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

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2010 02:10:21 -0000

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

> --- On Sun, 3/14/10, SWM <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
> > Searle writes in the header of that
> > article: "A program merely manipulates symbols whereas a
> > brain attaches meaning to them."
> >
> > Well yes, of course, but the question before us is HOW does
> > the brain do that, not WHETHER it does that and
> Nobody in 2010 knows how the brain attaches meanings to symbols. However the 
> CRA illustrates very clearly that the brain cannot accomplish this feat 
> solely by manipulating symbols according to syntactic rules.

If nobody knows how the brain does it, how can anyone say with such a degree of 
definitiveness what you have just said? All the CRA shows is that you can't 
build a bicycle and expect it to fly -- unless you hold the view that 
consciousness (used here as a catch-all for all the features we associate with 
what it means to have a mind) is irreducible, i.e., the stuff in the CR, if it 
can't be called conscious in what it is doing can't be called conscious no 
matter what it is doing.

> And because we know that software/hardware systems can do no more than 
> manipulate symbols according to syntactic rules, we know software/hardware 
> systems cannot attach meanings to symbols the way brains do.

That, again, depends on what it means to "attach meanings to symbols". If all 
it is is to perform a very complex set of information processing functions in 
an interrelated (interactive) way, then we cannot exclude such processes as are 
found in computers.

> If software/hardware systems cannot attach meanings to symbols then strong AI 
> = false.
> -gts

But what is inadequately articulated (and understood) here is what it means to 
"attach meanings". If brains actually do this the way Dennett proposes, then 
there is nothing to prevent computational processes from doing it, too, at 
least in principle.

Yes, "attaching meaning" is inadequately explicated and understood but no, that 
doesn't mean that Searle understands it better than others. Thus this is an 
argument about the best way of understanding it. If Searle's account is too 
fuzzy and Dennett's works, then Searle's CRA can be no argument against the 
possibility that Dennett has it right.


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