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The Chinese Room Argument, by John Searle, is one of the most important thought experiments in 20th century philosophy of mind.  The point of the argument is to refute the idea that computers (now or in the future) can literally think. In short, executing an algorithm cannot be sufficient for thinking.  The method is to focus on the semantics of our thoughts.  The thought experiment proceeds by getting you to imagine yourself in the role of the central processor of a computer, running an arbitrary computer program for processing Chinese language.  Assume you speak no Chinese language at all.  Imagine yourself locked in a room with a program (a set of instructions written in, say, English) for manipulating strings of Chinese characters which are slid under the door on pieces of paper.  If a note with string S1 (in Mandarin, say) is put under the door, you use the program to produce the string S2 (also in Mandarin), which you then slide back out under the door. Outside the room, there is a robust conversation going on Chinese history.  Everyone outside the room thinks that whoever is inside the room understands Chinese. But that is false. By assumption, you have no idea what S1 and S2 mean (S2 is unbeknownst to you, an insightful reply to a complicated question, S1, about the Ming dynasty).  But you are running a computer program.  Hence, there is no computer program such that running that program suffices for understanding Chinese.  This suggests that computer processing does not suffice for thought.

Key works The paper that got all of this started is John Searle's famous Searle 1980. See also the initial replies to his paper in the same journal issue.  Since its appearance, a large literature has been produced trying to answer Searle's challenge.   Leibniz, in his Monadology (1714), Leibniz 1902, suggested something similar by asking his readers to consider stepping into a mill.  One of the best replies to the argument is Churchland & Churchland 1990. One theory of computational processes that attemtps to avoid the argument by construing semantics as an explanatory construct is given in Dietrich 1990.

Introductions Cole 2008
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  1. Transcendental Idealism From the Chinese Room: Does God Speak Chinese?Kent Baldner - unknown - Proceedings of the Heraclitean Society 15.
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  2. Searle's Chinese Room Argument.Larry Hauser - unknown - Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind.
    John Searle's 1980a) thought experiment and associated 1984a) argument is one of the best known and widely credited counters to claims of artificial intelligence (AI), i.e., to claims that computers _do_ or at least _can_ (roughly, someday will) think. According to Searle's original presentation, the argument is based on two truths: _brains cause minds_ , and _syntax doesn't suffice_ _for semantics_ . Its target, Searle dubs "strong AI": "according to strong AI," according to Searle, "the computer is not merely a (...)
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  3. John Searle's Chinese Room Argument.John McCarthy - unknown
    John Searle begins his ``Consciousness, Explanatory Inversion and Cognitive Science'' with " ``Ten years ago in this journal I published an article criticising what I call Strong AI, the view that for a system to have mental states it is sufficient for the system to implement the right sort of program with right inputs and outputs. Strong AI is rather easy to refute and the basic argument can be summarized in one sentence: {it a system, me for example, could implement (...)
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  4. In Practice: The Elephant in the Room.Dena Rifkin - forthcoming - Hastings Center Report.
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  5. There is No General AI.Jobst Landgrebe & Barry Smith - 2020 - arXiv.
    The goal of creating Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) – or in other words of creating Turing machines (modern computers) that can behave in a way that mimics human intelligence – has occupied AI researchers ever since the idea of AI was first proposed. One common theme in these discussions is the thesis that the ability of a machine to conduct convincing dialogues with human beings can serve as at least a sufficient criterion of AGI. We argue that this very ability (...)
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  6. A Quantum Computer in a 'Chinese Room'.Vasil Penchev - 2020 - Mechanical Engineering eJournal (Elsevier: SSRN) 3 (155):1-8.
    Pattern recognition is represented as the limit, to which an infinite Turing process converges. A Turing machine, in which the bits are substituted with qubits, is introduced. That quantum Turing machine can recognize two complementary patterns in any data. That ability of universal pattern recognition is interpreted as an intellect featuring any quantum computer. The property is valid only within a quantum computer: To utilize it, the observer should be sited inside it. Being outside it, the observer would obtain quite (...)
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  7. Review of I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter (2007) (Review Revised 2019).Michael Starks - 2019 - In Suicidal Utopian Delusions in the 21st Century-- Philosophy, Human Nature and the Collapse of Civilization -- Articles and Reviews 2006-2019 4th Edition Michael Starks. Las Vegas, NV USA: Reality Press. pp. 217-235.
    Latest Sermon from the Church of Fundamentalist Naturalism by Pastor Hofstadter. Like his much more famous (or infamous for its relentless philosophical errors) work Godel, Escher, Bach, it has a superficial plausibility but if one understands that this is rampant scientism which mixes real scientific issues with philosophical ones (i.e., the only real issues are what language games we ought to play) then almost all its interest disappears. I provide a framework for analysis based in evolutionary psychology and the work (...)
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  8. ¿Los hominoides o androides destruirán la tierra? — Una revisión de ‘Cómo Crear una Mente’ (How to Create a Mind) por Ray Kurzweil (2012) (revisión revisada 2019).Michael Richard Starks - 2019 - In Delirios Utópicos Suicidas en el Siglo 21 La filosofía, la naturaleza humana y el colapso de la civilización Artículos y reseñas 2006-2019 4a Edición. Las Vegas, NV USA: Reality Press. pp. 250-262.
    Hace algunos años, Llegué al punto en el que normalmente puedo decir del título de un libro, o al menos de los títulos de los capítulos, qué tipos de errores filosóficos se harán y con qué frecuencia. En el caso de trabajos nominalmente científicos, estos pueden estar en gran parte restringidos a ciertos capítulos que enceran filosóficos o tratan de sacar conclusiones generales sobre el significado o significado a largo plazo de la obra. Normalmente, sin embargo, las cuestiones científicas de (...)
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  9. Does Functionalism Entail Extended Mind?Kengo Miyazono - 2017 - Synthese 194 (9):3523-3541.
    In discussing the famous case of Otto, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease who carries around a notebook to keep important information, Clark and Chalmers argue that some of Otto’s beliefs are physically realized in the notebook. In other words, some of Otto’s beliefs are extended into the environment. Their main argument is a functionalist one. Some of Otto’s beliefs are physically realized in the notebook because, first, some of the beliefs of Inga, a healthy person who remembers important information in (...)
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  10. Review of The Emotion Machine by Marvin Minsky (2007).Michael Starks - 2016 - In Suicidal Utopian Delusions in the 21st Century: Philosophy, Human Nature and the Collapse of Civilization-- Articles and Reviews 2006-2017 2nd Edition Feb 2018. Michael Starks. pp. 627.
    Dullest book by a major scientist I have ever read. I suppose if you know almost nothing about cognition or AI research you might find this book useful. For anyone else it is a horrific bore. There are hundreds of books in cog sci, robotics, AI, evolutionary psychology and philosophy offering far more info and insight on cognition than this one. Minsky is a top rate senior scientist but it barely shows here. He has alot of good references but they (...)
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  11. Language Games of Philosophy, Psychology, Science and Religion-- Articles and Reviews 2006-2016 by Michael Starks 648p (2016).Michael R. Starks - 2016 - Michael Starks.
    This collection of articles was written over the last 10 years and the most important and longest within the last year. Also I have edited them to bring them up to date (2016). All the articles are about human behavior (as are all articles by anyone about anything), and so about the limitations of having a recent monkey ancestry (8 million years or much less depending on viewpoint) and manifest words and deeds within the framework of our innate psychology as (...)
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  12. Factors Determining the Smooth Flow and the Non‐Operative Time in a One‐Induction Room to One‐Operating Room Setting.Jan P. Mulier, Liesje De Boeck, Michel Meulders, Jeroen Beliën, Jan Colpaert & Annabel Sels - 2015 - Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 21 (2):205-214.
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  13. Which Symbol Grounding Problem Should We Try to Solve?Vincent C. Müller - 2015 - Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 27 (1):73-78.
    Floridi and Taddeo propose a condition of “zero semantic commitment” for solutions to the grounding problem, and a solution to it. I argue briefly that their condition cannot be fulfilled, not even by their own solution. After a look at Luc Steels' very different competing suggestion, I suggest that we need to re-think what the problem is and what role the ‘goals’ in a system play in formulating the problem. On the basis of a proper understanding of computing, I come (...)
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  14. Zombie Mouse in a Chinese Room.Slawomir J. Nasuto, John Mark Bishop, Etienne B. Roesch & Matthew C. Spencer - 2015 - Philosophy and Technology 28 (2):209-223.
    John Searle’s Chinese Room Argument purports to demonstrate that syntax is not sufficient for semantics, and, hence, because computation cannot yield understanding, the computational theory of mind, which equates the mind to an information processing system based on formal computations, fails. In this paper, we use the CRA, and the debate that emerged from it, to develop a philosophical critique of recent advances in robotics and neuroscience. We describe results from a body of work that contributes to blurring the divide (...)
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  15. When the Philosopher Enters the Room.Annabelle Lever - 2014 - Philosophy and Public Issues - Filosofia E Questioni Pubbliche 4 (3).
    What can philosophy tell us about ethics and public policy? What can the ethics of public policy tell us about philosophy? Those are the questions that Jonathan Wolff addresses in his wonderful little book. At one level, of course, the answer is straightforward – ethics is a branch of philosophy, so philosophy can tell us about the ethics of public policy, understood as a matter of deciding ‘what we should do’ in a manner that is institutionalised and collectively binding. But (...)
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  16. Escaping the Throne Room.Ian McKay - 2014 - Historical Materialism 22 (2):63-98.
    InThe Gramscian MomentPeter Thomas fundamentally revises the ‘textbook’ Gramsci – a theorist whose work centred on a primordial East/West distinction, focused on the superstructure, and upon the ways a ruling class secured subaltern consent to its rule. Placing special emphasis on the Notebooks from 1932, Thomas critiques readings of Gramsci by Perry Anderson and Louis Althusser, and finds that Gramsci articulated the ‘philosophy of praxis’ not so much as a synonym for, or declaration of independence from, Marxism, but rather as (...)
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  17. We Can Make Room for SSRIs.Vojin Rakić - 2014 - American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 5 (3):34-35.
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  18. Turingův test: filozofické aspekty umělé inteligence.Filip Tvrdý - 2014 - Prague: Togga.
    Kniha se zabývá problematikou připisování myšlení jiným entitám, a to pomocí imitační hry navržené v roce 1950 britským filozofem Alanem Turingem. Jeho kritérium, známé v dějinách filozofie jako Turingův test, je podrobeno detailní analýze. Kniha popisuje nejen původní námitky samotného Turinga, ale především pozdější diskuse v druhé polovině 20. století. Největší pozornost je věnována těmto kritikám: Lucasova matematická námitka využívající Gödelovu větu o neúplnosti, Searlův argument čínského pokoje konstatující nedostatečnost syntaxe pro sémantiku, Blockův návrh na použití brutální síly pro řešení (...)
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  19. Creating Room for Doubt.Han Lamers - 2013 - Philologus: Zeitschrift für Antike Literatur Und Ihre Rezeption 157 (2):374-378.
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  20. Maximal Mutual Information, Not Minimal Entropy, for Escaping the “Dark Room”.Daniel Ying-Jeh Little & Friedrich Tobias Sommer - 2013 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (3):220-221.
    A behavioral drive directed solely at minimizing prediction error would cause an agent to seek out states of unchanging, and thus easily predictable, sensory inputs (such as a dark room). The default to an evolutionarily encoded prior to avoid such untenable behaviors is unsatisfying. We suggest an alternate information theoretic interpretation to address this dilemma.
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  21. Of (Zombie) Mice and Animats.S. J. Nasuto & J. M. Bishop - 2013 - In Vincent C. Müller (ed.), Philosophy and Theory of Artificial Intelligence. Springer. pp. 85-107.
    The Chinese Room Argument purports to show that‘ syntax is not sufficient for semantics’; an argument which led John Searle to conclude that ‘programs are not minds’ and hence that no computational device can ever exhibit true understanding. Yet, although this controversial argument has received a series of criticisms, it has withstood all attempts at decisive rebuttal so far. One of the classical responses to CRA has been based on equipping a purely computational device with a physical robot body. This (...)
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  22. Intencionalidade E Pano de Fundo: Searle E Dreyfus Contra a Teoria Clássica da Inteligência Artificial.Teodor Negru - 2013 - Filosofia Unisinos 14 (1).
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  23. The Sky in a Room.Annalisa Teggi - 2013 - The Chesterton Review 39 (1/2):418-419.
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  24. Artificial Qualia, Intentional Systems and Machine Consciousness.Robert James M. Boyles - 2012 - In Proceedings of the DLSU Congress 2012. pp. 110a–110c.
    In the field of machine consciousness, it has been argued that in order to build human-like conscious machines, we must first have a computational model of qualia. To this end, some have proposed a framework that supports qualia in machines by implementing a model with three computational areas (i.e., the subconceptual, conceptual, and linguistic areas). These abstract mechanisms purportedly enable the assessment of artificial qualia. However, several critics of the machine consciousness project dispute this possibility. For instance, Searle, in his (...)
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  25. Psychometric Artificial General Intelligence: The Piaget-MacGuyver Room.Selmer Bringsjord & John Licato - 2012 - In Pei Wang & Ben Goertzel (eds.), Theoretical Foundations of Artificial General Intelligence. Springer. pp. 25--48.
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  26. Introduction: Philosophy and Theory of Artificial Intelligence.Vincent C. Müller - 2012 - Minds and Machines 22 (2):67-69.
    The theory and philosophy of artificial intelligence has come to a crucial point where the agenda for the forthcoming years is in the air. This special volume of Minds and Machines presents leading invited papers from a conference on the “Philosophy and Theory of Artificial Intelligence” that was held in October 2011 in Thessaloniki. Artificial Intelligence is perhaps unique among engineering subjects in that it has raised very basic questions about the nature of computing, perception, reasoning, learning, language, action, interaction, (...)
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  27. Updating the Turing Test. Wittgenstein, Turing and Symbol Manipulation.Carlo Penco - 2012 - Open Journal of Philosophy 2 (3):189-194.
  28. Computers, Persons, and the Chinese Room. Part 2: Testing Computational Cognitive Science.Ricardo Restrepo - 2012 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 33 (3):123-140.
    This paper is a follow-up of the first part of the persons reply to the Chinese Room Argument. The first part claims that the mental properties of the person appearing in that argument are what matter to whether computational cognitive science is true. This paper tries to discern what those mental properties are by applying a series of hypothetical psychological and strengthened Turing tests to the person, and argues that the results support the thesis that the Man performing the computations (...)
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  29. Computers, Persons, and the Chinese Room. Part 2: The Man Who Understood.Ricardo Restrepo - 2012 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 33 (3-4).
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  30. Computers, Persons, and the Chinese Room. Part 1: The Human Computer.Ricardo Restrepo - 2012 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 33 (1):27-48.
    Detractors of Searle’s Chinese Room Argument have arrived at a virtual consensus that the mental properties of the Man performing the computations stipulated by the argument are irrelevant to whether computational cognitive science is true. This paper challenges this virtual consensus to argue for the first of the two main theses of the persons reply, namely, that the mental properties of the Man are what matter. It does this by challenging many of the arguments and conceptions put forth by the (...)
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  31. Quantum Linguistics and Searle's Chinese Room Argument.J. M. Bishop, S. J. Nasuto & B. Coecke - 2011 - In V. C. Muller (ed.), Philosophy and Theory of Artificial Intelligence. Springer. pp. 17-29.
    Viewed in the light of the remarkable performance of ‘Watson’ - IBMs proprietary artificial intelligence computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language - on the US general knowledge quiz show ‘Jeopardy’, we review two experiments on formal systems - one in the domain of quantum physics, the other involving a pictographic languaging game - whereby behaviour seemingly characteristic of domain understanding is generated by the mere mechanical application of simple rules. By re-examining both experiments in the context (...)
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  32. Searle and the Chinese Room Argument.Leslie Burkholder - 2011 - In Michael Bruce & Steven Barbone (eds.), Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Arguments in Western Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell.
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  33. Helen Keller Was Never in a Chinese Room.Jason Ford - 2011 - Minds and Machines 21 (1):57-72.
    William Rapaport, in “How Helen Keller used syntactic semantics to escape from a Chinese Room,” (Rapaport 2006), argues that Helen Keller was in a sort of Chinese Room, and that her subsequent development of natural language fluency illustrates the flaws in Searle’s famous Chinese Room Argument and provides a method for developing computers that have genuine semantics (and intentionality). I contend that his argument fails. In setting the problem, Rapaport uses his own preferred definitions of semantics and syntax, but he (...)
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  34. Intencionalidad sin naturalismo biológico.Ivar Hannikainen - 2011 - Revista de Filosofía (Madrid) 36 (1):139-153.
    The Chinese Room argument is a variant of Turing’s test which enables Searle to defend his biological naturalism, according to which computation is neither sufficient nor constitutive of the mind. In this paper, I examine both strands of his anticomputationalist stance, argue that computation is constitutive of natural language understanding and suggest a path toward the physicalist reduction of intentionality for propositional speech acts.
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  35. Searle’s Wager.Neil Levy - 2011 - AI and Society 26 (4):363-369.
    Nicholas Agar has recently argued that it would be irrational for future human beings to choose to radically enhance themselves by uploading their minds onto computers. Utilizing Searle’s argument that machines cannot think, he claims that uploading might entail death. He grants that Searle’s argument is controversial, but he claims, so long as there is a non-zero probability that uploading entails death, uploading is irrational. I argue that Agar’s argument, like Pascal’s wager on which it is modelled, fails, because the (...)
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  36. John Searle.Jan G. Michel & Michael Kober - 2011 - Brill/mentis.
    John Searle zählt zweifellos zu den weltweit wichtigsten und einflussreichsten Denkern der Gegenwart. Seine grundlegenden und nachhaltigen Beiträge zur Sprachphilosophie, zur Philosophie des Geistes, zur Handlungstheorie und zur Sozialphilosophie werden weit über die Grenzen des Fachs Philosophie hinaus wahrgenommen und gehören vielfach zum Standardrepertoire wissenschaftlicher Forschung und Lehre. -/- Michael Kober und Jan G. Michel bieten in diesem Buch eine übersichtliche sowie gut verständliche, aber auch kritische Einführung in das Gesamtwerk John Searles: Neben einer sehr persönlichen biographischen Notiz und einem (...)
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  37. The Hard and Easy Grounding Problems (Comment on A. Cangelosi).Vincent C. Müller - 2011 - International Journal of Signs and Semiotic Systems 1 (1):70-70.
    I see four symbol grounding problems: 1) How can a purely computational mind acquire meaningful symbols? 2) How can we get a computational robot to show the right linguistic behavior? These two are misleading. I suggest an 'easy' and a 'hard' problem: 3) How can we explain and re-produce the behavioral ability and function of meaning in artificial computational agents?4) How does physics give rise to meaning?
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  38. A Logical Hole the Chinese Room Avoids.Donald Nute - 2011 - Minds and Machines 21 (3):431-433.
    Searle’s Chinese room argument (CRA) was recently charged as being unsound because it makes a logical error. It is shown here that this charge is based on a misinterpretation of the modal scope of a major premise of the CRA and that the CRA does not commit the logical error with which it is charged.
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  39. Yes, She Was!: Reply to Ford’s “Helen Keller Was Never in a Chinese Room”.William J. Rapaport - 2011 - Minds and Machines 21 (1):3-17.
    Ford’s Helen Keller Was Never in a Chinese Room claims that my argument in How Helen Keller Used Syntactic Semantics to Escape from a Chinese Room fails because Searle and I use the terms ‘syntax’ and ‘semantics’ differently, hence are at cross purposes. Ford has misunderstood me; this reply clarifies my theory.
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  40. Turingův test: filozofické aspekty umělé inteligence.Filip Tvrdý - 2011 - Dissertation, Palacky University
    Disertační práce se zabývá problematikou připisování myšlení jiným entitám, a to pomocí imitační hry navržené v roce 1950 britským filosofem Alanem Turingem. Jeho kritérium, známé v dějinách filosofie jako Turingův test, je podrobeno detailní analýze. Práce popisuje nejen původní námitky samotného Turinga, ale především pozdější diskuse v druhé polovině 20. století. Největší pozornost je věnována těmto kritikám: Lucasova matematická námitka využívající Gödelovu větu o neúplnosti, Searlův argument čínského pokoje konstatující nedostatečnost syntaxe pro sémantiku, Blockův návrh na použití brutální síly pro (...)
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  41. Bootstrapping Normativity.Graham White - 2011 - Philosophy and Technology 24 (1):35-53.
    We compare the role of Cartesian assumptions in the symbol grounding problem and in the Myth of the Given: We argue that the Sellars–McDowell critique of the Myth of the Given and, in particular, its use of the concept of normativity can provide useful resources for responding to the symbol grounding problem. We also describe the concepts of normativity at work in computer science and cognitive science: We argue that normative concepts are pervasive in the sciences and that, in particular, (...)
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  42. Are Turing Machines Platonists? Inferentialism and the Computational Theory of Mind.Jon Cogburn & Jason Megil - 2010 - Minds and Machines 20 (3):423-439.
    We first discuss Michael Dummett’s philosophy of mathematics and Robert Brandom’s philosophy of language to demonstrate that inferentialism entails the falsity of Church’s Thesis and, as a consequence, the Computational Theory of Mind. This amounts to an entirely novel critique of mechanism in the philosophy of mind, one we show to have tremendous advantages over the traditional Lucas-Penrose argument.
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  43. Problem of «Chinese Room» in the Context of Functionalism Discussing.Dmitry Kazennov - 2010 - Analytica 4:1-15.
    This article furmulates three theses regarding John Searle’s thought experiment called “Chinese room”. The aim of this article is to demonstrate the internal logical contradictions of said thought experiment. The first point concerns the ability of the "Chinese room" to perform specific tasks Turing’s "imitation game" requires, such as value-judgments about the subject. The second thesis concerns question of term "understanding" being used by Searle. Argued that this term is an abstract function , Searle’s using of the said term is (...)
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  44. Otto in the Chinese Room.Philip Murray McCullough - 2010 - Spontaneous Generations 4 (1):129-137.
    The purpose of this paper is to explore a possible resolution to one of the main objections to machine thought as propounded by Alan Turing in the imitation game that bears his name. That machines will, at some point, be able to think is the central idea of this text, a claim supported by a schema posited by Andy Clark and David Chalmers in their paper, “The Extended Mind” (1998). Their notion of active externalism is used to support, strengthen and (...)
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  45. Symbol Grounding in Computational Systems: A Paradox of Intentions.Vincent C. Müller - 2009 - Minds and Machines 19 (4):529-541.
    The paper presents a paradoxical feature of computational systems that suggests that computationalism cannot explain symbol grounding. If the mind is a digital computer, as computationalism claims, then it can be computing either over meaningful symbols or over meaningless symbols. If it is computing over meaningful symbols its functioning presupposes the existence of meaningful symbols in the system, i.e. it implies semantic nativism. If the mind is computing over meaningless symbols, no intentional cognitive processes are available prior to symbol grounding. (...)
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  46. A Logical Hole in the Chinese Room.Michael John Shaffer - 2009 - Minds and Machines 19 (2):229-235.
    Searle’s Chinese Room Argument (CRA) has been the object of great interest in the philosophy of mind, artificial intelligence and cognitive science since its initial presentation in ‘Minds, Brains and Programs’ in 1980. It is by no means an overstatement to assert that it has been a main focus of attention for philosophers and computer scientists of many stripes. It is then especially interesting to note that relatively little has been said about the detailed logic of the argument, whatever significance (...)
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  47. The Chinese Room Argument.David Cole - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  48. The Three Minds Argument.Jamie Cullen - 2008 - Journal of Evolution and Technology 20 (1):51-60.
    Searle has long maintained a position that non-biologically based machines , no matter how intelligently they may appear to behave, cannot achieve “intentionality” or “consciousness,” have a “mind,” and so forth. Standard replies to Searle’s argument, as commonly cited by researchers in Artificial Intelligence and related communities, are sometimes considered unsatisfactory by readers outside of such fields. One possible reason for this is that the Chinese Room Argument makes a strong appeal to some people’s intuitions regarding “understanding” and necessary conditions (...)
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  49. The Real Chinese Room.Ethan Mitchell - 2008 - Philica 125.
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  50. Room for Maneuver When Raising Critical Doubt.Jan Albert Van Laar - 2008 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 41 (3):pp. 195-211.
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