Philosophy Paper Example on Chinese Room Experiment

Published: 2021-08-15
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University of Richmond
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The Chinese room experiment is a thought experiment by John Searle which was published first in the year 1980 which refuted the general notion that the computer is like the human brain. It is one of the best-known counters to claim this fact and claim that artificial intelligence may one day think but so far this is not the case. The argument is based on two claims the brain causes the minds, and that syntax does not suffice for semantics.

A brief introduction to the case is Searle imagined himself in a locked room with a written down program which was designed to respond to Chinese characters. Then from beneath the door, Chinese characters are slipped in the room, and he follows the program and response to these characters with the meaning. Then people out of the room with no clue who is in the room will have it in them that the person in the room is of Chinese origin due to the responses slipped out of the room. In the real case, he has no idea in relation to the Chinese language. A narrow conclusion of his argument was that the process of programming a digital computer might make it seem to understand other different languages, for instance, the google translator but in the real sense, it does not produce a real understanding. This makes the Turing test inadequate. From this Searle argues that use the syntactic rules to manipulate symbol strings so as to deliver, but they have no understanding of semantics or the meanings. This draws the line between the mind of a human being and the computer. Minds must result from biological processes, unlike the computers which can at their best mimic these biological processes. This has taken its ideas from different concepts namely the computer science, the theories of consciousness, semantics implications, the philosophy of language and the mind as well as the cognitive science as well. The argument has faced critical replies from different fields involved as well as different fields.

Searle from the argument aims at two major ides the Strong AI and the Weak AI. The strong AI as per Searle is the claim that the computer is not just a tool in the study of the mind but the appropriately and intelligently programmed computer is a mind in the line of thought that if a computer is provided with the right or the appropriately programmed program it can be literally possible to understand and have other cognitive states. And on the other hand, Searle compare Weak AI with the strong AI and as per this, the weak AI computers just happen to simulate thoughts and the seeming understanding seen with the computers happens not to be real but more of a simulation but a well-calculated simulation (Searle, 2013). But its important in the study of the mind.

Artificial intelligence has over the past few years has produced leading programs that have been seen to beat worlds best chess champions as well as other instances making one question the intelligence of the computer. Advancements have been made over the past few years in this field, and major developments have been achieved such as Apples Siri application which is an AI program that one can talk to in a natural language and is able to efficiently connect with the phone. For all this to happen it implies that the activities require a clear understanding and intelligence and this results to the question in the minds of many, the fact that computers can win in computer games as well as hold conversations does it imply they can understand as well as being intelligent? What more are we to expect from the computers and is there a chance that the computer's intelligence will exceed that of a man. Allan Turner back in the year 1950 believed that the answer for this was yes and provided a test that affirmed his response. The test was referred to as The Turing Test for this test he claimed that if a computer can pass for an online chat with a human being, then we should grant that it's intelligent. But this was challenged by Searles small test which clearly intended to illustrate that it is completely impossible for a digital computer to understand the language or ability to think.

From Searles argument of the native English speaker in a room he argues clearly that the man has no clue of any chines but has the ability to interpret the Chinese symbols which is similar to a computer. The computer ability is completely based on a well-programmed application or software which runs the logic within the computer to give the result as a man would have done. This flow of logic within the program is based on a man's abilities to program this hence living the computer to mimic these steps one followed by the other hence a clear expression of the computer mimicking the biological process of a man.

After laying down this experiment, Searle considered several replies in response to his argument from a number of workers in the artificial intelligence field. These included the systems reply who responded that the experiment allowed us to focus on the wrong thing within the AI field in digital computers. The system reply felt that the person in the room was part of the system and did not understand the entire story (Rhodes, 2016). And for Searle to incorporate this in his argument he hands the person in his experiment not use the instructions as in his first case but internalize these instructions then use them. Another reply was the other minds reply that reminded us that how we know the other person understands Chinese is by their behavior in relation to the subject not only the Chinese subject and for the computer if it manages to pass the behavioral tests as well as a person then if you are to mart a persons cognitive abilities by this nothing stops you from doing the same to the computer but to respond to this Searle responded that the point of concern was not what the person outside the box had to argue in relation to the case but the main inside the closed box or room had to say mattered the most. Also, the computations involved in the experiment less applied to the cognitive state of mind as the other minds reply stated.

From the Chinese Room Experiment, a number of things cross one's mind such as the different facts in relation to how one should understand the computer. The current advancements in AI has seen to it the developments in intelligent robots which can interact with human beings effectively as well as perform the task more accurately than man. This clearly brings in the asked question in relation to the intelligence of a computer and that of a man. Searle's experiment has its own perspective of analyzing the situation as well as interpreting it as explained within the paper.


Rhodes, P. (2016). Artificial Intelligence: Solving the Chinese Room Argument.

Searle, J. R. (2013). Is the brain a digital computer?. The American Philosophical Association Centennial Series, 691-710.

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