With regard to the Chinese room argument, and in particular its centerpiece thought experiment, in the four years that have passed since I completed this dissertation little has changed. "Intuitions" provoked by Searle's thought experiment remain irremediably at loggerheads between those who think it shows something important contrary to claims of artificial Intelligence, and those who think not. Even those who think it does show something important remain themselves divided about what. (Dualistically inclined thinkers think the Chinese room experiment shows that intentionality -- hence, thought -- depends on consciousness. Others -- in particular "causal theorists," advocating what Searle calls "the robot reply" -- credit the experiment for quite different reasons.) This very disagreement -- the inability of differently persuaded theorists to agree about the putative experimental result -- already, I think, impugns the experiment. The point of experiments being to adjudicate between competing theories, "experiments" the "observation" of whose results depend on the antecedent theoretical persuasions of the "experimenter" are failed experiments.
Perhaps the most noticeable change in the cognitive scientific landscape in the four years since I completed this dissertation has been a resurgence of frankly dualistic views. Searle's work presages and clearly inspires much of this resurgence. Searle, to his credit, has been perhaps the most systematic expositor of such views; though Searle himself protests (too much, I think) that he is no dualist. Call it what you will, the troubles raised in Chapter 6, below, about Searle's as-if dualism (as I call it) are by no means peculiar to Searle. Objections to Searle's identification of thought with conscious experience set forth in Chapter 6 impugn dualism quite generally; so called "property dualism" or as-if dualism (property dualism not so-called) no less than "substance dualism"; making it clear how little difference the currently popular move to property dualism makes. All the same difficulties and anomalies (as for substance) dualism remain -- about mind-body interaction, introspection, and our knowledge of other minds. This also raises grave doubts, I think, about consciousness studies as a would-be scientific research program; ballyhoo not withstanding. Though practically nothing in this dissertation is outdated, Chapter 6 waxes more topical today, alas, than when written.
An essay based on this dissertation, titled "Searle's Chinese Box: Debunking the Chinese Room Argument" has now appeared in Minds and Machines, Vol. 7, No. 2 (May 1997). This essay shortens, and in places reworks, the treatment of Searle's argument featured in Chapters 2 and 3 below. In addition to some terminological variations (suggested by the journal's referees) this more recent treatment suggests yet another -- perhaps better fitting, more charitable -- reading of Searle's argument. This more recent treatment also speaks to the historical and sociological question raised above.
Parts of this dissertation -- especially parts of Chapters 2 and 3 -- use various acronyms and abbreviations to designate, among other things, different possible reconstruction's of the Chinese room argument. In the hope of alleviating some of the trouble in remembering all of this nomenclature, of which readers of hard copy versions of this work have complained, with this electronic edition I have provided a frame-based reader . With this you can keep both the text you are reading and the List of Acronyms, Abbreviations and Nomenclature on screen simultaneously. I hope this facilitates reading of the more acronym, abbreviation, and nomenclature laden sections of this work.