About this topic

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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252 found
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  1. added 2018-02-17
    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.
  2. added 2018-01-09
    Views Into the Chinese Room: New Essays on Searle and Artificial Intelligence. [REVIEW]Jonathan Waskan - 2005 - Philosophical Review 114 (2):277-282.
  3. added 2017-08-07
    Turing Machines and Semantic Symbol Processing: Why Real Computers Don’T Mind Chinese Emperors.Richard Yee - 1993 - Lyceum 5 (1):37-59.
    Philosophical questions about minds and computation need to focus squarely on the mathematical theory of Turing machines (TM's). Surrogate TM's such as computers or formal systems lack abilities that make Turing machines promising candidates for possessors of minds. Computers are only universal Turing machines (UTM's)—a conspicuous but unrepresentative subclass of TM. Formal systems are only static TM's, which do not receive inputs from external sources. The theory of TM computation clearly exposes the failings of two prominent critiques, Searle's Chinese room (...)
  4. added 2017-02-16
    What Would You Do? Classic: Like the Smoke of a Blazing Room.Doug Wallace - 2004 - Business Ethics: The Magazine of Corporate Responsibility 18 (4):6-7.
  5. added 2017-02-15
    Should Computer-Programs Be Ownable-a Reply.Dh Carey - 1993 - Metaphilosophy 24 (1-2):91-96.
  6. added 2017-02-15
    Should Computer-Programs Be Ownable-Reply.Dg Johnson - 1993 - Metaphilosophy 24 (1-2):85-90.
  7. added 2017-02-15
    The Strong Program and Reflexive Incoherence.P. Davson-Galle - 1989 - Metascience 7:99-100.
  8. added 2017-02-14
    From Chinese Rooms to Irish Rooms.Paul Me Kevin & Chengming Quo - 1997 - In S. O'Nuillain, Paul McKevitt & E. MacAogain (eds.), Two Sciences of Mind. John Benjamins. pp. 179.
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  9. added 2017-02-14
    Why Did Zheng He's Sea Voyage Fail to Lead the Chinese to Make theGreat Geographic Discovery'?Z. Song & C. Chen - 1996 - Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 179:303-314.
  10. added 2017-02-13
    Weak Versus Strong Claims About the Algorithmic Level.Paul S. Rosenbloom - 1987 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 10 (3):490.
  11. added 2017-02-13
    Brains + Programs = Minds.Bruce Bridgeman - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):427.
  12. added 2017-02-09
    Action Minus Movement: Wittgenstein's Question.Larry Hauser - 1994 - Behavior and Philosophy 22 (1):23-28.
    In connection with John Searle's denial that computers genuinely act, Hauser considers Searle's attempt to distinguish full-blooded acts of agents from mere physical movements on the basis of intent. The difference between me raising my arm and my arm's just going up, on Searle's account, is the causal involvement of my intention to raise my arm in the former, but not the latter, case. Yet, we distinguish a similar difference between a robot's raising its arm and its robot arm just (...)
  13. added 2017-02-07
    A Reply to "Should Computer Programs Be Ownable?".Deborah G. Johnson - 1993 - Metaphilosophy 24 (1-2):85-90.
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  14. added 2017-02-02
    Helen Keller as Cognitive Scientist.Justin Leiber - 1996 - Philosophical Psychology 9 (4):419 – 440.
    Nature's experiments in isolation—the wild boy of Aveyron, Genie, their name is hardly legion—are by their nature illusive. Helen Keller, blind and deaf from her 18th month and isolated from language until well into her sixth year, presents a unique case in that every stage in her development was carefully recorded and she herself, graduate of Radcliffe College and author of 14 books, gave several careful and insightful accounts of her linguistic development and her cognitive and sensory situation. Perhaps because (...)
  15. added 2017-01-29
    Is There Room for a New Elite?Chris Ormell - 1998 - The Philosopher 86 (2).
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  16. added 2017-01-29
    Hubert Handley, Theological Room. [REVIEW]H. C. Corrance - 1915 - Hibbert Journal 14:462.
  17. added 2017-01-29
    Banners of the Barrack-Room.Walter Ewart Bristow - 1907
  18. added 2017-01-28
    Is HIPAA in the Room?Md David Goldblatt - 2007 - Lahey Clinic Medical Ethics Journal 14 (1):3-8.
  19. added 2017-01-27
    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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  20. added 2017-01-27
    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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  21. added 2017-01-27
    Making Room for Alternatives.Robert Wells & Mark Sheldon - 2000 - Hastings Center Report 30 (3):26-28.
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  22. added 2017-01-27
    The Experiences of Visitors in a Physics Discovery Room.Matti Erätuuli & Cary Sneider - 1990 - Science Education 74 (4):481-493.
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  23. added 2017-01-27
    Classics in Chinese Philosophy. [REVIEW]G. W. - 1973 - Review of Metaphysics 26 (3):525-525.
  24. added 2017-01-27
    Chinese Thought and Institutions. [REVIEW]P. R. - 1958 - Review of Metaphysics 11 (3):519-519.
  25. added 2017-01-27
    Historical Charts of Chinese Philosophy. [REVIEW]M. C. - 1955 - Review of Metaphysics 9 (1):158-158.
  26. added 2017-01-26
    In Practice: The Elephant in the Room.Dena Rifkin - forthcoming - Hastings Center Report.
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  27. added 2017-01-26
    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 (...)
  28. added 2017-01-26
    Make Room for a New Feller Hand.Paola Corso - 2005 - Feminist Studies 31 (3):613.
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  29. added 2017-01-26
    The Mind's Room Project: A Model Case of Interdisciplinary Cooperation.Masaharu Mizumoto & Masato Ishikawa - 2005 - Annals of the Japan Association for Philosophy of Science 14 (1):59-72.
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  30. added 2017-01-26
    Making Room for Alternatives.Donald T. Ridley - 2002 - Hastings Center Report 32 (1):7.
  31. added 2017-01-26
    Making Room for Character.Barbara Herman - 1996 - In Stephen Engstrom & Jennifer Whiting (eds.), Aristotle, Kant, and the Stoics: Rethinking Happiness and Duty. Cambridge University Press. pp. 36--60.
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  32. added 2017-01-26
    The Emergence of Meaning: How to Escape Searle's Chinese Room.Paul Thagard - 1986 - Behaviorism 14 (2):139-146.
    Philosophers such as Searle have claimed that full articial intelligence is impossible because the symbols used in AI programs are meaningless. This paper proposes that a key to attributing meaning to symbols in programs is satisfaction of a principle of inductive adequacy, which says that an AI program should contain learning mechanisms sufficient to generate all kinds of knowledge structures that it uses in performances. How this principle would work is illustrated using LISP program PI, and an account is developed (...)
  33. added 2017-01-26
    A Study of the Intelligence of Anglo-Chinese Children.P. C. Hu - 1938 - The Eugenics Review 30 (2):109.
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  34. added 2017-01-25
    Creating Room for Doubt.Han Lamers - 2013 - Philologus: Zeitschrift für Antike Literatur Und Ihre Rezeption 157 (2):374-378.
  35. added 2017-01-25
    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.
  36. added 2017-01-25
    Chinese and Americans See Opposite Apparent Motions in a Chinese Character.Peter Ulric Tse & Patrick Cavanagh - 2000 - Cognition 74 (3):B27-B32.
  37. added 2017-01-25
    Is It Appropriate to Pray in the Operating Room?H. P. Gross - 1995 - Journal of Clinical Ethics 6 (3):273.
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  38. added 2017-01-25
    The Chinese Room Revisited.J. R. Searle - 1982 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 5 (2):345.
  39. added 2017-01-25
    Searle on What Only Brains Can Do.J. A. Fodor - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):431.
  40. added 2017-01-25
    The Chess Room: Further Demythologizing of Strong AI.Roland Puccetti - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):441.
  41. added 2017-01-25
    Understanding Searle.Roger C. Schank - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):446.
  42. added 2017-01-23
    The Sky in a Room.Annalisa Teggi - 2013 - The Chesterton Review 39 (1/2):418-419.
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  43. added 2017-01-22
    A Refutation of Searle's Amended 'Is-Ought' Argument.Thomas D. Perry - 1974 - Analysis 34 (4):133 - 139.
  44. added 2017-01-21
    Die Starke KI-TheseThe Strong AI-Thesis.Stephan Zelewski - 1991 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 22 (2):337-348.
    Summary The controversy about the strong AI-thesis was recently revived by two interrelated contributions stemming from J. R. Searle on the one hand and from P. M. and P. S. Churchland on the other hand. It is shown that the strong AI-thesis cannot be defended in the formulation used by the three authors. It violates some well accepted criterions of scientific argumentation, especially the rejection of essentialistic definitions. Moreover, Searle's ‘proof’ is not conclusive. Though it may be reconstructed in a (...)
  45. added 2017-01-21
    Minds, Brains and Searle.Charles Landesman - 1986 - Metaphilosophy 17 (2-3):172-182.
  46. added 2017-01-20
    Room for Maneuver When Raising Critical Doubt.Jan Albert Van Laar - 2008 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 41 (3):pp. 195-211.
  47. added 2017-01-20
    Good Behavioral Science has Room for Theology: Any Room for God?Robert B. Glassman - 2004 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (6):737-738.
    This excellent outline of evolutionary hypotheses is compromised by severe reductionism. Other writings succeed in granting theism ontological significance without compromising rigor. The discussion of counterintuitiveness neglects coherence in memory. Bearing in mind our severely limited working memory capacity, susceptibility to religious mythologies may comprise an adaptive heuristic approach to summarizing the contingencies of the most far-reaching of life's problems.
  48. added 2017-01-19
    New Light on Early Chinese Science.G. Lloyd - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (2):299-303.
  49. added 2017-01-19
    The Verstehen Tradition.Mary Galbraith - 1995 - Minds and Machines 5 (4):525-531.
    Two different meanings of understanding are central to the question, Can a computer understand? The traditions associated with these two meanings are briefly traced, focusing on the continental verstehen tradition. It is argued that a beneficial dialog can emerge between these traditions, and that the presentations herein selected contribute to such a dialog.
  50. added 2017-01-19
    Die Starke KI-These.Stephan Zelewski - 1991 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 22 (2):337 - 348.
    The Strong AI-Thesis. The controversy about the strong AI-thesis was recently revived by two interrelated contributions stemming from J. R. Searle on the one hand and from P. M. and P. S. Churchland on the other hand. It is shown that the strong AI-thesis cannot be defended in the formulation used by the three authors. It violates some well accepted criterions of scientific argumentation, especially the rejection of essentialistic definitions. Moreover, Searle's 'proof' is not conclusive. Though it may be reconstructed (...)
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