[Wittrs] Re: Searle's CRA and its Implications

  • From: Gordon Swobe <gts_2000@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 13 Mar 2010 09:38:13 -0800 (PST)

--- On Fri, 3/12/10, BruceD <wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> A program is set of instructions that sets down what
> happens in what order when it gets started or is stimulated by 
> something external, as in the DNA after the egg is fertilized. But 
> couldn't we use this same concept to describe thought process? 
> Why isn't it helpful to speak of the programming of "mental content"?

The CRA concerns formal programs such as those running on your computer at this 
moment. Such programs do no more than manipulate symbols according to syntactic 
rules; that is, they manipulate symbols according to their forms, not according 
to their meanings.

The Englishman in the CR manipulates the Chinese symbols according to syntactic 
form-based rules, and he does this well enough to pass the Turing test in 
Chinese, yet he cannot by virtue of performing those operations obtain 
understanding of the meanings of the symbols. Syntax by itself is neither 
constitutive of nor sufficient for semantics.

The CRA illustrates two concepts: 

1) Software/hardware systems cannot by virtue of running formal programs obtain 
understanding of the meanings of the symbols they manipulate. 


2) Given that the human brain/mind does understand the meanings of the symbols 
it manipulates, it must do something other than or in addition to the running 
of formal programs.



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