Re: Searle: Minds, Brains & Programs

From: Harnad, Stevan (
Date: Mon Jan 22 1996 - 14:22:32 GMT

> From: "Baden, Denise" <>
> Date: Tue, 12 Dec 1995 13:48:05 GMT
> cp> From: "Parker, Chris" <>
> cp> Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 08:17:33 +0000
> cp>
> cp> Thus strong AI fails to
> cp> distinguish between syntax and semantics. [I am
> cp> unhappy with this, it seems to me that computers could
> cp> have as much semantic information as we have. Anything
> cp> we know about Chinese, they could know too. The
> cp> difference between us and machines just appears to be
> cp> that machines haven't been programmed to experience
> cp> understanding, and if they have, then they haven't
> cp> been programmed (or rather built) to say that they
> cp> understand. Searle seems to have a homonculus that
> cp> understands, but what is the understanding experience?
> cp> Surely it can only be an experience of the fit of
> cp> input with memory.]
> No it has to be more than that, because human beings have instincts,
> emotions, preferences etc i.e things matter. What matters to a
> computer?

Have to agree with Denise that there's more to understanding than just
fitting input to memory. Besides, it's not just a matter of
"understanding experience," for understanding ANYTHING is an experience.
In other words, the system needs to be capable of having conscious
experience: somebeody's got to be home in there. Searle has shown that
that's not just something you can "programme."

But don't get too carried away with the "mattering" (apart from the
pun-value), because ANY experience will do, even a perfectly
indifferent, apathetic, null sort of experience, emotionally speaking.
Have one of those blah experiences and you are already eligible for the
full-blown mind/body pproblem...

> cp> ". All mental
> cp> phenomena are caused by processes in the brain and all
> cp> causal processes are internal to the brain even though
> cp> "mental events mediate between external stimuli and
> cp> motor responses there is no essential connection".
> cp> Mental phenomena, like pain, are features of the
> cp> brain. [This seems a bit extreme, I would have thought
> cp> that most behaviour is a result of a mixture of
> cp> ongoing mental processes and mental processes arising
> cp> directly out of external stimuli."
> Actually several aspects of behaviour are capable of occurring without
> CNS influence at all, e.g. the withdrawal reflex and the flexor reflex
> are mediated at the level of the lower spinal cord. Apparently, with
> some animals that have had their brains removed, there is little
> observable difference in behaviour, eg frogs will still swim and leap
> around.

It's just a matter of definition, but the "CNS" consists of the brain
and spinal cord, as distinct from the peripheral and autonomic
(sympathetic and parasympathetic) nervous systems...

But no one knows how much neural tissue -- brain, cord, central,
peripheral -- you need to generate a mental state, as opposed to
a mere movement or electrophysiological state...

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