(Position Paper for Symposium, \What is Computing?")

Abstract

The central claim of computationalism is generally taken to be that the brain is a computer, and that any computer implementing the appropriate program would ipso facto have a mind. In this paper I argue for the following propositions: (1) The central claim of computationalism is not about computers, a concept too imprecise for a scienti c claim of this sort, but is about physical calculi (instantiated discrete formal systems). (2) In matters of formality, interpretability, and so forth, analog computation and digital computation are not essentially di erent, and so arguments such as Searle's hold or not as well for one as for the other. (3) Whether or not a biological system (such as the brain) is computational is a scienti c matter of fact. (4) A substantive scienti c question for cognitive science is whether cognition is better modeled by discrete representations or by continuous representations. (5) Cognitive science and AI need a theoretical construct that is the continuous analog of a calculus. The discussion of these propositions will illuminate several terminology traps, in which it's all too easy to become ensnared.

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