[ExI] Semiotics and Computability

Gordon Swobe gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Sun Feb 21 15:41:49 UTC 2010

--- On Fri, 2/19/10, Mike Dougherty <msd001 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Maybe semantics can't be gleaned directly from a
> syntactical rule - but over the course of the man's time in the box, he 
> will observe patterns and hypothesize meaning which can be reinforced by
> repeated observation.  

But the man can learn only that 'squoogles' follow after 'squiggles'. 

At the machine level, he can learn no more than that certain patterns of 1's and 0's follow after certain other patterns of 1's and 0's. He can form hypotheses, as you say, but he cannot test those hypotheses without help from somewhere.

Sense data seems like the obvious place to look for that help: the man in the room has no access to sense data from the outside world, so perhaps that explains why he cannot attach meanings to the symbols he manipulates. But when we look at how computers get sense data, we see that sense data also amounts to nothing more than meaningless patterns of 1's and 0's.

At this point Stathis throws up his hands and proclaims that Searle preaches that human brains do something "magical". But that's not it at all. The CRA merely illustrates an ordinary mundane fact: that the human brain has no special place in the nature as a supposed "digital computer". The brain has the same ordinary non-digital status as other products of biological evolution, objects like livers and hearts and spleens and nuts and watermelons. It just happens to be one very smart melon.



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