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

  • From: "iro3isdx" <xznwrjnk-evca@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 12 Mar 2010 21:03:29 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "SWM" <SWMirsky@...> wrote:

For reference, I repeat the argument from an earlier post.

1) Minds (consciousness) have (has) semantics.
2) Computers consist exclusively of syntax.
3) Syntax does not constitute and is not sufficient for semantics.
4) Therefore computers cannot have minds (be conscious)

> Premise #3 is, of course, the tricky one. It purports to show (in,
> as Searle has put it, a self-evident manner) that the constituents
> in the CR are not conscious and cannot conceivably be conscious.

I don't see that.  Rather, #3 just express something that Searle, and
many other people, find intuitively plausible.  It does not say anything
about the CR.

I think you too easily accepted Searle's #2.  When I play a music CD, I
hear music.  The music does not come from syntax of the computation.  It
comes from the data recorded on the CD. Computations consist of syntax
(computation rules) applied to data. I don't find Searle's #2 to be at
all persuasive, particularly in an era of digital music, digital
photography, digital telephony, etc.

Presumably Searle could have argued that while there is semantics
encoded in the data, the computer itself experiences that data only as
syntax.  But I think that's a hard case to make because we don't have a
good account of what constitutes experience.

> There are, indeed, other reasons for believing that #3 is true. But
> those reasons only refer to the particular kinds of processes we
> find in the CR, not to the idea of physical processes themselves.

You need to broaden your horizons beyond the CR argument.  Chomsky's
linguistics dates from around 1956, and has had many critics from its
beginnings.  And most of the criticism was because of Chomsky's emphasis
on syntax, where the critics thought that semantics was the primary
feature of language.  I'll suggest that most of Chomsky's critics would
have agreed with #3, and that's as far back as 1956, long before the CR
argument was conceived.


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