Re: computationalism and supervenience

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2006 18:09:06 -0700

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Peter Jones writes:
>>Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>>>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
>>>>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.
>>A computation other than the one you are running needs to be
>>interpreted by you
>>to be meaningful to you. The computation you are running is useful
>>to you because it keeps you alive.
>>>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.
>>Which they manage to be aware of without the existence of an external
>>so one of your premises must be wrong.
> No, that's exactly what I was saying all along. An observer is needed for meaningfulness,
> but consciousness provides its own observer. A conscious entity may interact with its
> environment, and in fact that would have to be the reason consciousness evolved (nature
> is not self-indulgent), but the interaction is not logically necessary for consciousness.

But it may be nomologically necessary. "Not logically necessary" is the weakest
standard of non-necessity that is still coherent; the only things less necessary are

Brent Meeker

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Received on Tue Sep 12 2006 - 21:10:05 PDT

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