[Wittrs] Re: Further Thoughts on Dennett, Searle and the Conundrum of Dualism

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2010 17:12:34 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Gordon Swobe <wittrsamr@...> wrote:

> Searle formalized his argument because people like you and Dennett had 
> misconstrued it.

A lot more people than Dennett and me disagree with it and have noticed logical 
and other flaws in it. Have we all "misconstrued it"?

> You have conflated the conclusion of the CRT (CR thought experiment) with the 
> conclusion of the CRA.

The thought experiment is not an argument and has no "conclusion". It 
supposedly shows something that, upon consideration, we would all agree is the 
case. What it purportedly shows is two things:

1) The CR has no understanding (a feature of a conscious mind); and

2) That because it has no understanding, its constituent parts cannot produce 

The first item is a reasonable supposition, i.e., the CR has no understanding 
based on any ordinary meaning of the term.

The second relies on a particular notion of consciousness, namely that it is 
irreducible to anything not already conscious. And this depends on the idea 
that if consciousness is to be found in the CR it will be found in the 
constituents of the CR. Based on THIS supposition, Searle formulates his third 
premise in the CRA:

"Syntax [the constituents of the CR] does not constitute and is not sufficient 
for semantics [understanding]".

But since the second claim derived from the CR depends on a conception of 
consciousness that is not a given and may well be incorrect because there are 
other possibilities (such as Dennett's), it is not obviously or self-evidently 
or trivially true, contra Searle's claim.

The CRA's conclusions depend on all three premises of the argument, including 
premise #3, being true. The third premise looks compelling in the way it is 
formulated because on one reading of it it IS trivially true, i.e., that syntax 
is not the same as semantics, therefore it does not constitute semantics and it 
is not sufficient to say, if we have an instance of syntax, that we have an 
instance of semantics.

But for the CRA's conclusion to be true, the third premise has to be true in a 
different sense, i.e., it has to be read as a claim of non-causality (because 
Searle makes clear that we are talking about whether computers can do what 

And as a claim of non-causality it simply is not self-evidently true because 
identity has no implication for causality while the very notion that it is true 
as a claim of non-causality DEPENDS on an understanding of consciousness as 
irreducible and so, for it to be in the CR, it must be present as an 
irreducible property of one or more of the CR's constituents.

If, in fact, consciousness is a system property rather than a property of one 
of the constituent processes of the CR, then there is no impediment to 
supposing that what Searle has called "syntax" could cause what he has called 

So far your responses to any of this have all been to reiterate things Searle 
has said while ignoring the carefully spelled out reasons I have offered for 
suggesting that Searle has it wrong.

You cannot show that my critique of Searle is wrong by simply ignoring it in 
favor of recapitulating Searle's claims and adding that I just don't understand 
it. Of course, I may not (as you may not understand the criticisms), but if I 
don't, you need to explain what I am missing. Simply recapitualating previous 
recapitulations is not to argue your case.

But it is, as Josh noted early on, to stamp your feet. It's rather like arguing 
by insistence.

Instead of insisting Searle is right and you are right about Searle, you should 
be dealing with the substantive criticisms offered against his view (and your 
view of his view). Instead of ignoring the criticisms of an academic like 
Hauser (and many, many others) you should be considering what they have to say 
and asking yourself whether it's just possible Searle really did get it wrong.

> The CRT serves only to substantiate the third premise of the CRA; it 
> illustrates that not even an educated Englishman with consciousness can 
> understand Chinese symbols merely from manipulating them according to 
> syntactic rules.

Why an Englishman? How about an English speaking Frenchman? Or an American?

The point is what can a computer do and what can't it achieve. It is not what 
the man in the room is missing. You are confusing the man's part in this.

> You argue that the Englishman cannot understand on account of his role as a 
> mere cog in the machinery that implements rote processes, yet somehow that 
> same mere cog in the machinery can understand the symbols in the English 
> version of the program while implementing the same sort of rote processes.

And somehow the CPU in the computer can follow the algorithm with which it is 
programmed. The man in the room is just following an algorithm though he does 
it differently than the CPU, i.e., he thinks about it and learns it consciously.

> Your argument makes no sense.
> -gts

You have yet to deal with any of its key points (offered above for the nth time 

On the other hand, since you have already acknowledged that you aren't 
interested in the critiques of others, particularly people like Hauser, and you 
have shown that while you are willing to speak of Dennett it is mainly to find 
ways to show he doesn't understand something all evidence indicates he 
understands much better than you do, so why should it matter to me, at this 
point, that you are not engaging my points? You have already ignored much more 
substantial and authoritative philosophical personages than I. If anything, I 
am at least in good company.


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