Re: computationalism and supervenience

From: Russell Standish <>
Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2006 14:21:56 +1000

On Tue, Sep 05, 2006 at 05:02:59PM -0700, "Hal Finney" wrote:
> I am sorry that I have not been able to keep up with the list lately.
> I can only peek in occasionally.
> My interpretation of the question of computationalism vs supervenience
> can be put succinctly. Computationalism says that consciousness depends
> both on actual behavior and on counterfactuals. Therefore, it depends
> both on what happens and on what doesn't happen. Supervenience says
> that consciousness depends only on physical behavior; hence it depends
> only on what happens.
> Since computationalism says that consciousness depends on what doesn't
> happen, while supervenience says that it depends only on what happens,
> the two doctrines are inconsistent.
> To marry them would require altering computationalism so that it no
> longer depended on counterfactuals, which then requires us to say that
> all systems implement all calculations.

Or my point that in a Multiverse, counterfactuals are instantiated
anyway. Physical supervenience and computationalism are not
incompatible in a multiverse, where "physical" means the observed
properties of things like electrons and so on.

When Bruno talks of physical supervenience, he means supervenience on
"primary matter", whatever that might be. Moving Maudlin's argument
one level further out no longer speaks to supervenience on observed
"physical" matter, but of supervenience on primary stuff. This is
probably Bruno's point, but I find the question rather meaningless, as
primary matter seems ontologically dubious in any case.

*PS: A number of people ask me about the attachment to my email, which
is of type "application/pgp-signature". Don't worry, it is not a
virus. It is an electronic signature, that may be used to verify this
email came from me if you have PGP or GPG installed. Otherwise, you
may safely ignore this attachment.
A/Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
UNSW SYDNEY 2052                      
            International prefix  +612, Interstate prefix 02
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Received on Wed Sep 06 2006 - 00:25:58 PDT

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