[Wittrs] What the Man in the Room Knows (and when does he know it?)

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2010 12:38:01 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Gordon Swobe <wittrsamr@...> wrote:

> --- On Mon, 3/22/10, SWM <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
> > That's because in the Chinese Room our man is ONLY a CPU,
> The idea that he exists only as a CPU comes from you, not from Searle. 
> Perhaps you should read Searle on his own thought experiment!
> http://web.archive.org/web/20071210043312/http://members.aol.com/NeoNoetics/MindsBrainsPrograms.html
> -gts

I have and I am saying the idea that the understanding of the man in the room 
is irrelevant is PART of the thought experiment. You claim, on the other hand, 
that the man's understanding is key because, as you have put it, try as he 
might he doesn't understand Chinese (so, presumably, if he weren't trying, then 
the thought experiment wouldn't work?).

I, on the other hand, have said that his trying to understand Chinese is not 
the point of the CR. Rather, it's point is to show that the rote processes of 
using a look-up table and matching inputted squiggles to prescribed outputted 
ones is designed to replicate what a computer system does.

The point of Searle's argument is to "show" that no matter how accurate the 
matching might be (because the man in the room has sufficient instructions for 
performing the matches and performs those effectively, according to those 
instructions), we would nevertheless agree that that man doesn't understand 

And THAT, I have said, is the point, i.e., that the man is not doing what a 
human Chinese speaker (who understands Chinese) is doing (grasping word 
meanings) but, rather, what an inhuman central processing unit in a computer 
would be doing (rote matching and responding).

For some reason you claim it matters that the man, "try as he might", just 
can't understand Chinese and I have pointed out that the man's trying is 
irrelevant to this demonstration BECAUSE the man's lack of understanding of 
Chinese is already stipulated. He is not trying to understand Chinese in his 
role in that room and, if he were trying (because, say, humans are humans and 
each behaves differently with some in the room daydreaming and some trying to 
figure out meanings while performing the matching), it would be totally 
irrelevant to his role in the room.

The point of the CR is to demonstrate that understanding is more than just 
correct answers (a la the Turing Test) and that whatever the CPU is doing, it 
cannot count as what we mean by understanding. So the man IS functioning in 
that room as a CPU. He is not supposed to do anything more than a CPU would do 
and trying to understand would be something more.

Now if you still think that the man-in-the-room's trying to understand Chinese 
is relevant to the CR, it is for you to show that that is what Searle intended. 
It's very nice that you provide a link to the 1980 article (which I have 
previously read, but thank you anyway). The point, however, is that you need to 
support YOUR claim that the man's trying is integral to the point of the 
thought experiment rather than incidental to it and that Searle, himself, made 
that claim. You need to back up your claim that Searle meant the 
man-in-the-room's role to be understood as more than the computational 
mechanism whose function he is replacing.

I don't see support for that claim anywhere in that article so if you think 
it's there, please identify the passage. The best way is to cut and paste it 
into your next post here and indicate where in the text it is to be found so we 
can read it in context.



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