John Searle in the Chinese Room - Experiment Analysis

Published: 2021-06-25
1418 words
6 pages
12 min to read
Vanderbilt University
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Philosophy has for a long term been given some definitions. All these definitions are as a result of the different opinions that people have over the same issue. Philosophers have over time tried to come up with explanations to back their different explanation of the term as well as the explanation of the brain function. However, psychology stands to be the study of the functioning and the working of the brain with great regards to memory. There are some tests that have been conducted to help come up with a better understanding of the human brain as it has proven to be one a complex organ whose understanding cannot be done in one sitting or experiment but rather multiple of them. Just as presented in the article under study, many tests have been conducted to help understand the different aspects of the human brain. The article has put forward some experiments that can assist in the understanding of the brain and our minds. One perfect example of such experiments presented by the article is one that is referred to as the Gedanken experiment. This paper is going to review this test, and while doing so, it will explain whether the John Searle presented by the experiment in the Chinese room understands Chinese. In addition to that, the paper will also explain the expected results of his thought experiment. It will also tell if the experiment was successful in achieving the objectives.

To begin with, to answer the questions presented by the thesis of this paper, then understanding of the experiment is one key element. The experiment presupposes that one is locked in a room and presented with a large batch that comprises of Chinese writings. In such a situation, the individual has no prior knowledge of either written or spoken Chinese (Searle 2). In addition to being clueless about Chinese writing, the individual has no idea of whether they can know anything about them as they are to some extent weird and they are like some sought of meaningless scribbling. Then the individual is given a second batch Chinese writings but then the second batch comes with rules that correlate the first batch to the second one, and the rules are written down in English. Then the individual is issued with a third batch, and this batch also comes with rules correlating the third batch to the first two. In the rules that come along with the third batch, the individual can notice some shapes of the Chinese characters. Unknowingly, the first batch is given the name script, the next a story, and the last questions (Searle 3). The symbols that the individual was able to identify in the third batch called responses to the queries and the set of instructions that were tagged along with each set or rather batch known as programs. At this point, the experiment gets a bit complicated. The individual is given a story written in English and questions after that, and they can answer them correctly. After that, they are now able to interpret the symbols based on the guidelines they are given. Based on the ability of the individual to follow instructions then it would be hardtop judge that they are unable to speak Chinese. From the above experiment then we can assert that the individual can apply set instructions to come up with answers to the Chinese questions despite their ignorance of the language (Searle 3). This implies that he behaves like a computer in the sense that they can come up with an answer on operations based on the elements involved.

All that said and done then we can go ahead and answer the very many questions or rather mysteries that are presented by the thesis statement in this paper. To begin with, the very first question was whether John Searle in the Chinese room understood Chinese or rather had prior knowledge of Chinese. From the experiment above then, it is clear or rather evident that John Searle does not know or has no prior knowledge of Chinese. However, his ability to come up with the prediction of the characters in Chinese is from the rubrics that are provided with the batches. He can manipulate the Chinese symbols by following the instructions keenly, and this makes an outsider view him as one who has prior knowledge to the Chinese language. This is not true, but then the only advantage that he has or rather that makes him come up with the clues to the manipulation of the meaning of these symbols is the instructions and how he can correlate the three batches based on the instructions and come up with something.

This experiment can then be considered successful. This is because, while coming up with the experiment, the intentions or rather the objective was to determine the fact that intentionality by the human brain is as a result of the casual features of the brain. That aside, the experiment was also aimed at proving that indeed, the human brain works based on some theories. One of the theories that is said to be guiding the functioning of the brain is the fact that the brain can manipulate instructions in a new environment and come up with solutions to queries regarding the same environment. This can be proven by the experiment that was conducted by John in the Chinese room. We see that he gets to the room with not even a single knowledge on the Chinese language. However, by providing him with instructions on that relates the different Chinese characters then we see him able to manipulate the information and come up with something that makes sense this proves that when subjected to set conditions and instructions, then the human brain is capable of coming up with certain solutions. Ideally, the experiment presupposes that the human brain functions like a computer which performs tasks based on the instructions that are keyed into it.

In addition to that, the other way through which this experiment has proven that the brain functions on the basis of theories for an instant the systems theory is as follows. In the experiment, we see that the individual is let to internalize the element if the Chinese language. Then his brain comes in handy and memorizes the information, and all the interpretation is done in his head. This makes the individual able to incorporate the whole thing. The same experiment if conducted outdoors then the results will be the same since he had no prior knowledge of Chinese and therefore a change of the environment would have insignificant implications to the results of the experiment.

On the contrary, opposes of this idea argue that the concept of the brain said to be functioning as per theories is null and void. They argue that it is not possible to have someone with no prior knowledge of something come up with the interpretation of the same. However much the rules would help with the analysis, they argue that such an idea is not true. The brain is only capable of giving interpretations to things that it clearly understands. Only machines can come up with such functioning. However much some people argue against this idea, there are no experiments that have been conducted in support of the opposers ideas hence we can say that the idea is genuine.

Summarily, the study of the human brain, also referred to as philosophy entails a lot and is a complex one. It requires deeper understanding, and this comes after performing series of experiments. This paper has presented a sample experiment that was conducted to prove the fact that the brain can function under certain instructions and conditions to come up with solutions to mysteries. This is seen from the instants where an individual that is clueless of the Chinese language is put in a locked room and is given batches written in Chinese. The last two batches come with a set of instructions that relate them to the previous ones respectively. This set of instructions are supposed to help the individual interpret the symbol and this we see him do successfully, this implies that under certain direction and conditions, then the brain is capable of performing extraordinary functions. Indeed, from the experiment above, then we can conclude that the functioning of the human brain can well be defined by an understanding of some theories.

Work Cited

Searle, John. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 1st ed. California: department of Philosophy University of California, 1980. Print.pdf.


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