On Wednesday, April 24, 2013 4:31:55 AM UTC-4, Brian Tenneson wrote:
> On Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 8:53 PM, Craig Weinberg 
> <whats...@gmail.com<javascript:>
> > 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. 

You should read it as "we know we understand because we care about X". My 
only intention in repeating the word was to make it clear that the thing 
that we care about is the thing that we understand. It is the caring which 
is a symptom of understanding. The absence of that symptom of caring in a 
machine indicates to me that there is a lack of understanding. Things which 
understand can care, but things that cannot care cannot understand.

This is analogous to saying We are Unicorns because care about Unicorns. 

No, this is analogous  to you not understanding what I mean and 
unintentionally making a straw man of my argument. 

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 room.  

The position that we only think we understand or that consciousness is an 
illusion is, in my view, the desperate act of a stubborn mind. Truly, you 
are sawing off the branch that you are sitting on to suggest that we are 
incapable of understanding the very conversation that we are having. 

>>> 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. 

First of all, there are no symbols in our brains, unless you think that 
serotonin or ATP is a symbol. Secondly, the fact that species have needs 
does not imply any sort of caring at all. A car needs fuel and oil but it 
doesn't care about them. When the fuel light comes up on your dashboard, 
that is for you to care about your car, not a sign that the car is anxious. 
Instead of a light on the dashboard, a more intelligently designed car 
could proceed to the filling station and dock at a smart pump, or it could 
use geological measurements and drill out its own petroleum to refine...all 
without the slightest bit of caring or understanding. 

> Or we care about the symbols because they further enrich our lives. 

That's circular. Why do we care about enriching our lives? Because we care 
about our lives and richness. We don't have to though in theory, and a 
machine never can.

> 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.  

I don't know where we are in the extent of our understanding, but there is 
some understanding, while the man in the Chinese room has no understanding.

> Your coupling of caring and understanding is somewhat arbitrary.  

No, it is supported by the English language: 

 "accepting, compassionate, considerate, discerning, forbearing, forgiving, 
kind, kindly, patient, perceptive, responsive, sensitive, sympathetic, 

Your discoupling of caring and understanding is intentionally fabricated 
and incorrect.


> You seem to be saying we care because we understand and we understand 
> because we care. 

No, they are both necessary but not sufficient to each other. We can care 
about things we don't understand also, and we can understand things that we 
don't care about, but if we had no capacity to understand then we could not 
care, and vice versa.

> 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.  

Sure, yes, I agree (see previous).

> 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.

There is no chance of being in a Chinese room at all, because we understand 
some things. The Chinese room is an illustration of how a process which we 
associate with understanding can be executed effectively without any 
understanding at all.

> 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 
> "texts"?

Because the Chinese room prohibits us from ever entertaining the 
possibility that we are in the Chinese Room. Just because we are not 
omniscient and omnipotent does not mean that we are senseless and powerless.



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