David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Synthese 79 (April):119-41 (1989)
There is a prevalent notion among cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind that computers are merely formal symbol manipulators, performing the actions they do solely on the basis of the syntactic properties of the symbols they manipulate. This view of computers has allowed some philosophers to divorce semantics from computational explanations. Semantic content, then, becomes something one adds to computational explanations to get psychological explanations. Other philosophers, such as Stephen Stich, have taken a stronger view, advocating doing away with semantics entirely. This paper argues that a correct account of computation requires us to attribute content to computational processes in order to explain which functions are being computed. This entails that computational psychology must countenance mental representations. Since anti-semantic positions are incompatible with computational psychology thus construed, they ought to be rejected. Lastly, I argue that in an important sense, computers are not formal symbol manipulators.
|Keywords||Computer Mental States Metaphysics Psychology Semantics Symbol|
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References found in this work BETA
Stephen P. Stich (1983). From Folk Psychology to Cognitive Science: The Case Against Belief. MIT Press.
Jerry A. Fodor (1975). The Language of Thought. Harvard University Press.
Jerry A. Fodor (1981). Representations: Philosophical Essays on the Foundations of Cognitive Science. MIT Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Gualtiero Piccinini (2008). Computation Without Representation. Philosophical Studies 137 (2):205-241.
Nir Fresco (2010). Explaining Computation Without Semantics: Keeping It Simple. [REVIEW] Minds and Machines 20 (2):165-181.
Nir Fresco (2015). Objective Computation Versus Subjective Computation. Erkenntnis 80 (5):1031-1053.
Michael Rescorla (2012). Are Computational Transitions Sensitive to Semantics? Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (4):703-721.
Gerard O'Brien & Jonathan Opie (1997). Cognitive Science and Phenomenal Consciousness: A Dilemma, and How to Avoid It. Philosophical Psychology 10 (3):269-86.
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