RE: computationalism and supervenience

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2006 22:20:01 +1000

Peter Jones writes (quoting SP):

> > > > This does not necessarily mean that the consciousness is caused by or
> > > > supervenes on the pattern of dots, any more that the number 3 is caused by or supervenes
> > > > on a collection of 3 objects. If anything, it could be the other way around: the GoL pattern
> > > > supervenes on, or is isomorphic with, the consciousness which resides in Platonia.
> > >
> > >
> > > ????
> >
> > Well, this is the whole problem we have been discussing these past few weeks. The computer
> > exhibits intelligent behaviour and we conclude that it is probably conscious. The physical
> > states of the computer are clearly the cause of its behaviour, and the means whereby we
> > can observe it or interact with it, but is it correct to say that the physical states are the cause
> > of its *consciousness*?
> If physicalism is correct, only physical states exist,
> so yes.
> > At first glance, the answer is "yes". But what about a computer which
> > goes through exactly the same physical states as part of a recording, as discussed in my other
> > posts?
> It won't be exactly the same state, since dispositions and
> counterfactuals have
> a physical basis.

A classical computer is perfectly deterministic - it wouldn't be much use as a computer if were not. If
it is provided with the same inputs, it will go through the same sequence of physical states. On run
no. 1 it could be provided with input from a human, or a true random number generator, for example
one based on radioactive decay. On run no. 2 it could be provided with a recording of the input from
run no. 1, so that we know exactly what the computer's responses will be, as surely as we know what
the behaviour of a tape recording or a clockwork mechanism will be.
> >If you say this is not conscious, you have a problem, because identical electrical activity
> > in the computer's circuitry would then on one occasion cause consciousness and on another
> > occasion not.
> It all depends on what you mean by "activity". The total physical
> state will be different.

No, it will be exactly the same. The same keystrokes or voice commands are entered the second time
around from a recording.
> > If you say it is conscious, then you have to allow that a recording or an inputless
> > machine can be conscious, something many computationalists are loathe to do.
> That depends whether they are consciousness-computationalists
> or cognition-computationalists.

It's consciousness which is the more problematic. Many cognitive scientists have traditionally eschewed
consciousness as unreal, unimportant or too difficult to study.

Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Sat Aug 26 2006 - 08:21:53 PDT

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