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Volume 48 • Number 2

April 2011



Wittgenstein and the Background

by John R. Searle

For the past fifty or so years I have been engaged in a single philosophical project, and specific topics on which I worked, such as speech acts, consciousness, intentionality, rationality, and social ontology, are all aspects of that larger project. I did philosophy professionally for a couple of decades before I fully realized the nature of the overall project and how all the various parts fitted in. As a preliminary formulation we might say that the project is to give an account of the human reality—the reality of such phenomena as language, consciousness, intentionality, free will, rationality, aesthetic experiences, ethics, and society—in a way that is both consistent with, and a natural development from, the basic facts of the universe as described by physics, chemistry, and for our little corner of the universe, evolutionary biology. How, in a world that consists entirely of mindless, meaningless physical particles in fields of force, can there be speech acts, consciousness, intentionality, rationality, free will, ethics, and aesthetics, as well as the human social reality of money, property, government, marriage, and philosophy conferences? I regard this as the central overriding question in contemporary philosophy, and indeed in contemporary intellectual life. My investigations deal with many traditional philosophical questions, such as those concerning mind and meaning, as well as some that have not been part of mainstream analytic philosophy, such as those concerning social ontology.

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ISSN: 2152-1123