ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context: PhilosophyOfAI

Discussion on Searle's Chinese Room that started in the comments of BradDeLong's Weblog :

These were discussions with DanielDavies.

ach, "Carbon Chauvinism", the very trope that made me begin to actually hate DanielDennett!

Look guys, Searle never made this claim. He has repeatedly disavowed it and challenged Dennett to substantiate it.

Searle's claim is (in tripartite form):

  • 1. Anything could be the substrate for conscious experience, in principle.
  • 2. Because of the CR thought experiment, we know that whatever has conscious experiences, nothing has them purely because of its Turing-machine properties (or any other purely functional properties). This is because a Turing machine is an abstract entity; no physical object is a Turing machine, although some physical objects can be viewed as if they were Turing machines.
  • 3. At present, the only things for which there is any decent evidence at all for consciousness, are brains. This is an empirical claim about the current state of science.


Phil's answer :

It strikes me that Searle is still being obscurantist. If we accept

1) then his philosophy offers us no help to understand the relation between meaning and material. Nor to help us distinguish in practice which chunks of physical stuff give rise to minds vs. those which only give rise to zombies. Or is he a kind of panpsychist?

2) The CR argues against all functionalism, not just computationalism, so the rest of the stuff about Turing machines is beside the point.

3) But if we reject functionalism we have to return to either Behaviorism or some kind of mapping between brain components and meaning. And isn't this succesfully challanged by examples where different functions are handled by different parts of the brain in different people?