What Gödel's Incompleteness Result Does and Does Not Show

Journal of Philosophy 97 (8):462 - 470 (2000)
In a recent paper S. McCall adds another link to a chain of attempts to enlist Gödel’s incompleteness result as an argument for the thesis that human reasoning cannot be construed as being carried out by a computer.1 McCall’s paper is undermined by a technical oversight. My concern however is not with the technical point. The argument from Gödel’s result to the no-computer thesis can be made without following McCall’s route; it is then straighter and more forceful. Yet the argument fails in an interesting and revealing way. And it leaves a remainder: if some computer does in fact simulate all our mathematical reasoning, then, in principle, we cannot fully grasp how it works. Gödel’s result also points out a certain essential limitation of self-reflection. The resulting picture parallels, not accidentally, Davidson’s view of psychology, as a science that in principle must remain “imprecise”, not fully spelt out. What is intended here by “fully grasp”, and how all this is related to self-reflection, will become clear at the end of this comment
Keywords Computer  Incompleteness  Language  Logic  Meaning  Mind  Sentence  Goedel  Mccall, S
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DOI jphil200097833
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