[lit-ideas] Turing's Soul

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2012 09:42:33 -0500 (EST)

Aristotle's soul, Grice's soul, 
or Turing's Soul for that matter
Universal Turing Machine State Functionalism
-- keywords: various

In "Turing, Grice, Wittgenstein --  Functionalism", a message dated 
1/13/2012 6:33:26 A.M. UTC-02,  donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes about 
functionalism. This from the Stanford  Encyclopedia, online, may help:
"In arguing that this question is a legitimate replacement for the original 
 (and speculating that its answer is “yes”), 
Turing identifies 
_states_ of a system,
defined solely by their 
roles in producing 
further internal states  *and* 
verbal outputs, a view that has much in common with contemporary  
functionalist theories."
"Indeed, Turing's work was explicitly invoked by many theorists during the  
beginning stages of 20th century functionalism, and was the avowed 
inspiration  for a class of theories, the “machine state” theories most firmly 
associated  with Hilary Putnam (1960, 1967) that had an important role in the 
early  development of the doctrine."
McEvoy writes:
"Some sort of 'functionalism' is what I took to underpin Turing's  
'Imaginary Game', though his is a tendentious rather than explicit way of  
a functionalist approach."
Not according to that entry in the Stanford above, although it is indeed  
Putnam who is to blame for making the connection explicit. It may do to 
revise  Turing's turns of phrase to doublecheck how 'functionalist' (now in 
Aristotle's  sense, almost) he can get.
"(Perhaps we should turn to 'functionalism' as a topic, pro and con. As  
Grice defends it, JLS would have a stake in the game.)"
---- the connection is usually via Ned Block, who in criticising some  
varieties of functionalism, cared to quote from Grice, and so on. Grice liked 
 symbolise, so he would use the 
as a predicate
psi-1-A-p, say
agent A thinks-1 of p.
("I'm thinking of a white Christmas, just like the ones we used to  know.")
To that psi, we have to add
'i' for input
'o' for output
We have to grant that a psi-state can be caused not by input or output, but 
 by other psi-states, and so on.
---- Brian Loar expanded on this ("Mind and meaning", Cambridge University  
Press) -- He is the most serious Gricean functionalist, and then he went on 
to  explore 'social' aspects of this mental functionalism, too. 
"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  
Grice relies on that quote from "Philosophical Investigations" where  
Witters argues that there is no need for psychological concepts ("He confronted 
me"), without the manifestation in behaviour of those features that the  
ascription of a psychological predicate is supposed to explain ("He raised his  
arm, aggressively").
But I grant that Witters is a 'minor figure' here -- "The Austrian  
engineer", Russell called him. Oddly, much like Turing, an engineer. The big  
functionalist Grice ends up relying on is Aristotle, on his  
'multiple-realisability' definition of 'soul'.

"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 
Too true. Grice was concerned about behaviourism as it had been  
misinterpreted by Ryle, who is usually dubbed an "analytic behaviourist". Grice 
behaviourism, unlike functionalism, CIRCULAR, though.
"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 
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 
of some -ism  (like 'functionalism' or 'solipsism' or 'empiricism' or 
'idealism' or 'dualism'  or 'monism') for Wittgenstein we are in effect trying 
say what cannot be said  but at best only shown."
Too true.
Grice ended up thinking that Functionalism is a 'bete noire' (circumflex on 
 'bete'). And so, I agree that Witters perhaps never had or wanted to have 
a  developed theory on anything.
---- Grice was bored by Witters, and could not think how his successor at  
St. John's, P. M. S. Hacker, could dedicate almost his life to him 
("Illusion  and insight"), but I don't agree (why Kant Hacker not focus on 
Witters if 
that's  where his secret heart leads him?).
"So if you ask the later Wittgenstein whether a thought is a merely  
material or physical entity, you will not get an answer a la Popper where a  
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."

Too true. In the case of Grice, having a classical education, he possibly  
was interested in Greek philosophy of mind (psychology in philosophical 
dress,  as it were): what is _soul_? How do 'mental' or psychological 
 operate? What is the connection between a psychological 'term' (alla 
Ramsey) and  its input/output. Grice relies on two Ramsey ways to define the 
theoretical term  now (the psychological predicate) in terms of 
'observationals', like sensorial  or perceptual input and behavioural output.
"That pillar box seems red to me."
Input: the pillar box. ("Causal theory of perception")
Output: the utterance: "It looks red to me."
--- But it IS red!
--- "I know; it still LOOKS and seems red to me". Etc.
"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 
in 'Philosophical  Investigations', seems to tell against any clear 
metaphysical stance."
Too true. What is aggravating is his need to go 'sloganistic': "no  
psychological ascriptions without the manifestation of behaviour that such  
ascriptions are supposed to explain", and such.
Witters, while a sceptic, had a professional responsibility: he was  
teaching at Cambridge, and his poor students ('poor' in sense poor-2) like  
Anscombe, or Toulmin, were TAKING NOTES. Later, they brought in the news to  
people like Dummett.
Dummett was fascinated by this 'behaviourism' of Witters, which he then  
applied to his intuitionistic philosophy of mathematics, against  
truth-conditional semantics of the type that Grice was defending (with the aid  
implicature), etc.
"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, 
that  Wittgenstein's later philosophy also eschews taking any clear 
metaphysical  stance, we can see how 'functionalism' might easily be attributed 
the later  Wittgenstein, though this would perhaps be a mistake."
Well, by the same token, it is a mistake to attribute functionalism to  
Aristotle, or Turing, or Grice. The term was perhaps made fashionable by Putnam 
 (who wrote an obit for Dummett in the NYT, incidentally). Personally, I 
dislike  the term 'function' (as McCreery notes, it applies to theatre), and I 
wouldn't  know if Cicero ever used it ('functio'). But what Aristotle was 
onto, when he  was considering the 'soul' and its operations in a living 
mechanism are broader  questions that a philosopher can safely focus on. And so 
And so on.

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