This collection should be welcomed by anyone working on the subtle interplay between theories of perception, internalism and externalism about mental and linguistic content, and the linguistic expression of mental states. Many of these connections have been put into focus by John Searle, and his views are here subjected to careful scrutiny from a variety of directions. The contributions do not sum to a general discussion of Searle's contributions to the philosophy of mind and language. There is little or nothing here on, for example, the Chinese rooms and Strong AI, or on his more recent work on social construction and rationality. Such absences are an inevitable consequence of the sheer number of influential theses Searle has advanced over the decades. Instead, the locus of discussion is the systematic perspective most clearly set out in his work (Searle 1983), a fact that lends integrity to the volume.

The book is divided into two main parts, with inevitable links across the divide. The first is concerned with the intentionality of mental states, and the second with the intentionality of linguistic acts. The first kind of intentionality is, according to Searle, intrinsic, while the second is inherited from the first, with linguistic conventions affording the derivation. The two kinds of intentionality parallel one another in a way that purportedly makes this derivation more straightforward: a mental state consists of a propositional content plus an attitude, while a speech act consists of a propositional content plus force, the elements in each case being theoretically dissociable determinants of the identity of the whole.

Many have argued against such dissociability in the linguistic context, and the equivalent scepticism on the mental side is here argued for by François Recanati. He does not rely on an analogy with language, but argues on independent grounds that mental states have satisfaction conditions determined jointly by their content and their attitude type or experiential mode. In particular, content alone does not determine satisfaction conditions. Only by rejecting the assumption that it does can we acknowledge the force behind two distinct ideas: that when we have a perceptual memory, the memory and the original experience share the same content; and that perceptual experiences concern the present while memories concern the past (58–9). The temporal element of the satisfaction conditions of either experience is drawn from the mode of experience it is – a perception or a memory, as it may be – rather than from the content they share.

Some authors side with Searle and others against him, though by and large they argue against prevailing views. Martin Kusch, for example, rejects Searle's fairly standard assessment of Kripke's sceptical solution to his ‘Wittgensteinian’ paradox: that the shudder quotes around ‘Wittgensteinian’ are apt and that the sceptical solution is inadequate. Kusch uses Searle mainly as a source of useful counterarguments, as do Christopher Gauker and Stephen Barker when they, in separate essays, take a stand against the possibility of languageless thought. Gauker holds that conceptual thought is a matter of imagining conversations, while Barker treats beliefs as dispositions to assert. The 12 contributions are, without exception, written to a high standard. Even if some perspectives are bound to strike some readers as peculiar, authors always take contrary views seriously, even if they sometimes must defer to lengthier defences undertaken elsewhere.

As often with volumes centring on a particular thinker's work, few will want to read this book from cover to cover. That said, many will wish to look at papers other than the one that draws them to the book in the first place. Four essays complement one another particularly well, those by Kent Bach, Robin Jeshion and Wayne A. Davis, along with the chapter by Recanati already mentioned. Each seeks to untangle knots created by Searle's desire to maintain an internalist account of mental states in the face of the particularity problem. This, it has turned out, is in fact a cluster of problems but, simply put, the worry is that internalistic content, couched as it must be in terms of general descriptive properties, cannot capture the particularity involved in, say, seeing that this daisy (as opposed to any number of the other daisies with which it has properties pretty much all in common) is drooping. Searle seeks to obtain uniqueness by appealing to the premise that the seen daisy, unlike the others, causes the perceptual event itself – a fact that, if it is allowed to enter into the content of the event, provides the particularity alleged by externalists to be missing from any internalist account.

Recanati and Bach are both sympathetic to Searle's insistence on a reflexive causal element in perception, but they are less sympathetic to his importing this element into the content of the perception. They see it, instead, as a reflection of the mode of experience that perception (as opposed to, say, memory) is. Bach suggests that Searle's descriptivism lies behind his reluctance to see this, and advances an indexicalist explanation of perception of particulars that Searle would be hard pushed to agree with for the same reason. Jeshion, on the other hand, thinks that Searle has responded well to the particularity objection in its usual forms, but that it arises in a more deadly Kantian form that cannot be met. In this latter guise, the problem has to do with the spatial factors that underpin the individuation of the objects of perception (88). On both a priori and empirical grounds, Jeshion argues, these factors cannot be captured internalistically. Finally, in his discussion of proper names, Davis adds another possibility to the mix. He resuscitates Searle's well-known theory of proper-name reference by construing it as not committed to descriptivism – despite, to its detriment, being commonly so interpreted. Were he right, we would be presented with the live question of whether, in the context of perceptual as opposed to linguistic intentionality, it would be feasible to drop descriptivism while remaining an internalist, thereby circumventing the particularity objection.

Searle has not (here, at least) responded to these papers, which is a shame, but in compensation we have a new paper that, after the extremely useful editor's introduction, opens the volume. In it, he adds to his outlook some thoughts on semantic normativity and the unity of the proposition. This volume's clarity and concern with fundamentals is a due testament to his growing legacy of work.


Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind
Cambridge University Press