Phil 3

1981 Words8 Pages
In this essay, I will present Searle's “Chinese Room” thought experiment, his definition of functionalism, and what he is trying to show through this experiment. I will then explain the Robot Reply to Searle's “Chinese Room” experiment, including why functionalists believe that the robot does understand Chinese in this situation. Lastly, I will offer a contrasting argument to the functionalist argument by explaining why the robot does not understand Chinese. Searle uses the following example to better explain the concept of his Chinese Room. Imagine a native English speaker, who knows no written or spoken Chinese, is locked in a room. He is first given a large batch of Chinese writing. Then, he is given another batch of Chinese script coupled with a set of rules that allow him to correlate one set of Chinese symbols with another; these rules are in English, which he understands. Lastly, he is given a third batch of Chinese symbols, along with rules in English, that allow him to correlate parts of third batch with the first and second batches. The people who are giving the man these symbols, without the man's knowledge, call the first, second and third batches “a script,” “story,” and “questions,” respectively. They also call the responses to the third batch “answers to the questions,” and the set of rules in English, “the program.” Imagine that after much practice, the man is able to manipulate the instructions in Chinese so well that his answers make him seem as if he is a native Chinese speaker. At the same time, these people also give the man stories and questions in English, to which he responds with answers in English. To the people outside of the box, the man appears to understand and write Chinese just as well... ... middle of paper ... ...on, I am in agreement with Searle that the man in the Chinese room does not understand Chinese. My definition of understanding comprises four abilities in relation to an idea, for example: the ability to distinguish general relations of a certain idea, the ability to manipulate ideas in the absence of a manual, the ability to absorb these ideas, and lastly, the presence of intentionality in respect to an idea. Also, even a robot were included in this situation, such as in The Robot Reply, neither the man nor the robot would understand Chinese. Understanding is not simply the ability to manipulate symbols; it is one's ability to understand this concept on a more macroscopic level. Understanding is able to withstand slight alterations in these concepts. This is why Searle's Chinese Room argument is valid and is able to undermine the functionalists' argument.

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