Today In Fact, 31 July

There is much loose talk about artificial intelligence. Various geeks and university types have set-up research foundations and departments to develop what is referred to as “AI”. Like many fads and fashions, it is a house of cards built on the shifting sands of fancy.

Two eminent philosophers who also think AI is silly nonsense share today as a birthday. The youngest is John Searle, born in Denver in 1932. Searle was involved in developing speech act theory in which he argued that meaning is rule based and words have illocutionary force beyond their content.

The other thinker born today, who initially would have been Searle’s antagonist, is Hilary Putnam. Born in Chicago in 1926, Putnam initially proposed that the mind and meaning was functional. Putnam’s arguments allowed the AI pundits to develop ideas that machines could replicate the workings of the mind.

In the 1980’s Putnam ran out of AI steam and changed his mind. He collaborated with Saul Kripke and others who make a very sharp distinction between the brain and the mind. Putnam became his own greatest critic and developed arguments that demolish the notion that a computer can conceivably replicate thinking and meaning.

Thankfully our minds are not and never can be our brains.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (

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