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John Searle

Former Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Language, University of California, Berkeley

John Rogers Searle is an American philosopher and currently the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.

John Searle began his college education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and in his junior year became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he obtained all of his university degrees, BA, MA and DPhil. He also had his first faculty position as a Lecturer at Christ Church Oxford. While an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, Searle was the secretary of “Students against Joseph McCarthy”. McCarthy was then the junior Senator from Wisconsin.

Searle is noted for his contributions to the Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind and Philosophy of Society. He has published 18 books, over 200 articles, and his works have been translated into 21 languages.  His early work, which did a great deal to establish his reputation, was on speech acts. He attempted to develop the ideas of his teacher J.L. Austin who invented the subject of speech acts. The principle thesis of the book is that speaking a language is essentially engaging in a rule-governed form of behavior and Searle attempts to state the rules of several different principle kinds of speech acts. Among his other important works on language is Expression and Meaning: Studies in the Theory of Speech Acts. This book attempts to develop further the basic ideas of speech acts and to discuss a number of problems not discussed in his earlier works. 

He has written a number of important articles and books in the philosophy of mind, most notably Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind, The Mystery of Consciousness, The Rediscovery of the Mind, and Mind: A Brief Introduction. He is now completing a book on perception which will be published by Oxford University Press. A main theme of these works is what he calls “Biological Naturalism”, the thesis that consciousness and mental phenomena are all irreducibly mental but nonetheless are ordinary biological and therefore physical features of the world. 

In Philosophy of Society, in addition to articles he has published two important books, The Construction of Social Reality and Making the Social World. The main theme is that social and institutional ontology, the ontology of money, property, government, marriage, and universities, is a natural development of a more basic physical, biological phenomena of which the world is constructed. Given the intrinsic intentionality of human beings, they have the capacity through collective intentionality to create the institutions of society, they do this through the repeated application of a certain type of speech act which Searle calls a “Status Function Declaration”.

He began teaching at Berkeley in 1959. He received the Jean Nicod Prize in 2000; the National Humanities Medal in 2004; and the Mind & Brain Prize in 2006.


Topic Series


Mind: A Brief Introduction (Fundamentals of Philosophy Series)

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Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization

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Freedom and Neurobiology: Reflections on Free Will, Language, and Political Power (Columbia Themes in Philosophy)

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The Mystery of Consciousness

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Philosophy in a New Century: Selected Essays

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Mind, Language And Society: Philosophy In The Real World (Masterminds)

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The Construction of Social Reality

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Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language

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Rationality in Action (Jean Nicod Lectures)

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