Re: computationalism and supervenience

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Sun, 10 Sep 2006 19:36:04 -0700

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent meeker writes:
>>Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>>>Peter Jones writes:
>>>>>>With physical supervenience, it is possible for the same person to
>>>>>>supervene on multiple physical objects. What is disallowed is multiple
>>>>>>persons to supervene on the same physical object.
>>>>>That is what is usually understood, but there is no logical reason why
>>>>>the relationship between the physical and the mental cannot be
>>>>>one->many, in much the same way as a written message can have
>>>>>several meanings depending on its interpretation.
>>>>There is a reason: multiple meanings depend on external observers
>>>>and interpretations. But who observes the multiverse ?
>>>I'm not sure how the multiverse comes into the discussion, but you have
>>>made the point several times that a computation depends on an observer
>>>for its meaning. I agree, but *if* computations can be conscious (remember,
>>>this is an assumption) then in that special case an external observer is not
>>>needed. In fact, that is as good a definition of consciousness as any: it is
>>>that aspect of an entity that cannot be captured by an external observer,
>>>but only experienced by the entity itself. Once we learn every observable
>>>fact about stars we know all about stars, but if we learn every observable
>>>fact about bats, we still don't know what it is like to be a bat.
>>Why not? Can't we map bat conscious-computation to human conscious-computation;
>>since you suppose we can map any computation to any other. But, you're thinking,
>>since there a practical infinity of maps (even a countable infinity if you allow
>>one->many) there is no way to know which is the correct map. There is if you and the
>>bat share an environment.
> You're right that the correct mapping is the one in which you and the bat share the
> environment. That is what interaction with the environment does: forces us to choose
> one mapping out of all the possible ones, whether that involves talking to another person
> or using a computer. However, that doesn't mean I know everything about bats if I know
> everything about bat-computations. If it did, that would mean there was no difference
> between zombie bats and conscious bats, no difference between first person knowledge
> and third person or vicarious knowledge.
> Stathis Papaioannou

I don't find either of those conclusions absurd. Computationalism is generally
thought to entail both of them. Bruno's theory that identifies knowledge with
provability is the only form of computationalism that seems to allow the distinction
in a fundamental way.

Brent Meeker

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Received on Sun Sep 10 2006 - 22:37:09 PDT

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