«RECONCILING SEARLE AND DREYFUS Closing the Gap: Phenomenology and Logical Analysis By Sean Dorrance Kelly I I AGREED TO WRITE THIS ARTICLE ON T IS ...»
In arguing against the possibility of a “deep unconscious,” Searle articulates the Connection Principle: “all unconscious intentional states are in principle accessible to consciousness.”5 He is referring to the Connection Principle in the interview on p. 121 when, in response to the comment that “conditions of satisfaction are potentially conscious,” he replies, “That’s right. One and the same intentional content can be either conscious or unconscious.” Assuming this is a constraint on what it is for something to count as the content of an intentional state, as Searle seems to intend it to be, we can formulate the constraint this way: in order for a condition to figure among the conditions of satisfaction for an intentional state, that condition must be in principle accessible to consciousness. Now, what it is for something to be “in principle accessible to consciousness” is no doubt a contentious issue. But fortunately we do not need a deep analysis of this condition. For we have already seen that Searle agrees that the causal self-referentiality condition is not in principle accessible to consciousness. That is why it is beyond the reach of the phenomenologists. If we agree that the causal self-referentiality constraint is not in principle accessible to consciousness, however, then the Connection Principle dictates that it cannot be among the conditions of satisfaction for an intentional state.
As he says in the interview on p. 118, “What does the phenomenologist say THE HARVARD REVIEW OF PHILOSOPHY vol.XIII no.2 2005 Closing the Gap: Phenomenology and Logical Analysis 9 about the utterance ‘The King of France is bald?’ The Russellian analysis is simply beyond the reach of Husserl, Heidegger, or Merleau-Ponty, because the conditions of satisfaction (in this case truth conditions) are not phenomenologically realized in the consciousness of the speaking agent. But why should they be?” If conditions of satisfaction are the same as intentional content, though, then Searle’s own Connection Principle seems to provide the relevant reason.9 Now, as a matter of fact I think this is not a particularly deep problem for Searle, at least not for the particular case of perception that I have been focusing on. The solution is simply to talk a little bit differently than he does.
For the Connection Principle seems to me at least on the right track as a principle for how to relate the contents of a perceptual state to its phenomenology. And the causal self-referentiality condition also seems to me a reasonable condition on perception. The problem is in thinking that every condition that must be satisfied for the perceptual state to represent the world accurately is a condition that belongs in the content of the state. Some conditions, like the causal selfreferentiality condition, are conditions on what it is for something to count as a perception (as opposed to a hallucination, for instance), while some conditions are genuinely part of the aspectual shape under which the subject experiences some object, event, or state of affairs. The first kind of condition is a condition on what is sometimes called the “attitude” of the intentional state, while the second kind of condition belongs in the content. Searle’s generic phrase “conditions of satisfaction” seems to cover up the important distinction between conditions that accrue to the attitude of the intentional state and those that accrue to the content. If Searle were to invoke this distinction in the way I propose, however, then he could keep the Connection Principle, keep the major elements of his logical analysis of perception, and even formulate his critique of phenomenology. For the right thing to say about the way logical analysis outruns phenomenology in this area is that the logical analyst, but not the phenomenologist, has the resources to give a full account of the difference between the various attitudes.
§2. Phenomenology and the Analysis of Social Reality
THERE IS ALSO A CONFLICT BETWEEN THE PHENOMENOLOGISTS AND SEARLEWHEN IT COMES To their respective conceptions of social reality, and I agree with Searle that the differences here are distinct from and perhaps deeper than those in the case of intentional content. Searle’s central question in this domain, he says, is this: “How do human minds impose institutional status functions on objects and people in the world? For example, how do we get from the bits of paper to dollar bills?” (p. 106). Now, this really is a question about ontology— about what it is for something to be money, not just about what the intentional content of our mental states is when we interact with or have thoughts about or use money. So it might seem obvious, as Searle suggests, that the phenomenologists have no way of grappling with or even understanding this question.10 This apparently obvious suggestion, however, becomes less obvious when we notice that social reality has an important and peculiar feature, one vol.XIII no.2 2005 THE HARVARD REVIEW OF PHILOSOPHY 10 Sean Dorrance Kelly that distinguishes it from, for instance, physical reality. At a first pass, we can formulate this feature by saying that if there were no human beings there would be no social reality; social reality, in other words, depends on human beings in some essential respect. Searle’s way of describing this is to say that social reality is observer dependent or observer relative. For Searle this does not only mean that social institutions like money depend on us because we create or invent them.
This is true of course, but it is merely a contingent fact about the causal history of money. Social reality is dependent on human beings in a deeper way as well, according to Searle. For in addition to having created the institution of money in the first place, money is and continues to be the kind of thing it is precisely because we collectively impose its function on it.
When Searle says that we collectively impose a status function on bits of paper by virtue of which they count as money, he is not making a phenomenological claim. He is not saying anything, for instance, about what we think of when we use money or about how we experience money when we interact with it. Rather, Searle’s is a claim about the logical structure of an institutional fact. It is a particular version of the general claim that, as he says, there would be no social reality at all except for the “collective intentional imposition of functions on entities that cannot perform these functions without that imposition.” 11 Such an analysis says nothing at all about the phenomenology of money-use, just as Russell’s analysis of the definite article as a unique existence claim says nothing at all about our phenomenology when we produce utterances involving “the.” And yet. Even if Searle’s claim is not itself phenomenological, there does seem to be a phenomenological issue lurking in the area. For Searle has said something about what it takes for money to exist: we must, as a society, collectively impose its function on it. The phenomenological question in the area is whether we could collectively impose this function if our experiences of paper always had, and continue to have, only thus and such phenomenological features.
This, I believe, is where phenomenology does have something to say.
Consider the analogous case of promising. Promising, like money, depends upon the imposition of a function on something that otherwise would not have it. When I promise to meet you next Tuesday for lunch, according to Searle, I bind myself to performing a certain action in the future by imposing a function on my utterance and thereby imposing an obligation upon myself.
Promises could not exist, on Searle’s analysis, unless people imposed such a function on their utterances. Now, this is a logical analysis of promising, and as Searle points out it does various kinds of explanatory work. For instance, it helps to explain how we can impose obligations upon ourselves that are independent of any desires we may come to have. As such, however, the logical analysis of promising makes no phenomenological claims at all.
Even so, there does seem to be a phenomenological issue in the area.
For I could not impose the appropriate function on my utterance, according to Searle, unless, when I produced it, I had the right kinds of intentions. I must, for instance, fulfill a sincerity condition: if I do not sincerely intend to meet you next Tuesday for lunch when I produce the utterance, then I will not succeed in performing the speech act of promising.12 Now, whether I have that intention or THE HARVARD REVIEW OF PHILOSOPHY vol.XIII no.2 2005 Closing the Gap: Phenomenology and Logical Analysis 11 not may involve things other than my phenomenology when I produce the utterance. But certainly some phenomenological states undercut my having the intention. I cannot, for instance, consciously and sincerely be thinking, “Like heck I will!” at the time I produce the utterance. Phenomenology does not, in other words, by itself give the analysis of promising. But phenomenology does provide constraints on the circumstances under which the speech act can be performed. It figures in what Searle calls the “performance conditions” of the act.
The case of institutional facts is similar. Searle is certainly right that the logical analysis of money in terms of the imposition of status functions on bits of paper is an analysis that is independent of phenomenological claims. Still, the question remains, under what phenomenological conditions could we as a society collectively impose the right kinds of status functions on bits of paper?
What, in other words, are the “performance conditions” for the collective imposition of status functions? The answer to this question, I believe, is interesting, and it helps to bring into constructive dialogue Searle’s logical analysis of social reality, on the one hand, and Dreyfus’s phenomenological description of our everyday activity in the social world, on the other. To see how, I need to introduce briefly the notion of an affordance.
One central phenomenological claim is that in engaged, skillful activity there is a “mode of presentation” of objects that is genuinely intentional but is not equivalent to any conceptually articulated understanding of them. When the rabbit is running away from the fox, for example, he does not experience the rabbit hole into which he runs as a hole, or as of a certain size, or as a place that has features that make it a good hiding place, or as anything that he could articulate conceptually at all (assuming, for the sake of argument, that the rabbit has the capacity for conceptually articulated intentional states). Neither is it right to say, however, that the activity of running into the hole is a mere nonintentional motor reflex on the rabbit’s part. After all, the skill of escaping a predator is a very flexible one that requires the rabbit to be sensitive to many different aspects of the situation. Rather, in the terminology of the psychologist J. J. Gibson, the rabbit hole affords hiding. That is to say, the rabbit experiences the rabbit hole, in the context of escaping the fox, as something that pulls him immediately into a certain kind of activity—namely, the activity of running into it.13 I spoke of this affordance as a “mode of presentation” of the rabbit hole, and in doing so I mean to invoke the Fregean metaphor. Perhaps the metaphor is not completely apt. But the important idea behind it, which is apt here, is to drive a wedge between the thing that is experienced—the rabbit hole— and the way in which it is experienced by the rabbit at the time. The way the rabbit experiences the rabbit hole when escaping the fox, or the way I experience the world when I am engaged completely in some kind of activity, is special and different. Phenomenology is devoted to describing this way of experiencing the world. One simple thing to say about it is that it is not equivalent to any conceptually articulated thought about the world. Frege’s own test of cognitive significance is sufficient to show this, since it would be informative to learn vol.XIII no.2 2005 THE HARVARD REVIEW OF PHILOSOPHY 12 Sean Dorrance Kelly (imagining myself in the rabbit’s place) that the hole I just ran into is, for instance, fifteen inches wide.14 Phenomenology, of course, has much more to say as well.
The notion of affordances or solicitations is central to the phenomenology of everyday activity. The world often draws me to act in certain ways without my having any conceptually articulate representation at all of the things with respect to which I act. This is true about the world of social reality as well.
Consider, for example, the phenomenology of money-use. It is a common observation that when one first sees foreign money it does not look valuable.