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Brakel, L.A. (1994). The Rediscovery of the Mind: By John R. Searle. Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press, 1992. 261 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 63:787-792.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:787-792

The Rediscovery of the Mind: By John R. Searle. Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press, 1992. 261 pp.

Review by:
Linda A. Wimer Brakel

This is a book by the noted philosopher of mind about vexing problems in the philosophy of mind. So why should psychoanalysts be interested? The short answer is that problems in the philosophy of mind are no less our problems; notwithstanding great methodological differences in the two disciplines, there is a considerable overlap in content. A somewhat longer answer concerns Searle's particular "rediscovery" of the mind (and the mental). Searle's conceptualizations, unlike those of many of his contemporaries, can encompass, rather than exclude, basic psychoanalytic ideas.

John Searle indeed takes up several matters which should be of vital interest to psychoanalysts. 1. How can consciousness be known? (Usually this epistemic question devolves to another: namely, how can consciousness be explained from a "scientific-objective" third-person view? Searle, however, does not leave it there.) 2. What is the ontological nature of consciousness; in other words, what is it? 3. How does consciousness arise? 4. What is the role of consciousness in the mental? All of these questions (not surprisingly to psychoanalysts) lead to considerations of the unconscious, particularly in relation to consciousness.

Let me take up first what are (at least in this analyst's view) some points Professor Searle makes which are highly compatible with the best of psychoanalytic clinical theory and metapsychology:

1. "Mental phenomena are caused by neurophysiological processes in the brain and are themselves features of the brain" (p. 1). This simple statement of "biological naturalism" declares Searle's intent to provide a nondualistic account, and sets the stage for a cogent attack on functionalism generally (including behaviorism in its various forms) and cognitive computationalism (i.e., the brain is like a computer, and the mind its software) in particular. I am not unaware that some analysts are comfortable with computer-artificial intelligence models, while others, including some "neostructuralists," will not concern themselves with whatever structure underlies mental function.

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