Dictionary of Arguments

Philosophical and Scientific Issues in Dispute

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Disputed term/author/ism Author Vs Author
Searle, J.R. Poundstone Vs Searle, J.R. I 350
Chinese Room/Searle/Poundstone: Variant: E.g. book: "What to do if a text in Chinese is slipped under your door." The room is exhibited at fairs. It is claimed that there was a pig in the room that speaks Chinese. People assume that in reality a Chinese is locked in the room (this variant also expresses the belief in the behavior).
I 351
PoundstoneVsSearle: Problem: feasibility of the thought experiment. The algorithm must include commmon knowledge.
I 352
It must be able to answer questions like those from the short story: e.g. a guest gets scorched food. Furious, he leaves the restaurant without paying. Question: did he eat the food? E.g. "What's the red stuff called that some people put on their fries?" Here, the answer is not included in the question. And perhaps there is no Chinese word for ketchup.
SearleVsTuring: the Turing test is not very insightful, therefore Chinese Room. A computer that behaved exactly like a human would be situation a sensation, no matter if he possessed consciousness or not.
I 353
Searle: Surprising position: the brain is indeed something like a computer, but consciousness has something to do with the biological and neurological structure. A computer made of wires would therefore not make the experience of his own consciousness. And yet, it could pass the Turing test!
Artificial Intelligence/AI/Searle: compares it with photosynthesis: a computer program could create a detailed realistic illustration of photosynthesis, but it would not produce sugar! It would only deliver images of chlorophyll molecules on the screen.
I 354
VsSearle/Chinese Room: a book with the algorithm "What to do if a text in Chinese is slipped under your door" cannot exist: it would have to be larger than the largest libraries in the world.       We could depart from Davis' office simulation. E.g. the brain contains about 100 billion neurons. If every human drew 20 strings, all of humanity could simulate a single brain.
I 355
But no one would know what thoughts are going on! Consciousness/Searle: his followers resort to the distinction "syntactic/semantic". Semantic understanding seems essential for consciousness.
I 356
Meaning/PoundstoneVsSearle: VsSemantic Understanding E.g. you were ill on the first day of school and missed the lesson in which numbers were introduced. Later you never dared to ask, what numbers are. In spite of that, you can do maths quite passably. At the bottom of your heart, you have the feeling of being an impostor. In fact, actually we all do not know what numbers are.
I 357
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Ex Chinese Room: Suppose that, due to brain damage, the person does not know that they speak Chinese. We all have many skills of which we know virtually nothing. (Involuntary muscle movements, metabolism).
I 358
Chinese Room/"System Response": the person himself does not speak Chinese, but the overall system: Person, plus room, plus manual, plus time, plus paper and pencil fulfill the condition.
I 359
SearleVsSystem Response: We tear down the walls and let the person learn the manual by heart. Does he speak Chinese? PoundstoneVsSearle/Thought Experiments: the risk with thought experiments is their convenience. One must make reassure oneself that the reason of only imagining the experiment is no reason that makes the experiment altogether impossible. Here: the manual would be to extensive to be written at all, let alone to be learned by heart.
((S) VsPoundstone: could construct a simpler example which is about fewer rules.)
I 364
Chinese Room/Poundstone: the room is not only extremely enlarged spatially but also timely. The person could also be a robot, that does not matter.
I 365
Consciousness/Hofstadter: E.g. conversation with Einstein's brain: book with answers that simulate exactly what Einstein would have said. Two levels that must be separated: the book and the user! Of course, the book itself has no consciousness!
Here, some hair-splitting questions about the "mortality" of Searles room arise: suppose the user goes on a 5-weeks holiday, is the book called "Einstein" dead in meantime?
I 366
The book itself could not notice the interruption. Variant: if the pace of work was reduced to one question per year, would that be enough to keep the book "alive"?
Time/Poundstone: we could not find that time had stopped if it did.

Poundstone I
William Poundstone
Labyrinths of Reason, NY, 1988
German Edition:
Im Labyrinth des Denkens Hamburg 1995