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Searle's Chinese Box: Debunking the Chinese Room Argument

Hauser, L (1997) Searle's Chinese Box: Debunking the Chinese Room Argument. [Journal (Paginated)]

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Abstract

John Searle's Chinese room argument is perhaps the most influential and widely cited argument against artificial intelligence (AI). Understood as targeting AI proper -- claims that computers can think or do think -- Searle's argument, despite its rhetorical flash, is logically and scientifically a dud. Advertised as effective against AI proper, the argument, in its main outlines, is an ignoratio elenchi. It musters persuasive force fallaciously by indirection fostered by equivocal deployment of the phrase "strong AI" and reinforced by equivocation on the phrase "causal powers (at least) equal to those of brains." On a more carefully crafted understanding -- understood just to target metaphysical identification of thought with computation ("Functionalism" or "Computationalism") and not AI proper -- the argument is still unsound, though more interestingly so. It's unsound in ways difficult for high church -- "someday my prince of an AI program will come" -- believers in AI to acknowledge without undermining their high church beliefs. The ad hominem bite of Searle's argument against the high church persuasions of so many cognitive scientists, I suggest, largely explains the undeserved repute this really quite disreputable argument enjoys among them.

Item Type:Journal (Paginated)
Keywords:artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computation, Functionalism, Searle's Chinese room argument
Subjects:Philosophy > Philosophy of Language
Philosophy > Philosophy of Mind
ID Code:240
Deposited By:Hauser, Larry
Deposited On:24 Feb 1998
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:53

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