The Chinese Room Argument — Dead but not yet Buried

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This article is an accompaniment to Anthony Freeman’s review of Views into the Chinese Room, reflecting on some pertinent outstanding questions about the Chinese room argument(CRA). Although there is general agreement in the artificial intelligence (AI) community that the CRA is somehow wrong, debate continues on exactly why and how it is wrong. Is there a killer counter-argument and, if so, what is it? One remarkable fact is that the CRA is prototypically a thought experiment, yet it has been very little discussed from the perspective of thought experiments in general. Here, I argue that the CRA fails as a thought experiment because it commits the fallacy of undersupposing, i.e., it leaves too many details to be filled in by the audience. Since different commentators will often fill in details differently, leading to different opinions of what constitutes a decisive counter, the result is 21-plus years of inconclusive debate.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, Southampton, Hampshire SO17 1BJ, UK., Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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