the introductin to his Webster's Collegiate Dictionary wouldn't already know.

The intellectual level of Anglo-American philosophy is a JOKE. Philosophy is the laughing stock of the whole campus.

Obvously Heidegger is way over Searle's head.

Ian Drake said...

You say a lot, for someone who says nothing at all.

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