“How can the meanings of the meaningless symbol tokens, manipulated solely on the basis of their (arbitrary) shapes, be grounded in anything but other meaningless symbols? ”

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Harnad suggests that the issue lies in symbolic vs. non-symbolic representations. He suggests that a symbol system, defined as a system which manipulates arbitrary tokens according to a set of explicit rules, is purely syntactic and thus cannot capture meaning. According to Harnad, the problem lies in the arbitrary nature of the assignment between the symbolic tokens and the objects or states of affairs that these tokens stand for.

25 thoughts on ““How can the meanings of the meaningless symbol tokens, manipulated solely on the basis of their (arbitrary) shapes, be grounded in anything but other meaningless symbols? ”

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