RE: computationalism and supervenience

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2006 12:18:46 +1000

Peter Jones writes:

> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> > > > Now, suppose some more complex variant of 3+2=3 implemented on your abacus has consciousness associated with it, which is just one of the tenets of computationalism. Some time later, you are walking in the Amazon rain forest and notice that
> > > > ****under a certain mapping****
> > >
> > >
> > > > of birds to beads and trees to wires, the forest is implementing the same computation as your abacus was. So if your abacus was conscious, and computationalism is true, the tree-bird sytem should also be conscious.
> > >
> > > No necessarily, because the mapping is required too. Why should
> > > it still be conscious if no-one is around to make the mapping.
> >
> > Are you claiming that a conscious machine stops being conscious if its designers die
> > and all the information about how it works is lost?
> You are, if anyone is. I don't agree that computation *must* be
> interpreted,
> although they *can* be re-interpreted.

What I claim is this:

A computation does not *need* to be interpreted, it just is. However, a computation
does need to be interpreted, or interact with its environment in some way, if it is to be
interesting or meaningful. By analogy, a string of characters is a string of characters
whether or not anyone interprets it, but it is not interesting or meaningful unless it is
interpreted. But if a computation, or for that matter a string of characters, is conscious,
then it is interesting and meaningful in at least one sense in the absence of an external
observer: it is interesting and meaningful to itself. If it were not, then it wouldn't be
conscious. The conscious things in the world have an internal life, a first person
phenomenal experience, a certain ineffable something, whatever you want to call it,
while the unconscious things do not. That is the difference between them.

Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Sun Sep 10 2006 - 22:19:42 PDT

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