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Dark Rooms and Chinese Brains Philosophy of Mind BRENT SILBY Unlimited (UPT)

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Presentation on theme: "Dark Rooms and Chinese Brains Philosophy of Mind BRENT SILBY Unlimited (UPT)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Dark Rooms and Chinese Brains Philosophy of Mind BRENT SILBY Unlimited (UPT)

2 An outline of the Problem of Consciousness. Contains references to source material…well worth a visit.

3 Cartesian View of the Brain Single Homunculus [draw on board] Multiple unintelligent homunculi dividing the work

4 Is the brain a computer? yes / no, why / why not? Think about why people think the brain is a computer? How is the brain like a computer? What do brains and computers have in common?

5 The Chinese Room Thought Experiment Put forward by John Searle Supposed to show that the mind is more than a computer It is supposed to show that the mind can do things a computer can’t do Today we will explore the thought experiment, then extend it to further highlight the problem of Qualia

6 The Chinese Room Argument A quick definition of “Handworking a Program” Handworking a computer program--means looking at computer code and figuring out exactly what is going on. Useful for debugging programs. The code checker goes through the computer program line-by- line to see exactly how the program works--what it does. NEXT SLIDE…

7 The Chinese Room Argument Imagine that the brain is a computer and you can get a printout of its program. What would such a program look like? Lots of instructions to cover all the different types of event that happens to a person. NEXT SLIDE…

8 The Chinese Room Argument Suppose you are given a printout of a Chinese person’s brain. Imagine that you are then put into a locked room, which is full of paper and pens, and of course the computer program. The program is a huge collection of books, which are full of written instructions. The pens and paper are for you to handwork the program. NEXT SLIDE…

9 The Chinese Room Argument Now, suppose that the room has two holes, one for people to drop in written questions (written in Chinese), and one for you to send out written answers to the questions (in Chinese). People insert questions which are written in Chinese. You don’t understand the questions because you don’t read Chinese. You carefully look at the Chinese symbols, and then refer to the computer program--lists of instructions that tell you how to turn the symbols into new symbols. The new symbols can then be transformed into new Chinese text by following the instructions in the books. (Draw process on board) NEXT SLIDE…


11 The Chinese Room Argument You send the new Chinese text out of the Answer slot. This text is an answer to the original question that had been put into the question slot. To a Chinese speaker on the outside, the answer makes sense. The question is: Since you hand worked the brain’s program and generated the answers, do you now understand the questions and answers?

12 The Chinese Room Argument Common sense suggests that you do NOT understand the meaning of the questions or the answers. You don’t even know they were questions and answers--it was just symbols that you transformed by hand working the brain’s program. The point here is that simply running a program is not enough to UNDERSTAND, BELIEVE, or THINK. Searle concludes that the mind is more than a mere computer program. Now, let’s extend the thought experiment

13 The Dark Room Variation Imagine the same scenario as above. The room is dark, you have a lamp at your desk, which lights up your work area. This time there are multiple input/output slots in the wall. You don’t know what any of them are for--you simply take the input, work on it, and place output in the appropriate slot. Imagine what it would be like to be in there. You have no idea what the input data represents. You do not know that the input is actually encoded sense data, and the output you generate encodes for muscular movement, including the issuing of spoken sentences.

14 The Dark Room Variation The question: in handworking this program, would you ever know that the Chinese person was experiencing the sensation of BLUENESS? …or experiencing the sensation of pain? …or hearing sound? There is nothing in the program or encoded sense data that resembles a conscious experience of BLUE, therefore the conscious experience of BLUE cannot be explained by looking at the brain’s program.

15 The Chinese Room Argument Brainstorm… does Searle’s Chinese Room Argument work? What, if anything, is wrong with it? How about the Dark Room Variation? Is that convincing?

16 The Chinese Room Argument The “So What?” objection… It doesn’t matter that you don’t understand the questions. If someone asked the whole room “do you understand Chinese?”, the answer that would pop-out would be “yes”. More… You are just a part of the room--just a cog in the machine. The understanding of Chinese comes from the entire room. It’s a bit like expecting an individual neuron in a brain to understand English. But does this solve the problem of Qualia in the Dark Room variation?

17 The Chinese Cell Phones Perhaps the brain is more like the country China. Each person in China communicates with other people with a cell phone Just like all the neurons in the brain communicating with each other No single person understands or knows about the large system of which they are a part They are all simple cogs in the machine Is it possible that the entire population of China collectively form a thinking brain? Discuss

18 The Chinese Cell Phones What about the entire human population? All interconnected by internet, phones, TV, radio, etc Individual people don’t have an awareness of the thoughts of the collective brain. We just go about our business--all simple cogs in the large machine. Is the collective human world a brain?

19 A strong physicalist would think that the Chinese Cellphone situation would not give rise to a mind. PHYSICALISM (Strong physicalism) This is because physicalists believe that the mind can only arise in a brain. The organic/biological nature of the brain is essential for the generation of a mind. We need biological neurons!

20 FUNCTIONALISM The functionalist thinks that the Chinese Cellphone situation could give rise to a mind. For the functionalist, the system is not as important as the functions it performs. For example, if you have a collection of modules that perform exactly the same functions as modules contained in the brain (e.g. visual perception, speech recognition, rigid object mechanics etc) then the collection of those modules would give rise to a mind. We could, therefore, implement a mind in a range of different types of system, perhaps by simulating the functions of the brain’s modules.

21 Powerpoint by BRENT SILBY Produced at UPT Christchurch, New Zealand

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