We often attribute 'understanding' and other cognitive predicates by metaphor and analogy to cars, adding machines, and other artifacts, but nothing is proved by such attributions.
I will argue that in the literal sense the programmed computer understands what the car and the adding machine understand, namely, exactly nothing.
Whatever is referred to must exist. Let us call this the axiom of existence.
Where questions of style and exposition are concerned I try to follow a simple maxim: if you can't say it clearly you don't understand it yourself.
I want to block some common misunderstandings about 'understanding': In many of these discussions one finds a lot of fancy footwork about the word 'understanding.'
Where conscious subjectivity is concerned, there is no distinction between the observation and the thing observed.
An utterance can have Intentionality, just as a belief has Intentionality, but whereas the Intentionality of the belief is intrinsic the Intentionality of the utterance is derived.
Berkeley had a liberal element in the student body who tended to be quite active. I think that's in general a feature of intellectually active places.
In many cases it is a matter for decision and not a simple matter of fact whether x understands y; and so on.
My car and my adding machine understand nothing: they are not in that line of business.
There are clear cases in which 'understanding' literally applies and clear cases in which it does not apply; and these two sorts of cases are all I need for this argument.
Our tools are extensions of our purposes, and so we find it natural to make metaphorical attributions of intentionality to them; but I take it no philosophical ice is cut by such examples.
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