Re: computationalism and supervenience

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2006 17:36:29 -0700

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent Meeker writes:
>>>>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.
> The Turing test would seem to imply that if it behaves like a bat, it has the mental states of a
> bat, and maybe this is a good practical test, but I think we can keep computationalism/strong AI
> and allow that it might have different mental states and still behave the same. A person given
> an opiod drug still experiences pain, although less intensely, and would be easily able to fool the
> Turing tester into believing that he is experiecing the same pain as in the undrugged state. By
> extension, it is logically possible, though unlikely, that the subject may have no conscious experiences
> at all. The usual argument against this is that by the same reasoning we cannot be sure that our
> fellow humans are conscious. This is strictly true, but we have two reasons for assuming other
> people are conscious: they behave like we do and their brains are similar to ours. I don't think
> it would be unreasonable to wonder whether a digital computer that behaves like we do really
> has the same mental states as a human, while still believing that it is theoretically possible that a
> close enough analogue of a human brain would have the same mental states.
> Stathis Papaioannou

I agree with that. It would be hard to say whether a robot whose computation was via
a digital computer implementing something like a production system was conscious or
not even if its behavoir were very close to human. On the other hand it would also
be hard to say that another robot, whose computation was by digital simulation of a
neural network modeled on a mammalian brain and whose behavoir was very close to
human, was *not* conscious.

Brent Meeker

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to
For more options, visit this group at
Received on Mon Sep 11 2006 - 20:37:36 PDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:12 PST