On Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 8:53 PM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com>wrote:

> On Tuesday, April 23, 2013 11:37:14 PM UTC-4, Brian Tenneson wrote:
>> You keep claiming that we understand this and that or know this and
>> that.  And, yes, saying something along the lines of "we know we understand
>> because we care about what we understand" *is* circular.
> No, it's not. I'm saying that it is impossible to doubt we understand.
> It's just playing with words. My point about caring is that it makes it
> clear that we intuitively make a distinction between merely being aware of
> something and understanding it.
I'll try to explain how  "we know we understand because we care about what
we understand" is circular.  Note the use of the word understand towards
the left edge of the statement in quotes followed by another instance of
the word understand.  This is analogous to saying We are Unicorns because
care about Unicorns.  Doesn't prove unicorns exist; doesn't prove
understanding exists (i.e., that any human understands anything). If this
is all sophistry then it should be easily dismissible. And yes, playing
with words is what people normally do, wittingly or unwittingly, and that
lends more evidence to the notion that we are processors in a Chinese

>> Still doesn't rule out the possibility that we are in a Chinese room
>> right now, manipulating symbols without really understanding what's going
>> on but able to adeptly shuffle the symbols around fast enough to appear
>> functional.
> Why not? If we were manipulating symbols, why would we care about them.
> What you're saying doesn't even make sense. We are having a conversation.
> We care about the conversation because we understand it. If I was being
> dictated to write in another language instead, I would not care about the
> conversation. Are you claiming that there is no difference between having a
> conversation in English and dictating text in a language you don't
> understand?
We care about the symbols because working through the symbols in our brains
is what leads to food, shelter, sex, and all the things animals want.  Or
we care about the symbols because they further enrich our lives.  The
symbols in this corner of the internet (barring my contributions of course)
are examples of that.  Regarding the world, would you say there is more
that we (i.e., at least one human) understand or more that we don't?  I
would vote 'don't' and that leads me also to suspect we are in a chinese
room right now.  Your coupling of caring and understanding is somewhat
arbitrary.  You seem to be saying we care because we understand and we
understand because we care.  But it is the case that even if we do
understand something, we don't have to care about it.  And understanding
because we care doesn't follow either: I care a great deal about science,
20-21st stuff mainly, but I understand almost nothing of it.  Would you say
we live in a world where we are confronted daily with numerous events; are
you claiming you understand most or all of these events? The less you
understand the greater the chances of being in a Chinese room.

We know that we're not the center of the universe or even the solar
system.  We know that space is almost unfathomably vast.  We know humans
are fallible, even when it comes time to do some math and science.  So why
be so shocked that we are in a "Chinese room," lacking understanding of the


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