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

  • From: Gordon Swobe <gts_2000@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 12 Mar 2010 13:23:12 -0800 (PST)

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

> Searle's CRA is well known, of course, though he has
> presented it over the years in multiple and often varying
> iterations. In generic terms, however, it goes like this:
> 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) 

Let's make sure we get Searle right here. He formalized his CRA argument with 
axioms in an article for Scientific American circa 1990. It goes like this (in 
his own words):

A1) Programs are formal (syntactic)

A2) Minds have mental contents (semantics)

A3) Syntax by itself is neither constitutive of nor sufficient for semantics

C1) Programs are neither constitutive of nor sufficient for minds

Notice his use of "programs" and not "computers" as in your paraphrase. Also 
notice the word "consciousness" does not appear in his axioms or conclusion. 
Fine points, but relevant.

The CRA shows that if the mind runs programs like a computer, it cannot get 
semantics from syntax, even though it has consciousness. The man in the room 
has consciousness, after all. 

Only later in his address to the APA did Searle address the question of whether 
the brain actually is a digital computer. Two separate arguments!



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