[Wittrs] Understanding "Understanding" in Searle

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2010 13:11:30 -0000

Another take on Searle's understanding of "understanding":


"What is, to me, yellow, may be orange or green to another.  But the greatest 
area of imprecision is the set of all words with denotation or connotation of 
cognition and perception.  This is a prime cause of much woolly thinking about 

"Does the CRA hold, then?  I suggest it does not.  Understanding is not a 
single entity.  It has various levels.  My dog understands various command 
words.  But I am entirely confident that he does not 'think in English', nor 
does he have any conscious knowledge of semantics, syntax or pragmatics.  Yet 
my use of English causes him to exhibit various behaviours, and this implies 
understanding or intelligence.

"The CRA exhibits behaviours in response to an input of Chinese language.  It 
must, then have a source of those behaviours.  The only thing in the CRA which 
is capable of behaving is Searle.  The fact that he is inherently incapable of 
reporting his gross behaviour in terms of understanding Chinese does not mean 
that he has no understanding whatsoever of Chinese.  The paradox disappears 
once it is proven that Searle (or any mechanism performing the same function ) 
understands some essential components of Chinese."

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "iro3isdx" <xznwrjnk-evca@...> wrote:

> --- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Joseph Polanik <jPolanik@> wrote:
> > to Searle, understanding is a qualitative aspect of experience, a quale.

> I'm pretty sure that Searle was using "understanding" as an alternative way 
> of talking about intentionality.  He chose "understanding" because he wanted 
> he argument to be accessible to a wider audience than would be familiar with 
> the more specialized "intentionality."

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