[Wittrs] Re: Syntax and Semantics in the Chinese Room Switcheroo

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2010 02:01:00 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Joseph Polanik <jPolanik@...> wrote:
> iro3isdx wrote:


>  >Actually, no, the Systems Reply does not change the subject at all.
> I disagree.
> during the course of the discussion, the systems reply changes the
> subject by changing the meaning of 'understanding'.

Yes, Joe is right about the meaning. It does change the meaning of 
"understanding" because understanding is inadequately conceived initially and 
this whole debate is about what it really takes to constitute it, to have it.

> the understanding that Searle refuses to attribute whether to the man or
> to the room as a whole is different from the understanding that Dennett
> and others are willing to attribute to the system as a whole.

But Neil is right that it does not change the subject. The issue is what would 
it take for a mechanism like the CR to understand like we do?

> to Searle, understanding is a qualitative aspect of experience, a quale.
> to Dennett, understanding is just complex functionality without qualia.
> Joe

But not without experience or a sense of selfness. Dennett argues that we don't 
need to posit an additional entity called a quale to explain the occurrence of 
experience in all its aspects. What is going on, says Dennett, is just a kind 
of physical process, a process-based system (many such processes running 
together and interactively). The occurrence of sensations, of feelings, of a 
sense of being a self are all just outcomes of the way this complex system of 
many processes comes together. As parts of the system break down, turn off, 
fall away, we lose parts of what it means to be a conscious entity and this is 
well documented in the literature of neurological research.

Searle's notion hinges on the refusal or inability to shake the idea of 
consciousness as it presents to the conscious self, what Searle calls the 
first-person ontology of consciousness. Dennett's notion is that this notion is 
illusion, a function of other kinds of events in brains that are not, 
themselves, of this type.

The reason Neil is right that the system reply does not "change the subject" is 
because the subject IS just WHAT is understanding? What do we mean by 
consciousness? How should it be conceived? How can we account for it? Searle's 
CRA depends on a particular idea of consciousness and Dennett's on another. 
What remains is to determine if Dennett's is wrong (can't fully account for 
everything we mean by "consciousness") since I believe we have already seen 
that Searle's logical argument collapses (since it assumes the understanding of 
consciousness it purports to logically demonstrate).

The system reply, in describing consciousness (includes understanding, of 
course) in terms of a process-based system redescribes what we mean by 
consciousness (and understanding) in ourselves. But if that redescription is 
the right one, then Searle's CRA is clearly mistaken.


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