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

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 14 Jan 2012 12:05:00 +0000 (GMT)

 From: John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>

>Many thanks. Anyone else here disagree with that?>

Without disagreeing the characterisation Palma offers, let us point to one 
central problem with its idea that "to capture what object is you may look at 
what an object does". The problem is that the character of a process cannot be 
exhaustively captured by what that process does. Take a simple example: the 
calculation of a sum, say  '2 + 2 = 4'. This sum may be 'processed' or 
'performed' by a computer/calculator or by a human. And let us say we can 
characterise the 'process' in similar terms, of inputs and outputs say, in 
either case. Are we to conclude that therefore what a human experiences when 
performing that calculation is the same as what a computer experiences (if the 
computer experiences anything)? 

Here we are right back at the metaphysical question of whether we need, in the 
human case, to account for the' processing' in terms of some World 2 (in P's 
terminology), whereas in the case of the computer the 'process' is entirely to 
be understood in terms of some World 1. And then there is the question, Popper 
would emphasise, whether we need to bring in some World 3 to understand both 
the human World 2 activity of 'mental arithmetic' and the construction of a 
World 1 device like a computer. As soon as we raise these questions we can see 
it is naive, if not vain, to think that 'what it is to calculate "2 + 2 = 4"' 
is captured by a functionalist characterisation - that is, captured by what is 
done in functionalist terms. Nor can the human character of the experience of 
calculating be discounted as unimportant to understanding the 'process' - for 
when we explain human errors in 'mental arithmetic' [e.g. 'What is half of 99?' 
- it is not '45.5' as many
 claim] we  may avail ourselves of a whole level of World 2 explanation that we 
cannot use in accounting for computer errors in calculation. (In fact, there 
are mistakes in mathematics that humans would rarely make but a computer easily 
might [through malfunction or misprogramme], as well as vice versa.) 
Functionalism is doomed insofar as it is simply tries to side-step what is 
metaphysically at stake when the issue raises the question of whether what is 
being 'processed' is at a level beyond a mere World 1. 

It may be also doomed as a proper explanation of what is happening even at a 
purely World 1 level, but that is another story.


On Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 6:10 PM, palma@xxxxxxxxxx <palmaadriano@xxxxxxxxx> 

>the notion (due to Lewis, Putnam, Block, et a.l)
>>according to which
>>to capture what object is you may look at what an object does.
>>One of the consequences is that, in the case of mind, a mind can be 
>>"implemented" in different and wildly so, physical substrata (e.g.
>>suppose a mind has to be able to perceive, humans do it with V cortex and a 
>>brain, and eyes, and the whole visual neuronal system--
>>a compuer can/could do it with a cam, chips, circuitry and so forth — if you 
>>are functioanlist then the machine and the brain perceive, since perceiving 
>>is characterized by its function and not by its hardware--
>>>>> John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx> 1/13/2012 10:55 AM >>>
>>Donal, could you or someone else here describe what philosophers mean by 
>>"functionalism"? When I hear the term, what leaps to mind is a now 
>>discredited sociological proposition that societies are homeostatic systems 
>>maintained by negative feedback. "Functions" can mean all sorts of things 
>>from x=f(y) to a dress-up party. It would help a lot to know what, in 
>>particular, we are talking about.
>>On Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 5:33 PM, Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx> 
>>>----- 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 
 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.
>>John McCreery
>>The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
>>Tel. +81-45-314-9324
>>Please find our Email Disclaimer here-->: http://www.ukzn.ac.za/disclaimer 
>palma, KZN

John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324

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