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Peirce, Searle, and the Chinese Room Argument

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Whether human thinking can be formalized and whether machines can think in a human sense are questions that have been asked since the Renaissance. I will employ arguments from both a modern critic, John Searle, and from one present at the inception of the field, Charles Peirce, and another inductive argument, all of which conclude that digital computers cannot achieve human-like understanding. Searle approaches the problem from the standpoint of traditional analytic philosophy. Peirce would have radically disagreed with Searle's analysis, but he ultimately arrives at the same conclusion. Given this diversity of arguments against the Artificial Intelligence (AI) project, it would seem its ultimate goal is futile, despite the computer's amazing achievements. However, I will show that those arguments themselves imply a direction for AI research which seems fruitful and which is in fact being pursued, although it is not in the mainstream of that field.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 714 Ingleside Drive, Columbia, MO 65201, USA. Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2002


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