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Home » John Searle on Consciousness and the Brain at TEDxCERN (Transcript)

John Searle on Consciousness and the Brain at TEDxCERN (Transcript)

John Searle

Here is the full transcript of philosopher John Searle’s TEDx Talk presentation on Consciousness and the Brain at TEDxCERN conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio: Consciousness & the Brain by John Searle at TEDxCERN

TRANSCRIPT: 

I am going to talk about consciousness.

Why consciousness? Well, it’s a curiously neglected subject both in our scientific and our philosophical culture.

Why is that curious? Well, it is the most important aspect of our lives for a very simple logical reason, namely, it’s a necessary condition on anything being important in our lives that we are conscious. You care about science, philosophy, music, art, whatever, it’s no good if you are a zombie or in a coma, right? So consciousness is number one. All right. Now we’ve got — that’s the first reason we are talking about it.

The second reason is that when people do get interested in it, as I think they should, they tend to say the most appalling things. And I am not going to attempt to conceal from you some of the most appalling things that have been said about consciousness. And even when they are not saying appalling things and they are really trying to do serious research, well, it’s been slow, progress has been slow.

Let me tell you a little bit about some of the difficulties. When I first got interested in this, I thought well, it’s a straightforward problem in biology, let’s get these brain stabbers to get busy and figure out how it works in the brain. So I went over to UCSF and I talked to all heavy-duty neurologists there and they showed some impatience, as scientists often do when you ask them embarrassing questions. But the thing that struck me is one guy said and exasperated, a very famous neurobiologist, he said: “Look, in my discipline, it’s OK to be interested in consciousness, but get tenure first!”

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