[Wittrs] Re: I Experience in Ordinary Language

  • From: "gabuddabout" <gabuddabout@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 09 Mar 2010 23:43:26 -0000

--- In WittrsAMR@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "iro3isdx" <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
> --- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "gabuddabout" <wittrsamr@> wrote:
> > But Searle shows a possible case where there is the relevant
> > behavior without the semantics given that programs are spelled
> > out entirely in second-order property terms and as such involve
> > a notion of "electrical arrangement" where the electricity is
> > funnelled through logic gates such that a program is a purely
> > formal affair/arrangement.
> Actually, no, he does not show that at all.  He merely shows a  possible
> case where Searle does not understand how there could be semantics.

So he's just assiming and not proving that programs are formal and as such 
don't cause anything.  I'll buy that.

> > The systems reply changes the subject ...

> Actually, no, the Systems Reply does not change the subject at all.
> Searle is using his Chinese Room as part of an argument by analogy.  In
> that Chinese Room, Searle is carrying out the actions of the CPU  (the
> central processor).  The various baskets, in which symbols  are placed,
> are acting the part of memory.
> Searle does present a persuasive argument that the CPU itself would  not
> have semantics.  It falls short of a proof, but I'll grant that  it is a
> persuasive argument.

I think I have to buy your assertion here too.

> Here is what you are missing.  Nobody in AI, nobody in computer
> science, no mathematician - none of them ever assumed that the
> semantics would be in the CPU.  It was always assumed that it  would be
> in the system as a whole, rather than in the CPU.

That I'm not willing to buy.  The reason is that in the target article Searle 
mentions the thesis that in virtue of the program alone (Schank) story 
comprehension may, ex hypothesii, take place if the system passes a TT, again, 
in virtue of the program alone.

Let me know if the systems reply is no longer meant (or was never meant?) to be 
a thesis of computational functionalism given the hardware which is necessary 
to carry the program.  I thought that the heat and noise of the hardware had 
nothing to do with the essence of this or that specic program/software.  Is the 
systems reply a reply that refuses to distinguish S/H systems from nonS/H 

I thought that Searle was just offering a possible case where the TT would be 
passed without the semantics, refuting the sufficiency of the TT.

But I do see the point of the systems reply.  I usually write that in one sense 
the system reply is no different from Searle's biological naturalism.  But to 
the extent that it is a thesis of explicitly computational functionalism, then 
the systems reply makes me confused.  Some possibilities:

1. The system reply shares the exact same assumptions as Searle's biological 
naturalism or not.  If not, it is an explicitly computational theory of mind on 

2. If it has a bit to do with computationalism as theory of mind, as I 
originally thought, then it seems to change the subject or not.  If not, then 
Searle got Schank's thesis wrong in the target article?  Did anybody make a 
reply to this effect given all the replies?  Let me know.  I think some may 
have and you would be right to say so.  But who did, for the record, and how 
did Searle respond, as I'm sure he did?

3.  If it is a computational thesis and is not changing the subject, then how 
does a computational theory of mind differ from the thesis that a system must 
get over a causal hump in order to sustain consciousness/semantics?  It seems 
that if there is no difference, then studying computer programs and their 
ability to simulate semantics would be another way of seeing how the brain 
might do it.  We could know which programs the brain might be running.

But is it legitimate to speak as if the mind is software to the brain's 

I thought Searle was exploding the myth of the computer by noting that (ten 
years after the CRA in an APA address) the notion of computation doesn't name 
an intrinsically physical process.

His take on the systems reply was that it might (if still a computational 
thesis) imply that any system is a computational system.  Searle then tried to 
point out that the systems reply might (if a computational thesis) lead our 
inability to distinguish those things with minds and those without.

It might lead to fuzzy notions of intentionality as in the thermostat's having 
beliefs.  We might think that "meaning similarity" might do the work of 
"meaning identity" (Cf.  Fodor on Churchland:  "All at Sea in Semantic Space").

So I'm seeing the systems reply as a bit Janus faced.  It's either equivalent 
to what Searle dubs "biological naturalism" which does not argue against the 
possibility of weak AI or man-made systems which may be conscious, or it is the 
thesis of a system partly defined computationally and partly defined by the 
hardware such that the hardware is part of the story of what a program means, 
is, does.  But I thought it changed the subject from the explicit thesis that 
symbol manipulation was possibly enough for semantics.

I keep banging my head on whether what Searle means by symbol manipulation is 
not what others mean by symbol manipulation caused by hardware.

I really appreciate your taking some time to set me straight if what I don't 
buy is something I'm not buying because I can't see that it is equivalent with 
what Searle means by his "biological naturalism" in the first place.  Or 
whether the systems reply assumes a different kind of system than nonS/H, 
Searle's notion of the only type of system that has a chance, given the 
second-order prperties of purely functional systems.

Thanks a bunch for any reply you may offer.


> So Searle presented an elaborate argument in order to make a  persuasive
> argument about what was already seen as trivially obvious.
> Regards,
> Neil
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