Monday 25 March 2013

He understands but he doesn't love

This is the only piece in which was previously unpublished (indeed, it was rejected several times). The title's a quote about Picasso (by a fellow artist, I think). The Chinese room is a thought experiment by philosopher John Searle. A person in a room receives slips of paper through a slot. The paper has squiggles on it. The person looks these squiggles up in a book which has instructions on what to scribble on a piece of paper that's pushed back through the slot.

Unbeknownst to the person the squiggles are Chinese and the notes being passed out are reasonable responses to the received messages. The people outside think that the person in the room understands Chinese. Does s/he? Does "the room" understand? If not, what does? How can you tell? How much do you understand of what you say?

The note on the fridge is William Carlos-William's, but what does it mean? Is the writer who's sending words away any different to the insecure lover interpreting signs?

Should you walk out of the Chinese room, or open the fridge door to check the plums? How can you tell if the light goes off when the door is closed? Is the light (understanding) inside really outside?

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