Publication 4208

Gallagher S. (2009) The key to the Chinese Room. In: Leidlmair K. (ed.) After cognitivism: A reassessment of cognitive science and philosophy. Springer, Dordrecht: 87–96. Fulltext at
Excerpt: The “systems reply,” for example, states that it may not be the syntax alone, but the whole system – the syntax and the physics (the person, but also the room, the Chinese characters, the rule ledger, etc.) – that generates the semantics. My intention in this paper is not to champion the systems reply or to use it to defend Strong AI. But I’ll take the systems reply as my point of departure, and I’ll begin by asking: What precisely are the elements of the system, or what other elements need to be added to the system if we are to explain semantics? I’ll develop this view along lines that also incorporate aspects of the “robot reply,” which argues that the system has to be embodied in some way, and exposed to the world outside of the CR. This kind of approach has already been outlined by others (Rey 1986; Harnad 1989, 2002; and especially Crane 2003), but I don’t follow these lines back to the position of an enhanced and strengthened AI. Properly constructed, this hybrid systems/robot reply – or what I’ll call more generally, the systems approach – doesn’t lead us back to the tenets of Strong AI, but can actually serve Searle’s critique. Indeed, I’ll suggest that the best systems approach is already to be found in Searle’s own work, although Searle misses something important in his rejection of the systems reply and in framing his answer to the question of semantics in terms of the biological nature of the brain.


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