Two Concepts of “Form” and the So-Called Computational Theory of Mind

John-Michael Kuczynski

John-Michael Kuczynski

Quote:According to the computational theory of mind (CTM), to think is to compute. But what is meant by the word ‘compute’? The generally given answer is this: Every case of computing is a case of manipulating symbols, but not vice versa—a manipulation of symbols must be driven exclusively by the formal properties of those symbols if it is qualify as a computation. In this paper, I will present the following argument. Words like ‘form’ and ‘formal’ are ambiguous, as they can refer to form in either the syntactic or the morphological sense. CTM fails on each disambiguation, and the arguments for CTM immediately cease to be compelling once we register that ambiguity. The terms ‘mechanical’ and ‘automatic’ are comparably ambiguous. Once these ambiguities are exposed, it turns out that there is no possibility of mechanizing thought, even if we confine ourselves to domains (such as first-order sentential logic) where all problems can be settled through decision-procedures. The impossibility of mechanizing thought thus has nothing to do with recherche´ mathematical theorems, such as those proven by Go¨del and Rosser. A related point is that CTM involves, and is guilty of reinforcing, a misunderstanding of the concept of an algorithm.

'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

- Bertrand Russell