Searle believes the Chinese Room argument supports a larger point,which explains the failure of the Chinese Room to produceunderstanding. Searle argued that programs implemented by computersare just syntactical. Computer operations are “formal” inthat they respond only to the physical form of the strings of symbols,not to the meaning of the symbols. Minds on the other hand have stateswith meaning, mental contents. We associate meanings with the words orsigns in language. We respond to signs because of their meaning, notjust their physical appearance. In short, we understand. But, andaccording to Searle this is the key point, “Syntax is not byitself sufficient for, nor constitutive of, semantics.” Soalthough computers may be able to manipulate syntax to produceappropriate responses to natural language input, they do notunderstand the sentences they receive or output, for they cannotassociate meanings with the words.


Satisfied customers are saying