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April 14, 2006


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I believe that there still is a difference between the functional, neural level of the description of cognitive activity to the intentional level. Just because I do something in some fashion doesn´t mean that I am intentionally aware of what I am currently doing. In Your argument about the man grasping some Chinese because he actually does something that corresponds to a demand directed to him there is the problem that Searle would say: Yes, he could do the correct thing, but wether you look at his action through the intentional layer or the functional layer, there would be a great difference. The man you propose would act like an empty zombie, unaware mentally that he actually does something with intentional content.

Sorry for my mediocre knowledge of the English language

Michael Drake

MTG, your understanding of English is fabulous--at least, as far as I can tell. (After all, you might be in an English Room somewhere, and how would I ever know?)

I don't think Searle's argument is necessarily aimed at intentional or conscious apprehension of whatever sort of understanding is going on. (One of the confusions often at work in the Chinese Room literature stems from the fact that Turing specified the Test as a test for "intelligence," whereas many writers treat it as if it's a test for other, quite distinct properties like "understanding," "intentionality" or "consciousness." I don't know enought to say whether Turing himself had these distinctions in mind when he wrote his famous paper.) In any case, your argument here is related to one of the objections to Searle's argument that I bracketed in a footnote, viz. that he's arguing from the standpoint of what it's like in his mind to instantiate the appropriate Turing "program" that specifies the operations that the theory says is supposed to constitute or cause a mind (or intelligence or understanding or whatever)--which, granted, is nothing like what's going on in his mind when he understands a sentence of English--when there's no reason (on the Systems Reply) to suppose that what it's like in his mind while he's implementing the program is at all relevant. Such is Searle's failure to appreciate the level at which the Systems Reply is supposed to operate. For while Searle would not understand (in your broad sense of "understand") what the Chinese sentence means, Searle* (defined as the system of Searle plus the hypothetical rule-based operations module) arguably (and apparently) does.

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