Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 209–223 | Cite as

Zombie Mouse in a Chinese Room

  • Slawomir J. Nasuto
  • John Mark Bishop
  • Etienne B. Roesch
  • Matthew C. Spencer
Special Issue


John Searle’s Chinese Room Argument (CRA) purports to demonstrate that syntax is not sufficient for semantics, and, hence, because computation cannot yield understanding, the computational theory of mind, which equates the mind to an information processing system based on formal computations, fails. In this paper, we use the CRA, and the debate that emerged from it, to develop a philosophical critique of recent advances in robotics and neuroscience. We describe results from a body of work that contributes to blurring the divide between biological and artificial systems; so-called animats, autonomous robots that are controlled by biological neural tissue and what may be described as remote-controlled rodents, living animals endowed with augmented abilities provided by external controllers. We argue that, even though at first sight, these chimeric systems may seem to escape the CRA, on closer analysis, they do not. We conclude by discussing the role of the body–brain dynamics in the processes that give rise to genuine understanding of the world, in line with recent proposals from enactive cognitive science.


Animats Chinese room argument Bio-machine hybrids Strong AI Robotics 



We would like to thank Dr. Tom Fröese for comments which helped improve this paper. Please note that, in the context of the ‘Computing, Philosophy and the Question of Bio-Machine Hybrids: 5th AISB Symposium on Computing and Philosophy’ [part of the 2012 Turing centenary AISB/IACAP Joint World Congress], elements of this work re-visit arguments first raised at the 2011 PT-AI conference, Thessaloniki. C.f. Vincent C. Müller (ed.), (2012), Theory and Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence, (SAPERE; Berlin: Springer).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Slawomir J. Nasuto
    • 1
  • John Mark Bishop
    • 2
  • Etienne B. Roesch
    • 1
  • Matthew C. Spencer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ReadingReadingUK
  2. 2.Goldsmiths, University of LondonLondonUK

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