- Searle sets up the issues as would a fundamentalist Catholic defending transubstantiation. Suppose a demythologizing Tillichian theologian urges that we think of the Eucharist not in terms of substantial change, but rather in terms of significance in the lives of the faithful. The defender of orthodoxy will reply that the "natural supernatural distinction cannot be just in the eye of the beholder but must be intrinsic; otherwise it would be up to any beholder to treat anything as supernatural." (Compare Searle on the mental-nonmental distinction, p. 420) Theology, the orthodox say, starts with such facts as that the Catholic Eucharist is a supernatural event whereas a Unitarian minister handing around glasses of water isn't. Searle says that "the study of the mind starts with such facts as that humans have beliefs, while thermostats . . . and adding machines don't." In theology, the orthodox continue, one presupposes the reality and knowability of the supernatural. Searle says, "In 'cognitive sciences' one presupposes the reality and knowability of the mental." The orthodox think that the demythologizers are just changing the subject, since we know in advance that the distinction between the natural and the supernatural is a distinction between two sorts of entities having different special causal powers. We know that we can't interpret the Eucharist "functionally" in terms of its utility as an expression of our ultimate concern, for there could be such an expression without the elements actually changing their substantial form. Similarly, Searle knows in advance that a cognitive state "couldn't be just computational processes and their output because the computational processes and their output can exist without the cognitive state." Both the orthodox theologian and Searle criticize their opponents as "unashamedly behavioristic and operationalist."
- Searle uses the example of being trained to answer enough questions in Chinese to pass a Turing test. The defender of transubstantiation would use the example of a layman disguised as a priest reciting the mass and fooling the parishioners. The initial reply to Searle's example is that if the training kept on for years and years so that Searle became able to answer all possible Chinese questions in Chinese, then he jolly well would understand Chinese. If you can fool all the people all of the time, behaviorists and operationalists say, it doesn't count as fooling any more. The initial reply to the orthodox theologian's example is that when Anglican priests perform Eucharist services what happens is functionally identical with what happens in Roman churches, despite the "defect of intention" in Anglican orders. When you get a body of worshippers as large as the Anglican communion to take the Eucharist without the necessary "special causal powers" having been present, that shows you that those powers weren't essential to the sacrament. Sufficiently widely accepted simulation is the real thing. The orthodox, however, will reply that a "consecrated" Anglican Host is no more the Body of Christ than a teddy bear is a bear, since the "special causal powers" are the essence of the matter. Similarly, Searle knows in advance that "only something that has the same causal powers as brains can have intentionality."
- How does Searle know that? In the same way, presumably, as the orthodox theologian knows things. Searle knows what "mental" and "cognitive" and such terms mean, and so he knows that they can't be properly applied in the absence of brains - or, perhaps, in the absence of something that is much like a brain in respect to "causal powers." How would we tell whether something was sufficiently like?, behaviorists and operationalists ask. Presumably they will get no answer until we discover enough about how the brain works to distinguish intentionality from mere simulations of intentionality. How might a neutral party judge the dispute between Anglicans and Roman Catholics about the validity of Anglican orders? Presumably he will have to wait until we discover more about God.
- But perhaps the analogy is faulty: we moderns believe in brains but not in God. Still, even if we dismiss the theological analogue, we may have trouble knowing just what brain research is supposed to look for. We must discover content rather than merely form, Searle tells us, for mental states are "literally a product of the operation of the brain" and hence no conceivable program description (which merely gives a form, instantiable by many different sorts of hardware) will do. Behaviorists and operationalists, however, think the form-content and program-hardware distinctions merely heuristic, relative, and pragmatic. This is why they are, if not shocked, at least wary, when Searle claims "that actual human mental phenomena might be dependent on actual physical-chemical properties of actual human brains." If this claim is to be taken in a controversial sense, then it seems just a device for ensuring that the secret powers of the brain will move further and further back out of sight every time a new model of brain functioning is proposed. For Searle can tell us that every such model is merely a discovery of formal patterns, and that "mental content" has still escaped us. (He could buttress such a suggestion by citing Henri Bergson and Thomas Nagel on the ineffable inwardness of even the brute creation.) There is, after all, no great difference - as far as the form-content distinction goes - between building models for the behavior of humans and for that of their brains. Without further guidance about how to tell content when we finally encounter it, we may well feel that all research in the area
is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move. (Tennyson: Ulysses)
- My criticisms of Searle should not, however, be taken as indicating sympathy with AI. In 1960 Putnam remarked that the mind-program analogy did not show that we can use computers to help philosophers solve the mind-body problem, but that there wasn't any mind-body problem for philosophers to solve. The last twenty years' worth of work in AI have reinforced Putnam's claim. Nor, alas, have they done anything to help the neurophysiologists - something they actually might, for all we could have known, have done. Perhaps it was worth it to see whether programming computers could produce some useful models of the brain, if not of "thought" or "the mind." Perhaps, however, the money spent playing Turing games with expensive computers should have been used to subsidize relatively cheap philosophers like Searle and me. By now we might have worked out exactly which kinds of operationalism and behaviorism to be ashamed of and which not. Granted that some early dogmatic forms of these doctrines were a bit gross, Peirce was right in saying something like them has got to be true if we are to shrug off arguments about transubstantiation. If Searle's present pre-Wittgensteinian attitude gains currency, the good work of Ryle and Putnam will be undone and "the mental" will regain its numinous Cartesian glow. This will boomerang in favor of AI. "Cognitive scientists" will insist that only lots more simulation and money will shed empirical light upon these deep "philosophical" mysteries. Surely Searle doesn't want that.
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