Re: Searle: Is the Brain a Digital Computer?

From: Salcedo Afonso (
Date: Mon Mar 19 2001 - 21:19:14 GMT

> If it is, it certainly not at all obvious how or why it is. (Why should
> it FEEL like something to be the reaction to a set of procedures?) And,
> even more important, what if it's not?
> The logic is: If the moon is nothing but a hunk of green cheese, then
> the moon is just a dairy product. But why should I think the moon is
> nothing but a hunk of green cheese? Just because it looks like a hunk
> of green cheese?

I think we can't compare the two examples: the moon/cheese and the mind, for
one simple reason. We yet have to understand the functionality of the mind
(be it physical or meta-physical), while we already have undeniable proof
that the moon is not cheese.
It is scientifically correct to hypothesize if the mind can be described as
a basic set of procedures, but is not to hypothesize about the moon being a
hunk of cheese... Well, it is, but it would be a waste of time I guess...

> He just wants to know whether or not that computer over there, whatever
> code it is running (and whether it's an operation, simulation, or
> representation), is really thinking, the way his brain is really
> thinking. It's the same as asking whether whether or not something is
> really flying, the way a plane is really flying.

Sure, but you do need to still define your concept of thought as you need to
define what you believe flying actually is. So you need to get into detail
of all other sub-concepts that are in someway related to what you are
interested on.

> But wouldn't exactly the same thing be true of sentences on a piece of
> paper? Yet we would never ask ourselves whether the paper is thinking or
> understanding. What difference does it make if the sentences are
> implemented dynamically. The question still remains: Is that really what
> thinking is? Is there any understanding going on there?

Again, it's an hypothesis. A piece of paper with sentences on it is already
fully defined and described. It can't do anything else. A computer has the
*possibility* of evolving to the matter that it actually implements some
process of thought, whichever that may be.
Maybe it's easier to imagine this possibility if considering advances in
biological computing, where strand of DNA actually perform computanional
processes as common computers do, though millions of times faster.

> We are not "comparing internal representations." We are asking whether or
> not the system really thinks.

True, but again, if we are interested in knowing if the system really thinks
then we would have to evaluate somehow the inner workings of this, wouldn't
we? I don't think the scientific community would accept a computer said to
be able to think, without a thorough explanation of how it processes

> Kid-sib is confused upon hearing this: I understand that gravitational
> attraction is a physical property that is "intrinsic" to physical
> bodies. Same is true of chemical bonds. So far we have covered planets
> and brains (gravitation, chemistry). Where does thinking and computation
> come in?

We don't know if we need the rest of the body to think, or if the brain can
actually think without a body attached to it. Maybe a computer could
function in the same way. Maybe the physics of the hardware are irrelevant,
but also maybe they are not. What if a computer chip can only thing if
somehow the hardware is implemented in some biological way, like
Again this goes into more detail as the question of the original paper, but
I believe the details have to be thought of as well if we must consider the
general hypothesis.

Afonso Salcedo

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