[ExI] Meaningless Symbols.

Gordon Swobe gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 13 13:54:09 UTC 2010

--- On Wed, 1/13/10, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:

> Searle's response is for the man to internalise the cards
> and rules so that the room is eliminated. He then says that the man is
> the whole system and still doesn't understand Chinese, therefore the
> system doesn't understand Chinese. 


> But that just means that Searle
> does not understand the concept of a system.

The point is that the man now IS the system. He becomes the room that some detractors insisted understood the symbols even if the man inside did not. He now has everything the room had, yet neither he nor anything inside him understands.

The entire CR thought experiment was just a parable to help people see the obvious: that syntax is not sufficient for semantics -- that mere knowledge of how to manipulate symbols is not sufficient for gleaning their meanings. But some people missed the point and attacked the parable.

Any 7th grade English teacher will teach the same thing that Searle taught: that understanding of syntax does not in itself lead to understanding of word meanings. One cannot become conversant in any language without understanding both its syntax (grammar) and its semantics (vocabulary), and the two things are different.

Software/hardware systems *seem* to get semantics only because the programmer got semantics in elementary school, and then learned in college how to simulate semantics with syntax in formal programs, and then only if the computer operator either doesn't understand this or pretends it isn't so.



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