The Arbitrariness of the Symbol

From: Parish, Kevin (
Date: Mon May 27 1996 - 16:19:53 BST

Why does a symbol need to be arbitrary?

There is a need for an arbitrary symbol system for practical
reasons. For example in verbal communication it would be
impossible to cope with any noun, ie you cannot use analog
processing in speech. Computers function by the use of
symbol systems and rules for manipulating them. Symbols are
differnt to analog processes in that they can be manipulated
without any understanding of what they represent providing
the manipulation rules are complex enough. This was used to
good effect in Searle's Chinese room argument, an opposition
to the Turing test. Searle suggested that since, with the
right rules, he could do the same as a Turing machine (fake
having an understanding of conversation) with chinese
symbols without understanding them. If the computation
theory for human brain functioning is correct then the brain
also uses symbol processing. They are necessary for us to
learn by description. There are problems with the idea of
mental imagery, firstly it appears to require another mind
inside the mind hwo in turn requires another homunculus so a
system of processing that does not require images is
desirable in solving this problem. In the end though
'symbol' is merely a symbol itself, which represents an
arbitrary label or representation of something.

Stevan please note

I found the connected sky-reading and the recommended
Anderson book of no help whatsoever in answering this
question. Any reference to this subject was near impossible
to find. In particular compared to many of the other
questions where large amounts of readily available materials
could be attained

Kevin Parish

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 13 2001 - 16:23:45 GMT