RE: computationalism and supervenience

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2006 16:38:19 +1000

> Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2006 13:10:52 -0700
> From:
> To:
> Subject: Re: computationalism and supervenience
> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> > Brent Meeker writes:
> >
> >
> >>I think we need to say what it means for a computation to be self-interpreting. Many
> >>control programs are written with self-monitoring functions and logging functions.
> >>Why would we not attribute consciousness to them?
> >
> >
> > Well, why not? Some people don't even think higher mammals are conscious, and perhaps
> > some there are true solipsists who could convince themselves that other people are not really
> > conscious as rationalisation for antisocial behaviour.
> Autistic people don't emphathize with others feelings - perhaps because they don't
> have them. But their behavoir, and I would expect the behavoir of a real solipist,
> would be simply asocial.
> >On the other hand, maybe flies experience
> > pain and fear when confronted with insecticide that is orders of magnitude greater than that
> > of any mere human experience of torture, and maybe when I press the letter "y" on my
> > keyboard I am subjecting my computer to the torments of hell.
> And maybe every physical process implements all possible computations - but I see no
> reason to believe so.
> >I don't buy the argument that
> > only complex brains or computations can experience pain either: when I was a child I wasn't
> > as smart as I am now, but I recall that it hurt a lot more and I was much more likely to cry when
> > I cut myself.
> >
> > Stathis Papaioannou
> You write as though we know nothing about the physical basis of pain and fear. There
> is a lot of empirical evidence about what prevents pain in humans, you can even get a
> degree in aesthesiology. Fear can be induced by psychotropic drugs and relieved by
> whisky.
> Brent Meeker

But can you comment on the difference between your own subjective experience of fear or
pain compared to that of a rabbit, a fish, or something even more alien? I know we can say that
when you prod a fish with stimulus A it responds by releasing hormones B, C and D and swishing its
tail about in pattern E, F or G according to the time of day and the phases of the moon, or whatever,
and furthermore that these hormones and behaviours are similar to those in human responses to
similar stimuli - but what is the fish feeling?

Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Tue Sep 12 2006 - 02:39:15 PDT

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