[lit-ideas] Re: Turing, Grice, Wittgenstein - Functionalism

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2012 08:33:08 +0000 (GMT)

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" <Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx>

>O. T. O. H., Grice, was was not a mathematician, nor a logician, nor a  
cryptanalyst, nor a computer scientist, thought highly of Turing. Grice  
endorsed, contra Popper, a strong form of FUNCTIONALISM (in "Method in  
philosophical psychology", repr. in his second book, "The conception of 
value").  For 
functionalism, the mind is a Turing machine:>

Some sort of 'functionalism' is what I took to underpin Turing's 'Imaginary 
Game', though his is a tendentious rather than explicit way of proposing a 
functionalist approach. (Perhaps we should turn to 'functionalism' as a topic, 
pro and con. As Grice defends it, JLS would have a stake in the game.) But I 
will indicate why I don't think Wittgenstein should be taken as a functionalist 
(though elements of Wittgenstein's approach may be viewed as 

Wittgenstein's earlier and later philosophy both have an opaque character 
[being open to various interpretation; given what Wittgenstein says, it unclear 
often exactly what his point is] but I do not think the later (or earlier) 
Wittgenstein was a 'functionalist' - simply that he may be taken this way in 
much the same way that his later philosophy of mind could be read as 
'behaviourist'. The better interpretation, I suggest, is that Wittgenstein in 
his later period is not to be aligned to any (metaphysical) '-ism': rather, as 
per the earlier Wittgenstein, his is still an anti-metaphysician:- but where 
the TLP declared metaphysics 'nonsense', albeit sometimes most important 
non-sense, (the upshot being we should not try to speak 'metaphysically' as we 
are at best trying to say what cannot be said), his later approach is more 
nuanced. But it is similar in that when we try to pin down a metaphysics by way 
of some -ism (like 'functionalism' or 'solipsism' or
 'empiricism' or 'idealism' or 'dualism' or 'monism') for Wittgenstein we are 
in effect trying to say what cannot be said but at best only shown. So if you 
ask later Wittgenstein whether a thought is a merely material or physical 
entity, you will not get an answer a la Popper where a World 2 is distinguished 
from a World 1 (or indeed a la traditional philosophy insofar as it hinges on a 
mind-body dichotomy):- what Wittgenstein might want to do is find out what 
exactly you think you are trying to say by claiming, or denying, that thought 
is merely material; and then he would seek dissolve the misleading metaphysical 
pictures (or conceptual confusions) that are thrown up by this kind of thinking 
- dissolve them by showing how they lead to both patent nonsense and disguised 
nonsense. But at the root of Wittgenstein's method is an absence of any clear 
metaphysical stance in the sense of an -ism. This is because the divide between 
sense and nonsense cannot be
 said it can only be shown (this is a thesis common to both the earlier and 
later Wittgenstein, who may be characterised as having two distinct 
philosophies of sense and nonsense and of 'showing not saying''); so any 
attempt to mark the divide by a clear metaphysical stance is a futile attempt 
to 'say' what can only be 'shown'. And what is 'shown' by looking at the 
interlocking complexity of 'language games', as set out in 'Philosophical 
Investigations', seems to tell against any clear metaphysical stance.

Now one way to characterise 'functionalism' is that it seeks to side-step the 
metaphysics of what is at stake by translating problems into 'functionalist' 
terms (as indeed does Turing with his 'Imaginary Game'); and, given that 
Wittgenstein's later philosophy also eschews taking any clear metaphysical 
stance, we can see how 'functionalism' might easily be attributed to the later 
Wittgenstein, though this would perhaps be a mistake.


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