Assembled by Christopher Lay

Los Angeles Pierce College

Department of Philosophy & Sociology


Searle's Summary of his Chinese Room Argument

Harvested from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Text from

Emphases by Christopher Lay


"'Imagine a native English speaker who knows no Chinese locked in a room full of boxes of Chinese symbols (a data base) together with a book of instructions for manipulating the symbols (the program). Imagine that people outside the room send in other Chinese symbols which, unknown to the person in the room, are questions in Chinese (the input). And imagine that by following the instructions in the program the man in the room is able to pass out Chinese symbols which are correct answers to the questions (the output). The program enables the person in the room to [seem like they are] understanding Chinese but he does not understand a word of Chinese.'" " ... 'The point of the argument is this: if the man in the room does not understand Chinese on the basis of implementing the appropriate program for understanding Chinese then neither does any other digital computer solely on that basis because no computer, qua computer, has anything the man does not have.'"


Cole, David, "The Chinese Room Argument", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2020 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = <>.