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

  • From: "jrstern" <jrstern@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2010 19:20:34 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "gabuddabout" <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
> > If nobody knows how the brain does it, how can anyone say with such a 
> > degree of definitiveness what you have just said?
> They will say it because they think that the functional properties of a 
> computer (the properties which make the thing a computer in virtue of 
> manipulating syntactic strings, that is) are second-order properties.

Whatever "scond-order" properties is supposed to mean, it's silly.

Searle tries to establish a concept of "derived intentionality".  This is 
incoherent.  If you think the properties that make a computer a computer are 
secondary, then try to browse the internet using a rock instead of a 

> That's why it is asked of the systems reply guys whether they are speaking of 
> functional systems (S/H) or not.

This is where Searle actually makes a sort of a point.

It was common back circa 1980, and maybe still is, to have compsci guys talk 
about computers and computation in functionalist terms.  Maybe they picked it 
up from Putnam - but by 1989 Putnam had given up on the concept himself.  If 
the only thing the CR *does* establish is that functionalism is NOT a valid 
foundational theory for computation - that's for COMPUTATION, not for mind - 
then perhaps all the fuss was worthwhile after all.  But note that nothing 
rides on this talk of "functionalism", Intel builds their processors just the 
same way whether or not that is a proper description.

> If the whole system (even assuming Searle's response is still a mereological 
> fallacy though it isn't, really) is really a computational system where the 
> hardware doesn't technically matter (it just is robust enough to carry simple 
> to complex computations defined syntactically), then Searle just got the 
> systems repliers to acknowledge the abstract nature of what they mean by a 
> system.

Again, I think Searle has a point in establishing that abstraction is not a 
basis for physical processes.  That's a VERY general metaphysical point, and 
Searle only attempts to deploy it in this discussion of minds, or 
intentionality, or whatever, but it is just as important in talking about any 
natural kinds or physical particulars.  Is this car not really a Buick because 
"Buick" is an abstraction?  Or is that backwards, do we get "Buick" as an 
abstraction only after we have several Buicks to generalize over?

Just for the record, it's not Searle's *response* which is a mereological 
fallcy, it's his assertion.  Would he assert that the Empire State Building is 
not a thousand feet tall, because he can't find in it a single brick which is a 
thousand feet tall?


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