[ExI] Meaningless Symbols

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Tue Jan 12 13:56:19 UTC 2010

2010/1/12 Gordon Swobe <gts_2000 at yahoo.com>:
> --- On Tue, 1/12/10, Stefano Vaj <stefano.vaj at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Human operators ascribe meanings to the symbols their
>>> computers manipulate.
>> How would that be the case? Ascribing meaning to a symbol
>> means to associate something to something else. As, in, e.g., ax^2 +
>> bx + c = y when I ascribe to x the meaning of "5". What would be so
>> special in what humans would be doing in this respect?
> I consider my pocket calculator as an extension of my own mind. I use it as a tool. If I encounter a screw that I can't remove with my fingers, I grab my pocket screwdriver. If I encounter a math problem that I can't solve with my brain, I grab my pocket calculator.

But how would they associate symbols with values the way any universal
computer is able to do?

> I don't believe either of these pocket tools of mine have understanding of anything whatsoever, but I might find it fun to pretend they do.

In any event, I assume one does not really have any idea of whether
something has any understanding of anything, unless one has first a
definition of what "understanding" would mean... And even if you had
one, as long as the definition were making reference to some kind of
"subjective consciousness" rather than to some phenomenon you would
not know anyway.

Stefano Vaj

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