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.
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.’
I will argue that in the literal sense the programmed computer understands what the car and the adding machine understand, namely, exactly nothing.
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.
Whatever is referred to must exist. Let us call this the axiom of existence.
In many cases it is a matter for decision and not a simple matter of fact whether x understands y; and so on.
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.
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.