John Searle on Perception and Intentionality

Below is a video recording of philosopher and professor John Searle delivering a lecture on ‘Perception and Intentionality’ at the University of Cologne upon accepting Albertus Magnus Professorship in 2013:

He discusses here the problem of perception and the views adopted throughout the history of philosophy, most of which involve the rejection of naive realism, which Searle takes to be the fundamental mistake. Searle doesn’t really give much of his own account here, but just gives a general overview of the epistemological problem and the various arguments from illusion and hallucination which drove many to reject naive realism in the first place, inevitably creating a gulf between subject and object, and thereby causing skeptical anxiety about how we could possibly know the external world if we never have perceptual access to it. Searle thinks that you can only hold onto realism without falling into radical skepticism if you take a naive, direct realist conception of perception, which doesn’t cut us off from external reality in the way that sense datum, representationalist, and idealist views tend to do. Searle then goes on to discuss intentionality and how it relates to perceptual experience.

2 responses to “John Searle on Perception and Intentionality

    • I’m with Merleau-Ponty (and Searle for the most part) on most philosophical issues re: perception. Perception and cognition (experience) is a synthetic process of assembling and sorting sense “data” for the purposes of coping, predicting, and wayfinding. My conception of how that plays out philosophically is too much to get into right now (going on vacation to Europe), but I will say i have adopted a kind of “zero-point realism” where radical immanence and action provide a background field of consequence and wild agental nonhuman forces with-in which we must find our way. Language and its speciation into different discourses, including different branches of philosophies, are merely language games (Wittgenstein) used for coping and wayfinding. The real doesn’t need us to validate it in our onto-stories, it makes its presence known in every moment. SO we can choose whatever story works – “realism” or “idealism” or whatever – but the point is to act and adapt to the Real not simply to interpret it.

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