JS (continued): Why is this interesting to us? Well, it makes it perfectly clear that there is a distinction between the external behavior and the inner consciousness and intentionality. (I am suspicious of these metaphors of inner and outer but they will have to do for the moment.) The way that human and animal evolution has occurred is [such] that our ability to cope with the environment requires consciousness and intentionality. There are various things that we can do, such as digestion, without any consciousness, but for survival purposes we require consciousness and intentionality. These are genuine states of the brain and the rest of the central nervous system. The famous four F's of feeding, fighting, fleeing and sexual reproduction require consciousness and intentionality, and these are different from the sheer physical movements of my body and they are necessary to make the behavior possible.
The second question is about the Chinese Room Argument. There is a reply I call The Systems Reply that goes as follows: Granted that the man in the Chinese room does not understand Chinese, how about the whole system? Maybe the whole system understands Chinese. To suppose the man had to understand Chinese would be like supposing that a single neuron in the human brain had to understand English or Chinese or anything else.
This is such a desperate reply to the Chinese Room Argument that I am always puzzled when I hear it. But there is an obvious answer to it, and that is: ask yourself, why don't I understand Chinese? After all, I pass the Turing Test for understanding Chinese. And the answer is that I have no way to attach any meaning to the Chinese symbols. I have no way to get from the syntax to the semantics. But then if I have no way to get from the syntax to the semantics, neither does the entire system. The room has no way to attach a meaning to the symbols anymore than I do.
I demonstrated this with the very first occurrence of this argument by imagining that we get rid of the room. Suppose I memorize the program, I memorize all of the symbols, and I perform all of the calculations in my head. I can even work in the middle of an open field so there is no question of there being any system there that is not in me. Everything in the system is in me, but there is still no understanding of Chinese. Once again, the argument remains the same. The syntax of the program, of the symbol manipulation, is not sufficient for the semantics or mental content of actual human understanding.
MLU: We have this idea of a human standing in a field, running the Chinese room program in his head (let's assume he has a really good memory!) and conversing in Chinese, yet he does not understand Chinese and he does not know what he is talking about. One response often made to this is that the man's mind, together with the program he is running in his head, actually runs a second mind which does understand Chinese. You could ask the man in English, "Do you understand Chinese?" and he would say, truthfully, "No." You could then ask the man the same question in Chinese and he would say "Yes," in Chinese. You could ask him the same question about which political party he would vote for in English and Chinese and get different answers, suggesting we should treat this situation as if there is an "English mind" and a "Chinese mind." Could we not then take the view that there is a mind that does understand Chinese -- and that its understanding is inaccessible to the mind that is talking to you when you converse in English?