Argument Analyses

First Argument Analysis

In "Minds, Brains, and Programs"—search for 'brain simulator'—Searle discusses the brain simulator reply to the Chinese room argument. Write 2–3 pages providing a reconstruction and analysis of the brain simulator reply and Searle's response.

After explaining the brain simulator reply, set out Searle's response in the form of an argument: some premises followed by a conclusion. Articulate each premise and the conclusion in no more than one sentence. Feel free to use different wording in your statement of the premises and conclusion than is provided by the text. You may need to supply premises that are not explicitly stated in the text.

Indicate for each line of the argument whether it is an assumption, or whether it is supposed to follow from earlier lines. (This should appear in parentheses after the premise.)

After stating the argument, briefly explain it in your own words, and then comment on its cogency: Are the premises plausible? Is the argument valid? If not, why not? What additional premises would you need for the argument to be valid?

Second Argument Analysis

In "Is Consciousness a Brain Process?" Place discusses Sherrington's argument for the conclusion that there are "two continuous series of events, one physico-chemical, the other psychical, and at times interaction between them" (p. 29).

Write 2–3 pages providing (i) a reconstruction of Sherrington's argument in premise-conclusion form, (ii) an explanation of Place's response, and (iii) an analysis and assessment of the argument and the response.


Please write five pages.

First Paper

Consider these two claims:

(A) Strong AI is true.

(B) There is a Turing test TT (lasting a certain finite amount of time) such that passing TT is sufficient for understanding Chinese. That is, there is a Turing test TT such that it is impossible to pass TT and not to understand Chinese.

Now imagine two sorts of Chinese Rooms. In the first, Searle's book of instructions is a "giant lookup table", of the sort Prof. Aaronson talked about in his guest lecture, and that drives Block's "Aunt Bubbles machine". In the second, the book of instructions contains a relatively compact algorithm for manipulating Chinese symbols.

Explain why (i) the first sort of Chinese room could at least in principle pass any Turing test, no matter how demanding. Under realistic assumptions about the minimum length of a demanding Turing test, explain why (ii) such a Chinese room (capable of passing a demanding test) could never be built (in a universe like ours).

Is (B) true? Why or why not? What is the relevance, if any, of (i) and (ii)?

Suppose now that (a version of) the second sort of Chinese room can pass a very demanding Turing test. Will a proponent of (A) agree that it understands Chinese? Carefully set out the Chinese room argument against (A), in the form of premises and conclusion. Assess the argument. Is it valid? Is it sound? What is the relevance, if any, of the contrast between the two sorts of Chinese room? Is Strong AI true? Why or why not?

Second Paper

What is "externalism" about mental content? Briefly outline what you take to be the least convincing kind of example (from either Putnam, Burge, or Clark and Chalmers) that purports to demonstrate externalism (about a certain class of mental states). Does the example support externalism? Why or why not?

Now outline what you take to be the most convincing kind of example (either from Putnam, Burge, Clark and Chalmers, or else one of your own devising). Does this example support externalism? Why or why not? Is externalism true?

Third Paper

What, according to Michael Tye ("Visual Qualia...") are "qualia" and "Qualia"? What according to Frank Jackson ("Epiphenomenal qualia"), are "qualia"? What does Jackson take to be a defining feature of qualia that Tye doesn't? What, according to Jackson, does it mean to say that qualia are "epiphenomenal"? Evaluate any two of the three objections to the claim that qualia are epiphenomenal discussed by Jackson in section IV. Does Jackson succeed in rebutting them? Are qualia epiphenomenal?

Writing Guidelines

Guidelines for papers (PDF)