## Tuesday, May 8, 2012

### Kripke contra computationalism

That the brain is a digital computer and the mind the software run on the computer are theses that seem to many to be confirmed by our best science, or at least by our best science fiction.  But we recently looked at some arguments from Karl Popper, John Searle, and others that expose serious (indeed, I would say fatal) difficulties with the computer model of the mind.  Saul Kripke presents another such argument.  It is not well known.  It was hinted at in a footnote in his famous book Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language (WRPL) and developed in some unpublished lectures.  But Jeff Buechner’s recent article “Not Even Computing Machines Can Follow Rules: Kripke’s Critique of Functionalism” offers a very useful exposition of Kripke’s argument.  (You can find Buechner’s article in Alan Berger’s anthology Saul Kripke.)

Though it is, I think, not essential to Kripke’s argument, the “quus” paradox developed in WRPL provides a helpful way of stating it (and, naturally, is made use of by Kripke in stating it in WRPL).  So let’s briefly take a look at that.  Imagine you have never computed any numbers as high as 57, but are asked to compute “68 + 57.”  Naturally, you answer “125,” confident that this is the arithmetically correct answer, but confident also that it accords with the way you have always used “plus” in the past, i.e. to denote the addition function, which, when applied to the numbers you call “68” and “57,” yields 125.  But now, Kripke says, suppose that an odd skeptic asks you how you are so sure that this is really what you meant in the past, and thus how you can be certain that “125” is really the correct answer.  Maybe, he suggests, the function you really meant in the past by “plus” and “+” was not addition, but rather what Kripke calls the “quus” function, which he defines as follows:

x quus y = x + y, if x, y < 57;
= 5 otherwise.

So, maybe you have always been carrying out “quaddition” rather than addition, since quadding and adding will always yield the same result when the numbers are smaller than 57.  That means that now that you are computing “68 + 57,” the correct answer should be “5” rather than “125.”  And maybe you think otherwise only because you are now misinterpreting all your previous uses of “plus.”  Of course, this seems preposterous.  But how do you know the skeptic is wrong?

Kripke’s skeptic holds that any evidence you have that what you always meant was addition is evidence that is consistent with your really having meant quaddition.  For example, it is no good to note that you have always said “Two plus two equals four” and never “Two quus two equals four,” because what is in question is what you meant by “plus.”  Perhaps, the skeptic says, every time you said “plus” you meant “quus,” and every time you said “addition” you meant “quaddition.”  Neither will it help to appeal to memories of what was consciously going through your mind when you said things like “Two plus two equals four.”  Even if the words “I mean plus by ‘plus,’ and not ‘quus’!” had passed through your mind, that would only raise the question of what you meant by that

Note that it is irrelevant that most of us have in fact computed numbers higher than 57.  For any given person, there is always some number, even if an extremely large one, equal to or higher than which he has never calculated, and the skeptic can always run the argument using that number instead.  Notice also that the point can be made about what you mean now by “plus.”  For all of your current linguistic behavior and the words you are now consciously running through your mind, the skeptic can ask whether you mean by it addition or quaddition.

Now, Kripke’s “quus” puzzle famously raises all sorts of questions in the philosophy of language and philosophy of mind.  This is not the place to get into all that, and Kripke’s argument against functionalism does not, I think, stand or fall with any particular view about what his “quus” paradox ultimately tells us about human thought and language.  The point for our purposes is that the “quus” example provides a useful illustration of how material processes can be indeterminate between different functions.  (An Aristotelian-Thomistic philosopher like myself, by the way, is happy to allow that mental imagery -- such as the entertaining of visual or auditory mental images of words like “plus” or sentences like “I mean plus, not quus!” -- is as material as bodily behavior is.  From an A-T point of view, among the various activities often classified by contemporary philosophers as “mental,” it is only intellectual activity in the strict sense -- activity that involves the grasp of abstract concepts, and is irreducible to the entertaining of mental images -- that is immaterial.  And that is crucial to understanding how an A-T philosopher would approach Kripke’s argument.  But again, that is a topic for another time.)

Kripke’s “quus” example can be used to state his argument about computationalism as follows.  Whatever we say about what we mean when we use “plus,” there are no physical features of a computer that can determine whether it is carrying out addition or quaddition, no matter how far we extend its outputs.  No matter what the past behavior of a machine has been, we can always suppose that its next output -- “5,” say, when calculating numbers larger than any it has calculated before -- might show that it is carrying out something like quaddition rather than addition.  Of course, it might be said in response that if this happens, that would just show that the machine was malfunctioning rather than performing quaddition.  But Kripke points out that whether some output counts as a malfunction itself depends on what program the machine is running, and whether the machine is running the program for addition rather than quaddition is precisely what is in question.

Another way to put the point is that the question of what program a machine is running always involves idealization.  In any actual machine, gears get stuck, components melt, and in myriad other ways the machine fails perfectly to instantiate the program we say it is running.  But there is nothing in the physical features or operations of the machine themselves that tells us that it has failed perfectly to instantiate its idealized program.  For relative to an eccentric program, even a machine with a stuck gear or melted component could be doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing, and a gear that doesn’t stick or a component that doesn’t melt could count as malfunctioning.  Hence there is nothing in the behavior of a computer, considered by itself, that can tell us whether its giving “125” in response to “What is 68 + 57?” counts as an instance of its following an idealized program for addition, or instead as a malfunction in a machine that is supposed to be carrying out an idealized program for quaddition.  And there is nothing in the behavior of a computer, considered by itself, that could tell us whether giving “5” in response to “What is 68 + 57?” counts as a malfunction in a machine that is supposed to be carrying out an idealized program for addition, or instead as an instance of properly following an idealized program for quaddition.

As Buechner points out, it is no good to appeal to counterfactuals to try to get around the problem -- to claim, for example, that what the machine would have done had it not malfunctioned is answer “125” rather than “5.”  For such a counterfactual presupposes that the idealized program the machine is instantiating is addition rather than quaddition, which is precisely what is in question.

Naturally, we could always ask the programmer of the machine what he had in mind.  But that simply reinforces the point that there is nothing in the physical properties of the machine itself that can tell us.  But if there is nothing intrinsic to computers in general that determines what programs they are running, neither is there anything intrinsic to the human brain specifically, considered as a kind of computer, that determines what program it is running (if it is running one in the first place).  Hence there can be no question of explaining the human mind in terms of programs running in the brain.

Might we appeal to God as the programmer of the brain who determines which program it is running?  Obviously most defenders of the computer model of the mind would not want to do this, since they tend to be materialists and materialists tend to be atheists.  But it is not a good idea in any case.  For that would make of human thought something as extrinsic to human beings as the program a computer is running is extrinsic to a computer, indeed as extrinsic as the meaning of a sentence is to the sentence.  Just as the meaning of “The cat is on the mat” is not really in the sounds, ink marks, or pixels in which the sentence is realized, but rather in the mind of the user or hearer of the sentence, so too the idea of God as a kind of programmer or user of the brain qua computer would entail that the meanings of our thought processes are not really in us at all but only in Him.  The result would be a new riff on occasionalism that is even more bizarre than the usual kind -- a version on which it is really God who is, strictly speaking, doing all our thinking for us!

Neither, as Buechner points out, will it do to suggest that natural selection has determined that we are following one program rather than another.  For any program we conjecture natural selection has put into us, there is going to be an alternative program with equal survival value, and the biological facts will be indeterminate between them.  There will be no reason in principle to hold that it is the one program that natural selection put into us rather than the other.

Suppose we say instead that there is what Buechner calls a “telos in Nature” that determines that the brain really is following this program rather than that -- the program for addition, say, rather than quaddition?  In that case we would have some end or purpose intrinsic to the natural world that determines which program the brain instantiates, which would eliminate the occasionalist problem the appeal to God as programmer raised.  (Of course, you could give a Fifth Way style argument for God as the ultimate explanation of this intrinsic telos, but that would not be to make of God a “programmer” in the relevant sense, any more than Aquinas’s Fifth Way makes of God a Paley-style tinkerer.)

Buechner himself is not sympathetic to this “telos in Nature” suggestion, but it is, naturally, one that an Aristotelian is bound to take seriously.  But it does not help the advocate of the computer model of the mind, at least not if he is a materialist.  For to affirm that there is teleology intrinsic in nature is just to abandon the materialist’s conception of matter and return to something like the Aristotelian-Scholastic conception that materialists, like other modern philosophers, thought they had buried forever back in the days of Hobbes and Descartes.

Still, if the computer model of the mind leads people to reconsider Aristotelianism, it can’t be all bad.  (Cf. James Ross’s “The Fate of the Analysts: Aristotle’s Revenge: Software Everywhere”)

«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 281 of 281
Codgitator said...

Child, whateva da hells it b doin, it sho nuff ain't based on its physical structure.

Humans reason immaterially. Humans develop engines that reason immaterially. Meh. Either way, the metaphysical point still stands.

Now, what is YOUR solution to the problem? (And I hope I'm not talking to someone who had to Google to find Kripgenstein.) Hoary old behaviorism?

Anonymous said...

Rupert:

Child, whateva da hells he be doin, he sho nuff ain't doin' it based on its physical structure.

So, for any machine which you tell ne us 100% mechanical, and yet which does what we can demonstrate are non-physical operations, then we've not only grabbed the golden fleece but also probably falsified materialism, since, if what is wholly material results in a leap to immaterial piwer, then matter as such is inadequate to the production of the powers by which we live, though it remains an apt medium for our actions.

So: Humans reason immaterially. Or... Humans develop engines that come to reason immaterially. Meh. Either way, the metaphysical point still stands.

Now, what is YOUR solution to the problem? (And I hope I'm not talking to someone who had to Google to find Kripgenstein.) Hoary old behaviorism? Or some paltry qualms about the logical singularity of Kripgenstein's argument.

Wouldst thou scold philosophers for building on what they've learned? Cf. Gutting on what philosophers know. Philosophy is dead, long live philosophy!

goddinpotty said...

@Paisley The problem here is that you are presupposing free will

No idea where you got that from. Purpose and free will are not joined at the hip.

Now you have me curious. In the A-T worldview or whatever it is you people are selling, things are imbued with a telological final cause from outside themselves and outside of the natural world. Yet some of them are also free, but what kind of freedom is that if your goals are pre-dictated? I'm going to guess that it's freedom to do good (follow your final cause) or evil (not). That seems like a poor kind of freedom to me…but do I have it right?

Evolution is the product of mechanism and chance blindly playing themselves out. And since you are nothing more than mechanism and chance blindly playing themselves out, then any purpose you believe you have must necessarily be deemed illusory.

You can deem all you like, but it would be better to present an actual argument. As in the famous sketch, the above is mere contradiction.

goddinpotty said...

I think this quote from David Hull (found in Wikipedia) has it about right:

Haldane [in the 1930s] can be found remarking, ‘Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he’s unwilling to be seen with her in public.’ Today the mistress has become a lawfully wedded wife. Biologists no longer feel obligated to apologize for their use of teleological language; they flaunt it. The only concession which they make to its disreputable past is to rename it ‘teleonomy’.

Although I'm around biologists all the time and I've rarely heard them use either term. Just like most mathematicians are Platonists without thinking about the metaphysics too deeply, most biologists are crude functionalists – biological structures have biological functions, we can tell what they are by inspection, no problemo. Of course there actually are some problemos with this, which the "Fiction of Function" paper I linked to talks about.

@Codg:

"I'll show you mine if you show ne yours:"

My philosophical world view is pretty much Aristotelian-Thomistic but of very heavy analytical bent. (Frege was for a time very influential on me. I am also grateful to Doc Feser for having cleared up many points of thomistic philosophy, which were not previously not so clear to me.)

I am convinced that the scholastic methodological framework of science as outlined by St. Albert the Great and his great disciple St. Thomas in their logical writings/commentaries could be far superior to anything currently out there (there even doesnt exist something comparable out there), if it can be transformed into a rigorous formal system of sorts. So, thats what I currently think about the most in my free time.

rank sophist said...

I recommend David Oderberg's work--particularly Real Essentialism. He has far more of an analytic philosophy bent than Feser, for better or worse.

@Codgitator

Thx. The book is already on my "to read" list for some time now. But I will get to it. :)

sry, my last comment was @rank sophist :)

Alastair F. Paisley said...

@ goddinpotty

> No idea where you got that from. Purpose and free will are not joined at the hip <

"Free will" presupposes "purpose." I would think this is fairly straight-forward. Are you seriously arguing that what you "will" (what you desire) is completely purposeless? If so, then I guess there is no purpose to continue this discussion.

> Now you have me curious. In the A-T worldview or whatever it is you people are selling, things are imbued with a telological final cause from outside themselves and outside of the natural world. Yet some of them are also free, but what kind of freedom is that if your goals are pre-dictated? I'm going to guess that it's freedom to do good (follow your final cause) or evil (not). That seems like a poor kind of freedom to me…but do I have it right? <

That which all finite beings are ultimately seeking is the good. But how that is realized is not predetermined.

By the way, I do not strictly subscribe to the A-T worldview.

> You can deem all you like, but it would be better to present an actual argument. As in the famous sketch, the above is mere contradiction. <

Yeah, what's the contradiction? You would have us believe that you're something other than a blind mechanism playing itself out when your materialist worldview strictly precludes any other possibility. Indeed, the materialist worldview holds that consciousness itself is merely an epiphenomenon, a by-product without any causal efficacy whatsoever. Such a view renders our entire mental lives illusory because our entire mental lives are predicated on the belief that we, as free agents, are causally engaged in the world. But on the materialist worldview, we are not active participants in the drama of life, just passive bystanders - mere spectators watching life pass us by.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

@ goddinpotty

> I think this quote from David Hull (found in Wikipedia) has it about right:

Haldane [in the 1930s] can be found remarking, ‘Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he’s unwilling to be seen with her in public.’ Today the mistress has become a lawfully wedded wife. Biologists no longer feel obligated to apologize for their use of teleological language; they flaunt it. The only concession which they make to its disreputable past is to rename it ‘teleonomy’.
<

Previously, I argued that you were conflating "teleonomy" (apparent purpose) with "teleology" (real purpose). Now, it would appear that you are conceding the point.

"Teleonomy is the quality of APPARENT purposefulness and of goal-directedness of structures and functions in living organisms that derive from their evolutionary history, adaptation for reproductive success, or generally, due to the operation of a program." (emphasis mine)

(source: Wikipedia: Teleonomy)

goddinpotty said...

@Paisley: Now, it would appear that you are conceding the point.

Well, it might appear that way to you, but in reality, not.

I guess you also have a problem understanding basic english, since the clear point of the Hull quote is that biologists are referring to the same old purpose they used to refer to, real or apparent, under a new label to make idiots leave them alone.

Eduardo said...

I think you have to let Potty says exactly what he means by the words he uses.

He is a materialist that does not believe in reductionism, which is a major point of materialist, is someone who believes in appearance as being a factual thing.

I mean seriously, no wonder everybody is at lost with you, you never really mean what your words entail.

Ἀμμώνιος Σακκᾶς said...

Mechanism and nominalism? Oh gip, you would make Hobbes proud -- or maybe not. But your mentor must dispute this bit of eisegetical burlesque:

I guess you also have a problem understanding basic english, since the clear point of the Hull quote is that biologists are referring to the same old purpose they used to refer to, real or apparent, under a new label to make idiots leave them alone.

The "new label" of teleonomy does not signify the precise same thing as "teleology." You would have noticed this had you not plucked a quotation out of its context.

The term was coined to stand in contrast with teleology, which applies to ends that are planned by an agent which can internally model/imagine various alternative futures and, enables intention, purpose and foresight. A teleonomic process, such as evolution, produces complex products without the benefit of a guiding foresight. (Emphasis Mine.)

So maybe you are not the one who understands basic English? Because that seems so pristinely clear to me that a child could understand that they aren't the same thing. Again, the problem of reconciling teleology and mechanism is as old as Francis Bacon -- and this discrepancy is "basic" to philosophers of science, including Dennet.

How is the theurgy coming?

Alastair F. Paisley said...

@ goddingpotty

> Well, it might appear that way to you, but in reality, not.

I guess you also have a problem understanding basic english, since the clear point of the Hull quote is that biologists are referring to the same old purpose they used to refer to, real or apparent, under a new label to make idiots leave them alone.
<

I see. You didn't get the joke. Evidently, you're still incapable of distinguishing between apparent purpose and real purpose. This doesn't exactly lend support to your mechanistic view of the world.

grodrigues said...

@goddinpotty:

"n the A-T worldview or whatever it is you people are selling, things are imbued with a telological final cause from outside themselves and outside of the natural world. Yet some of them are also free, but what kind of freedom is that if your goals are pre-dictated? I'm going to guess that it's freedom to do good (follow your final cause) or evil (not). That seems like a poor kind of freedom to me…but do I have it right?"

No, not even close.

machinephilosophy said...

Yeah, what's the contradiction? You would have us believe that you're something other than a blind mechanism playing itself out when your materialist worldview strictly precludes any other possibility. Indeed, the materialist worldview holds that consciousness itself is merely an epiphenomenon, a by-product without any causal efficacy whatsoever. Such a view renders our entire mental lives illusory because our entire mental lives are predicated on the belief that we, as free agents, are causally engaged in the world. But on the materialist worldview, we are not active participants in the drama of life, just passive bystanders - mere spectators watching life pass us by.

Alastaire, the case against materialism just needs to be fleshed out to the nth degree, and clarifying comments like the above are bringing this about.

Behind every great atheistic doctrine is an even greater self-referential inconsistency.

Anonymous said...

gip how much do you bench.

I bet it's less than 225.

Anonymous said...

Codgitator here.

I love it.

We get Everything spontaneously emerging from Nothing, only Nothing is really Something (Krauss, Dawkins, et al.).

Then we get Consciousness spontaneously emerging from Nonconsciousness, only Consciousness isn't really anything more than an Illusion (Dennett, gip, et al.).

If all we know is based on empirical physics, then all we know is the brain-body system (Rosenberg, Churchlands, Melnyk, et al.). If that's all consciousness is, then we know consciousness is nothing more than a physical system...in which case it never really emerged at all. We're still stuck in the thermodynamically sealed echo-chamber of Nonconsciousness dynamics. So emergence is a total non sequitur.

Oops, there I go again, being a slave to language. I will myself to Will! I will myself to Mastery!

Rupert said...

Codgitator,

I would have to confess that right now I don't think I can give you a satisfactory solution to Kripgenstein's paradox. I wrote an essay about it once as part of my undergraduate degree, many years ago.

I would have to re-read Kripke's book and think it through.

But, if I understand you rightly, your claim is that there is no satisfactory solution to the paradox if one assumes that humans are purely physical beings, and thus the paradox is in fact a reductio of physicalism. Is this correct?

This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean Robsville said...

@ Alastair F. Paisley
"Evolution is the product of mechanism and chance blindly playing themselves out. And since you are nothing more than mechanism and chance blindly playing themselves out, then any purpose you believe you have must necessarily be deemed illusory."

But what if the brain has evolved by blind chance, but its 'symbiotic' mind is not a product of evolution at all?

@ Codgitator
To take Roger Scruton to his logical conclusion, this blog post and all its comments are a two-dimensional array of triplet bytes devoid of any meaning. Any significance can only come from interpretation carried out by the mind (not neurones) of the person viewing the monitor.

Rupert said...

Is that supposed to be a parody? I would say that the blog post and the comments have meaning because of the context in which they occur.

Sean Robsville said...

Where does the context come from? More bits and bytes?

Glenn said...

Where does the context come from? More bits and bytes?

Not exactly. You have to nybble away at the context, then, bit by bit, meaning emerges.

(Not that it needs to be said, but ya never know: j/k.)

Rupert said...

The context in which they occur is that they are being produced by creatures who have the intention to communicate with one another.

goddinpotty said...

gip how much do you bench?

Seriously? Maybe we should settle this with an arm-wrestling contest.

And you folks label me a sophist -- wasn't it the sophist Callicles who advocated that physical might establishes moral and intellectual right?

Anonymous said...

You're too unimaginative to be a sophist.

Anonymous said...

Seriously?

Seriously, guys!? I mean, like, seriously?!

Wow, guys, just wow!

(lol you feel for it -> you mad)

"Yeah, I mean, come on, guys, I mean, like, irony is so totally seventh grade, and stuff. *pout* *hug*" ;)

New drinking game: every time gip calls us "you people/folks", take a shot. Sláinte! Sláinte! Sláinte! Sláinte!

gip:

I think the point is that a lot of what you write comes off as not only irrelevant but also as emo chest-pounding (or should I say "flexing nuts"?).

Besides, you're the one that delved to a joke about impressing other guys in the locker room with your schlong.

Having said all that, do keep it coming. Your are my digital Xanax!

grodrigues said...

@Codgitator:

To goddinpotty:

"Having said all that, do keep it coming. Your are my digital Xanax!"

Side effects of Xanax include: somnolence, confusion, diminished alertness, fatigue, migraines, dizzyness, ataxia, double vision, depression and amnesia. Other alterations such as diarrhea, diminished libido and rashes are occasionaly mentioned in the literature.

Spot on.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

@ Sean Robsville

> But what if the brain has evolved by blind chance, but its 'symbiotic' mind is not a product of evolution at all? <

You write in your blog the following:

"The body of the sentient being may indeed be a physical automaton, but the mind is non-physical. A sentient being experiences its inputs (perceptions) and outputs (actions), in contrast to an automaton where no subjective states occur, and all meanings have to be assigned to inputs and outputs from 'outside the system'."

As far as I can see, your description seems to imply that the nonphysical mind is as much of an automaton as the physical body. As such, a living organism with a nonphysical mind doesn't seem to confer any more of a survival benefit than a living organism without one.

reighley said...

The more I read the exchange between @radp and @Codgitator the more frustrated I become with what I take to be Kripke's version of the argument.

Oddly Wittgenstein's original aphorism, or Goodman's bleen vs grue puzzle or even some of the commentary Codgitator has offered here still seem reasonable. What is bothering me is how often I stumble over the infinite cardinality of the natural numbers or some variation on the incompleteness theorem or some other mathematical technicality which should not (or so it seems to me) have any place in the real meat of the argument.

Let me offer a variation which seems to me to break Kripke. Suppose that rather than raising a stink after the adder is done summing two nice small numbers, the skeptic happens on a person in the midst of adding two very large ones. Our adder is patiently adding two numerals and carrying the one as necessary. A stack of paper representing the numerals to be summed is to her left, and a stack representing the sum is on her right.

The adder says "I am adding". The skeptic's old reply seems to fall flat. He does not know how large the number will be, so he cannot set a bound. Is going to posit quus simply on the grounds that a bound must exist? I'm not sure how I feel about using the axiom of choice here : seems like cheating.

I think it gets even worse than just that, as the bound on quus might be so large that the skeptic (who might also be a finite computer) would overlow his registers in trying to make the objection.

Yet this difficulty is entirely rooted in the properties of computing machinery and their very close relationship to mathematical functions like addition.

Kripke has chosen a very bad example if his target was computationalism. It seems to me that in order for the skeptics stratagem to work we must suppose that the skeptic is not himself a computing machine. Or we must suppose that when we make statements about addition we are directing our intention to all of the natural numbers, rather than to a finite proof by induction. Both of these things seem to beg the question.

I'm still on the fence as to the philosophical issue itself, but Kripke and Buechner have done nothing to convince me.

seanrobsville said...

@Alastair F. Paisley

"As far as I can see, your description seems to imply that the nonphysical mind is as much of an automaton as the physical body. As such, a living organism with a nonphysical mind doesn't seem to confer any more of a survival benefit than a living organism without one."

The non-physical mind can experience the qualia of suffering and pleasure, which an automaton cannot. These subjective qualia drive survival(avoidance of injury and danger) and procreation.

Mr. Green said...

Hunt: As far as I can see the argument is "this little machine cannot pick up anything, not even pebbles, and no other machine will ever be able to either," which is a good deal more pessimistic.

It's not a question of pessimism — it's not a guess, which awaits confirmation or falsification by some future empirical measurement. If you define "machine" so as to exclude the ability in question, then it follows that no such machine will do the job. "Naturalism" in the modern sense is an attempt to reduce teleology to material and efficient causes. Paradoxes like this show it doesn't work. It's like deciding to define "nature" in terms of optics only, and then insisting that sound is just a particularly complex arrangement of colours.

I'm acknowledging something, that I will admit. Whether it is teleology or some material process that we don't yet understand remains to be determined.

Ah, so Shakespeare's plays weren't written by him, but by someone else of the same name! The "something" you seem to be acknowledging is what philosophers have for thousands of years been calling teleology. If you insist on defining "material process" in a way that excludes teleology, then you're going to have an uncomfortably schizoid view of nature (with all the attendant paradoxes). On the other hand, you can accept that teleology is part of nature after all, in which case we all agree to be Aristotelians (at least to that extent).

grodrigues said...

@reighley:

I cannot make heads or tails of your objection, so I will content myself to point out the following:

"I'm not sure how I feel about using the axiom of choice here : seems like cheating."

Feel nothing?

Finite choice is provably true in ZF so you do not have to appeal to any form of AC.

Alastair F. Paisley said...

@ seanrobsville

> The non-physical mind can experience the qualia of suffering and pleasure, which an automaton cannot. These subjective qualia drive survival(avoidance of injury and danger) and procreation. <

But the problem is that you have expressed a belief that some (if not most) living organisms do not require any sentience ("feeling awareness") whatsoever in order to sense and respond to environmental stimuli and to procreate.

Mr. Green said...

David Brightly: I think I put forward a cogent argument in my first comment that Ed's assertion that you can't describe what a machine is doing without reference to the intentions of its designer is false.

Well, there's a possible ambiguity in "what the machine is doing". Or rather, it's doing multiple things at once, on different levels, and we can explain one level without necessarily explaining the others. At the lowest level, we can describe what the machine does in terms of plain physics (which is I think what you are considering): a low-voltage input here produces a certain output there, etc. Now even that requires teleology, because to say that certain substances (such as electrons, etc.) act in a certain way is to describe a final cause. So even the bare physical description is teleological in the Aristotelian sense. (An input X is directed to an output Y — if it weren't, then we could never predict what the machine would do, and thus could not say "what it does".)

I'm just a physicist doing an experiment, recording the results, and stumbling on a pattern. The convenience is merely mine---I encode patterns of input and output potentials as pairs of natural numbers

That's a second level of purpose (the one Ed was referring to, of course). Being able to match the physical action of the machine with the function of adding (or whatever) may be a convenience, but it doesn't matter whether it's yours or the builder's. The question is whether you can have that meaning at all, whether you truly can intend to treat the inputs and outputs as representing addition (or whatever). If you were merely a physical machine like the calculator, you could not have that additional layer of intention — your brain processes only add more physical events to the chain of inputs and outputs, but don't raise it to a new level of meaning.

(This is where some folks are going wrong and treating it like an epistemological problem. Sure, from the outside, we cannot tell whether another person or a machine is "intending" anything, so practically speaking, we just go with what "works", i.e. what is "compatible", what is "convenient". But Kripke wasn't trying to show a paradox with reading other people's minds; rather that — on naturalism — I can't even read my own mind! If I use a convenient process of inputs and outputs to do addition, I really am intending addition. I must be, for talk of "encoding patterns as natural numbers", etc. to make sense in the first place.)

It's like describing a bicycle as a bus that didn't come out of the factory right.

Sure, but it's not so much "bus" vs. "bicycle" that's the issue as the "rightness". To say, "this is right for a bicycle but not for a bus" is to intend one thing rather than another. In terms of merely physical description, they all just act according to physics. A physicist can describe how the parts of a machine all move, but he can't (qua physicist) tell us whether it's a good bus or a bad bike. This is like Goddin Potty's dead cow (Consider: "there is nothing in the physical features of a cow that tells us whether it is fulfilling its functions or is just one sick, malfunctioning, or possibly dead cow." This is pretty obviously false, so why should the similar statement about computers be taken to be obviously true?)

And of course he's right, it is false. Yet there is nothing more "atomic" about a dead cow than a live one. The calf that dies is not magical; its fundamental particles behave just like the particles in the healthy, grown cow. Therefore reality is not exhausted by a physical description. There is something more to a cow than "atoms spinning in the void". And there is something more to my thought of addition, or quaddition, or grueness, or cows, than the merely physical description.

Sean Robsville said...

@ Alastair F. Paisley

"But the problem is that you have expressed a belief that some (if not most) living organisms do not require any sentience ("feeling awareness") whatsoever in order to sense and respond to environmental stimuli and to procreate."

Quite so. Can a dog suffer pain? A frog? A fish? An insect? A worm? An amoeba? A plant?

Some organisms require complex behaviors to survive, and some merely reflexes. Where the borderline is, is anyones guess.

Most legislations allow crabs and lobsters to be boiled alive, but would jail anybody doing that to a dog or cat.

But as far as I know, no-one has ever been prosecuted for being cruel to a computer.

It seems reasonable to ask 'What is it like to be a bat?', but not 'What is it like to be a bacterium?'

Alastair F. Paisley said...

@ Sean Robsville

> It seems reasonable to ask 'What is it like to be a bat?', but not 'What is it like to be a bacterium?' <

"Bacteria Are More Capable of Complex Decision-Making Than Thought"

Mr. Green said...

Reighley: The skeptic's old reply seems to fall flat. He does not know how large the number will be, so he cannot set a bound. Is going to posit quus simply on the grounds that a bound must exist? I'm not sure how I feel about using the axiom of choice here : seems like cheating.

As GRodrigues points out, the axiom of choice isn't needed here; but here's an even simpler example: suppose I use the adding machine to add "123" and "456"; am I adding 123 and 456? Or am I adding 1.23 and 4.56? (Maybe I'm too lazy to enter the decimal points — why bother, the physical process of inputs related to outputs works just as well either way!)

(This also handles Radp's concern about the computer's implementing a function with a finite domain and range. In fact, it doesn't matter whether the adder has a limit or whether it can sum indefinitely large numbers: there are still an infinite number of possible places where I might intend the decimal point to go.)

The issue isn't rooted in mathematical functions, either; they're just convenient examples. Intending a bus instead of a bicycle or a healthy cow instead of a dead one also require teleology beyond the final causes of the physical processes.

It seems to me that in order for the skeptics stratagem to work we must suppose that the skeptic is not himself a computing machine. Or we must suppose that when we make statements about addition we are directing our intention to all of the natural numbers, rather than to a finite proof by induction. Both of these things seem to beg the question.

I don't see what question is being begged. The example posits a "teleological" person and a "computational" person[/machine], and shows that the one cannot be reduced to the other. You can cut the Kripkean knot by going the eliminativist route and claiming that there is no paradox because there is no such thing as the "teleological person". Or you can reflect that you do know whether you intend "123" or "1.23" and conclude that you are not merely a computer.

@Mr. Green

"am I adding 123 and 456? Or am I adding 1.23 and 4.56?"

Could you please elaborate on the following remark?:
"The issue isn't rooted in mathematical functions, either; they're just convenient examples. Intending a bus instead of a bicycle or a healthy cow instead of a dead one also require teleology beyond the final causes of the physical processes."

How would you say does the indeterminacy of matter play out with busses and bicycles?

Alastair F. Paisley said...

@ Sean Robsville

> [Can] a plant [suffer pain]? <

"Plant perception or biocommunication may denote not only that plants are sentient - they can certainly communicate through chemical signals and have COMPLEX responses to stimuli - but that may respond to humans in a manner that amounts to ESP and that may be interpreted as experience of PAIN and FEAR." (emphasis mine)

(source: Wikipedia: Plant perception (paranormal))

Eduardo said...

Well i suppose any idea which considers itself to be rational must take in consideration the extreme abilities of bacterias Ò_Ó!!!!!!!!!

u_u just kidding just kidding.

Eduardo said...

Damn it Alastair, have you been doing a friend of mine and just reading wikipedia pages at random xD ?

Alastair F. Paisley said...

@ Eduardo

It's not random.

Eduardo said...

Wait ... that reply was awkward.

Alastair you do know that there is a random article button in Wikipedia ???

and you can go around all sorts of articles ???

Now I do see that you search in objective manner, but is just funny XD how you caem up so quickly with Wikipedia articles about the stuff you talk.

©_© and that is why I think you use the random button!!!!

u_u or you read some underground stuff.

Anonymous said...

Eduardo,

He means that the feature is not actually random. Computer algorithms are incapably of truly producing random events, only pseudo-random ones.

Eduardo said...

lol anon you sort of reminded me of something.

But anyways it was a off topic thing, no related to Kripke's argument.

Now I suppose ... MAYBE the computer could produce random numbers, if you were to start with the idea that Quantum events involved with the producing of the number are indeed random.

Or however we just the word random wrongly. you know when I say, all possible events have the same probability it sounds completely different from what I have in my head... Perhaps I am confusing Random with causeless or something in between.

Well anyways, wasn't really talking about the computers itself.

and ... I am pretty certain Paisley was not talking computers was he ?

reighley said...

@Green

"there are still an infinite number of possible places where I might intend the decimal point to go"

This is exactly where I feel the question is being begged. It may be that the human being is capable of intending only a finite number of things.

If that were true then almost all of the quaddition functions could not possibly be what I mean by "addition".

Anonymous said...

goddinpotty said...Well, sorry to disappoint, but I have no obligation to adopt your or anybody else's vocabulary, especially when it not-very-subtley encodes the very topic under discussion.

WTHumpty? Encoding a topic into a standard vocabulary is the very DEFINITION of a discussion. You can make up your own private language if you want, but that doesn't make a discussion. Or are you finally admitting that you're only here to troll? I mean, it was kinda hilarious to see that after hammering on the same basic point for months now, you don't even understand what the problem is, despite it being an on-going theme of Feser's site. But now you claim that not only do you not know what the point is, but you don't care. (New paradox: do any of gip's post mean anything, or do they only appear to?)

First off, you don't seem to know what "turning coat" means. I suppose you must mean "turning tail".

You missed the Joycean wordplay. You're turning tail, but because in your abject confusion you have apparently signed onto the Aristotelian side that you thought you were attacking, you have also turned coat. Don't worry, some day you'll get it.

goddinpotty said...

Suppose you made a slight variant of Kripke's argument. Let's say you are observing the earth's rotation, and find that it always takes a certain amount of time, and decide to declare that a rule of nature. But Kripke' comes along and says, wait a minute, you have no way of knowing that just because all the rotations you have measured so far took 24 hours, the one tomorrow may only take 5 minutes, or in other words, the earth may not be implementing a constant function for its rotation period, but instead qarotation, which follows my more complicated rule.

Well, Kripke' is kind of right, in a non-interesting sort of way. Scientific rules are derived through inductive inference, which means they are not airtight deductions. Induction involves "inference to the best explanation", where "best" is not always well-defined but often includes a metric of simplicity. All else being equal, simple explanations are prefereable to more complex ones.

So while we don't know for sure that the computer in the original example is computing addition rather than qaddition, that is the way to bet. The notion of simplicity can be computationally formalized through the concept of minimum description length or Kolmogorov complexity. Addition is simpler to describe than qaddition, hence less complex, hence more plausible as a theory for what a machine is doing given the observed observations.

Eduardo said...

Hence ... you cannot know it is true, or part of reality, or it is just an illusion ???

I think we can all agree on the pragmatic take of things, but pragmatic takes are ... pragmatic. Is not about truth is about the benefit that I get, by using the resources I have.

But it doesnt necessarily entails that "truth" which is the point of the argument. See Potty, the pragmatic take, it does work if you don't care about any type of objective realist take of things, which in a sense is what computationalism is about. Now of course Science is heavily pragmatic, but .... we are not discussing science... it doesn't interest you ?

oh well feel free to leave or not post for the time being n_n! O_O don't you agreeeeeee ?

----------------------------------

And ... I don't even think that actually helps in anything with the problem, because ... well usually people think of planets without functions whatsoever. They might have, but a study of their motions just not need a function I think.

The mind does not seem to be on par with a planet, your analogy is a bad one really. And I think the function part really does play a role in his argument... yep you are not the only clueless person around here so be happy.

Anonymous said...

G P Barnum said: So while we don't know for sure that the computer in the original example is computing addition rather than qaddition, that is the way to bet.

Hey, G-man, I'll let you in on a little secret. Don't look now, but we're not in a casino. Hope that doesn't upset your betting strategy too much. We're not gambling. We're not doing science. We're not even doing epistemology. Your brilliant insight (that you can't determine the earth's rotational period from a single approximate measurement) is sure to revolutionize natural philosophy… I bet they'll come up with a whole new method now. The only catch is we were talking about something else completely. I can't tell you what, because it's super top secret, and has to be "encoded" in a mysterious "vocabulary" that is known only to those who have read the OP. Or the hundreds of comments on it. Or any of the dozens and dozens of previous posts on this topic. Or any of the books or papers or articles about it. Or maybe even a dictionary.

But don't give up. Your enthusiasm is touching, and you'd never get anywhere in the world if you gave up just for being wrong once or twice or 86 times in a row. Keep plugging away and some day you'll make a great philosopher

Anonymous said...

cry. [Sorry, somehow my last word got cut off my reply]

goddinpotty said...

@Anonymous -- I can't tell if you are trying to be sarcastic or are genuinely stupid. I suppose it could be both.

@Eduardo -- pragmatism is a theory of truth, among other things. However, I'd just as soon leave pragmatism aside and concentrate on the complexity argument which is actually a useful contribution to this discussion (IMO, others will of course differ).

I am reframing Kripke's scenario a bit, but in a way that captures important essential similarities. Both a rotating planet and a computer are physical systems, and an observer of them has to find some theory to describe their behavior, and to predict future behavior.

If you like, think of the planet as a computer (or part of a computer) that runs a program that takes no inputs and outputs a single number, the period of its rotation.

In both cases inference to the most likely explanation will help you, but doesn't guarantee that the computer won't start outputting a weird number on unfamiliar inputs, or malfunction; or that the earth won't suddenly start spinning twice as fast.

A. R. Diaz said...

@ Cogitator,

"...Ross's writings, and his "Immaterial Aspects" essay in particular, made me want to "be a philosopher".

Ross seems to have that effect on many people... :)

goddinpotty said...

@anonymous -- I can't tell if you are trying for sarcasm or are genuinely stupid, or perhaps both.

@Eduardo -- pragmatism is a theory of truth among other things.

I think my variation on Kripke is very apposite. In both cases, we are in the situation of trying to make sense out of a physical system (whether natural or constructed). In both cases, the heuristics of inductive inference are a lot more helpful that deduction from first principles.

I realize I am not addressing Kripke's argument directly, but that's because as I indicated before, it seems wrongheaded to me; it seems to be asking the wrong question and thus generating confusing answers.

The application of algorithmic complexity to philosophical problems is a hot and interesting area. See here for an overview; section 7 is directly relevant to this discussion.

Anonymous said...

So while we don't know for sure that the computer in the original example is computing addition rather than qaddition, that is the way to bet. The notion of simplicity can be computationally formalized through the concept of minimum description length or Kolmogorov complexity. Addition is simpler to describe than qaddition, hence less complex, hence more plausible as a theory for what a machine is doing given the observed observations.

You do realize that Occam's razor is affected by Kripke's argument, and therefore you're begging the question, right? In fact, what you've always believed to be "Occam's razor" is really "Plochman's razor", and it stops working at arbitrary times--such as this one.

Also, the argument is that we are machines, and hence we follow rules rather than mind-independent a priori facts. So, by admitting that we can know the difference between addition and quaddition, you undermine computationalism--which I assume you're trying to defend.

Eduardo said...

actually GIP your pragmatism is merely pragmatic choice according to the data, that is why people sort of find it awkward when you talk about pragmatism and yet your pragmatism is deep down just choocing between the most pragmatic view of the world, perhaps in this case the one that gives you the greatest amount of insight of the model/the problem at hand.

I think kripke's idea is to show that the model has some sort of inconsistency, if in principle an approach makes no-sense because of problems in the basic assumption of that approach, all we can do is say that, that sort of approach does not work.

--------------------------------

So let's read the insights in setion 7... yep begins by mistaking Occam razor's as a rule of reality than a rule to explaining thing... a pragmatic rule to begin with.

oh wait ... the whole point roams around the simpler the idea the more correct or the closer it is to be correct.

Oh boy... gonna go all the way back to the beginning so I can understand the argument then come all the way back here to see if your argument actually adds something...

goddinpotty said...

@Anonymous You do realize that Occam's razor is affected by Kripke's argument, and therefore you're begging the question, right? In fact, what you've always believed to be "Occam's razor" is really "Plochman's razor", and it stops working at arbitrary times--such as this one.

Sorry, don't see your point. Everyone knows that Occam's razor is not an ironclad rule. However, without an assumption like that, we could no absolutely nothing about the future, or anything at all in fact.

Also, the argument is that we are machines, and hence we follow rules rather than mind-independent a priori facts. So, by admitting that we can know the difference between addition and quaddition, you undermine computationalism--which I assume you're trying to defend.

Another attempt to win the argument by definition. Who says that "machines" can't follow "mind-independent facts", whatever it means to follow a fact?

I'm not even going to try to untangle your final sentence; you just seem very confused.

Eduardo said...

So uphold that simpler explanations are most likely true follows that you can know the future ???

Wow wait .... no GIP it doesn't. Coming from a K theory that reduces itself to a B theory, you could still predict everything that B theory predicts and not follow the razor at all.

Actually the bloody razor is meant to facilitate things, not infer reality.

For instance... K can be the real deal and B the wrong theory and still we would be correct, that is one of the problems with using the Razor as a primal rule to understand anything.

like ... relativity and newtonian mechanics O_O!!! anyways you could always say that a theory only exists in a context and applying them out of the context is just ... in a sense ... wrong.

Sort of destroys my example.

--------------------------------

But anyways GIP... what was the point you think Kripke was trying to make ????

Really ...... I have to read the comments hahahahha, I mean, corect me folks, because I think I am wrong; but Kripke's argument seems to be around meaning of functions... so far I am correct?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, don't see your point. Everyone knows that Occam's razor is not an ironclad rule. However, without an assumption like that, we could no absolutely nothing about the future, or anything at all in fact.

Which is exactly the point of Kripke's argument. In fact, the argument could be applied to every word in your post above. All your position amounts to is a collection of arbitrary rules whose definitions can be debated forever, with no side being more likely than the other. How, exactly, are you going to get out of that?

Another attempt to win the argument by definition. Who says that "machines" can't follow "mind-independent facts", whatever it means to follow a fact?

So you're a computationalist who believes in mind-independent a priori knowledge? You believe in universals and so forth? How exactly is computationalism compatible with that view?

I'm not even going to try to untangle your final sentence; you just seem very confused.

Willful or just regular ignorance? I have a hard time telling the difference with you.

goddinpotty said...

@Eduardo -- we make simplifying assumptions all the time. If I look at my desk and see a coffee cup, my perception of that makes use of the assumption that I don't have to account for the possibility that evil demons have intercepted the light rays from a cat and made it look like a coffee cup; or that the entire universe was destroyed and created during the time the rays took to travel, and countless other implausible scenarios. So without those assumptions, we literally can have no knowledge of the world at all.

I don't know what "K theory" and "B theory" are supposed to mean.

Eduardo said...

"we make simplifying assumptions all the time."
---------------------------------
Yeah I certainly agree with that.
_________________________________

"If I look at my desk and see a coffee cup, my perception of that makes use of the assumption that I don't have to account for the possibility that evil demons have intercepted the light rays from a cat and made it look like a coffee cup; or that the entire universe was destroyed and created during the time the rays took to travel, and countless other implausible scenarios. So without those assumptions, we literally can have no knowledge of the world at all."
---------------------------------

So the truth is that, there some crazy shit happening... See the pragmatic road despite being the road I would take too, is wrong... that is what I meant before GIP. But see; the whole examples you put would just mean that, you have no idea what the world is like for real, annnnnd .... you are still coming from all sorts of initial asumptions to, well prove to yourself that the cup of coffee is what you want it to be. No demons, no warlocks, No Dungeons & Dragons, No Mario going down a Pipe; just whatever you desire to be there as long as it is the simplest things acording to a certain metric of your choice. I mean, being picky guy... you are guy right ? you ain't she-male right O_O ? Anyways being the picky guy you are, would you really say: "Oh yeah Ed, it is all cool, Use Planes, Dots, and Lines to connect all things around you, according to some simple rule you have invented!!! AND THE BEST PART...I will ride this boat along with you!". I bet you wouldn't... especially because I would freaking add poneys too.

So you see, although I see your method of understanding things, I really do; and I think others too... But deep down the pragmatic approach is not the same as the realist approach. It might be practical... no doubt. But ... delusion none of the less just like whatever "My little poney" themed description of the world I could create. We are all deluded by those demons O_O!

Now this what I am talking to you is why people were so ... baffled when you presented pragmatism the wya you did, you are of course a realist that simply tries to cut things in a certain metric... but of course not the hard core pragmatic type. I just wanna explain to you some of the comments of the past towards you.
___________________________________

I don't know what "K theory" and "B theory" are supposed to mean.

-----------------------------------

errr .... Alright .... Schroedingers equation applied to the Hydrogen atom is K theory is and Bohr's approach is B theory...

You know ... K explain as much and in this particular case even better than B theory. But you see, let's say that the context in which Schroesinger's approach is ONLY THE H ATOM... for some reason it was never applied to anything else. Now the Bohr approach is far simpler... and if you have studied that shit you know what I mean. So the pragmatic approach would choose Bohr's. Even though Schroedinger is better, but ...far more complex.

Now, just ... before you come with the Pragmatic holliday song... we are here trying to infer reality. Soooo, you do see that we got wrong, for a brief moment one could say, but we got wrong because of our approach, Because our approach is inherently flawed; Which your previous examples have shown.

So, I surely see your point, I see what you mean by pragmatism... Do you see that pragmatic approaches are not necessarily entailing reality ???

Anonymous said...

goddinpotty @anonymous -- I can't tell if you are trying for sarcasm or are genuinely stupid

We know you can't. Par for the course.

I realize I am not addressing Kripke's argument directly, but that's because as I indicated before, it seems wrongheaded to me; it seems to be asking the wrong question and thus generating confusing answers.

"I don't like the way this question is getting answered, so I'm going to make up my own question and answer that instead!"

[different anon:] "In fact, what you've always believed to be "Occam's razor" is really "Plochman's razor", and it stops working at arbitrary times--such as this one."

We know you don't. Par for the course.

"So, by admitting that we can know the difference between addition and quaddition, you undermine computationalism--which I assume you're trying to defend."
Another attempt to win the argument by definition.

rational person: "The sun will rise at 6:00 tomorrow."
goddinpotty: "Forget your fairy dust! The sun doesn't go around the earth!"
rational person: "Uh, it's quite clear in context that 'rising' refers to the sun becoming visible over the horizon."
goddinpotty: " You people can't force your encoded vocabulary on me! This is just another attempt to win the argument by definition!"

Glenn said...

"I saved \$40 dollars!"

"How so?"

"I paid \$60 for this blouse. It was \$100, but there was a sale! 40% off!"

"I see. Hope you don't mind my asking, but if you saved \$40, how come you have \$60 less than what you had before you saved the \$40?"

"Huh? What are you talking about?"

"Well, the only reason why you bought the blouse was because it was on sale. Right?"

"Yes! And if I didn't buy it, I wouldn't have saved \$40!"

"Would you have bought it if it wasn't on sale?"

"Of course not! It would have been too expensive!"

"So, that's what I'm sayin'. If you didn't buy it, you'd have \$60 more than what you have now."

"What are you talking about? I have \$40 more than I would have had, had I paid \$100 for it. It's so simple! You're supposed to be intelligent. How come you can't see that?"

"What I see is that you're \$60 lighter for having bought a blouse you neither need nor want."

"Well, I don't need another blouse. That's true. And I wasn't looking to buy one. That's true, too. But the whole point of buying it was to save the \$40! You're such a silly man! And you should be glad you have a wife who knows how to save money instead of trying to confuse me!"

"I suppose you're right. But I just wonder..."

"You wonder what?"

"Why when you save money, I lose a little of my sanity."

"Is that a joke?... Oh! Look! There's that nice little cafe! Let's stop and have something to eat."

[A fortiuitous opportunity to recover some of the lost sanity.]

"What do you mean 'eat for free'? It costs money to eat there, you know."

"Normally, yes. But not today."

"Why not today?"

"You saved money buying the blouse. We can use the \$40 you saved to pay for the meal. That way it really won't cost us anything."

"There! You’re doing it again! Forget it! Let's just go home..."

Mr. Green said...

Reighley: This is exactly where I feel the question is being begged. It may be that the human being is capable of intending only a finite number of things. If that were true then almost all of the quaddition functions could not possibly be what I mean by "addition".

But that's the point… you don't mean any of the quaddition functions, you actually and determinately mean "addition". But there's no way to tell that from the "outside" (and if naturalism were true, there would only be "outsides"). That is, there is one particular place where I was in fact intending the decimal point to go, out of the infinite number of possibilities that could all be implemented by the same machine. Nothing in the adder can pinpoint the one meaning I had in mind.

Radp: How would you say does the indeterminacy of matter play out with busses and bicycles?

You can't tell whether something is a good bicycle or a bad bus just by looking at it — if physically it has the structure of a bicycle, then that's what it does, even if you intended to build a bus. Of course, it's a silly example, because it's hard to build a bus from scratch single-handed, so here's a less silly example: Suppose you intend to draw a rabbit, and I intend to draw a duck; and Ludwig decides to draw something that looks like both a rabbit and a duck at the same time. We could coincidentally all end up with drawings that look more or less the same. You can't tell what the intention was (duck, rabbit, or rabbit-duck) by looking at the implementation (the physical markings are the same for all three cases).

reighley said...

Mr Green,

"That is, there is one particular place where I was in fact intending the decimal point to go, out of the infinite number of possibilities that could all be implemented by the same machine. Nothing in the adder can pinpoint the one meaning I had in mind."

I think the introduction of an adding machine only confuses the issue. Perhaps nothing in the adder can pinpoint what you had in mind, but the system in question here is you and not the calculator. Can I look inside _you_ and determine what you mean. Otherwise we are saying nothing about computationalism.

My point is that if I only had to cover finitely many quadding functions, then I could actually produce evidence that I was adding for real. I could eliminate all the quadds by doing a single sum. There may be infinite quadds, but if human beings have a bound on what they can possibly have "in mind" then I can ignore most of those quadds.

goddinpotty said...

@Eduardo: But deep down the pragmatic approach is not the same as the realist approach. ...
Now this what I am talking to you is why people were so ... baffled when you presented pragmatism the wya you did, you are of course a realist that simply tries to cut things in a certain metric... but of course not the hard core pragmatic type.

I don't think I want to get into a long discussion of pragmatism at the end of this very long comment thread, but let me just say that it is perfectly compatible with realism; in my view, it is the most realist metaphysics possible.

Eduardo said...

Well sure no problem.

Well you know all I can say is that suurrreee ... Maybe your type it might, but then again that is just what you saying.

Well cheers someday there might be one post about pragmatism and then, maybe... You will talk more about it.

Anonymous said...

At the same time that the Heisenberg uncertainty principles were established, quantum physics acknowledged that the intrusive experimental measurements that provided the data used in the mathematical formulations of quantum theory conferred on subatomic objects and events indeterminate character...It follows, therefore, that the indeterminacy cannot be intrinsic to subatomic reality.

Mr. Green said...

Reighley: Perhaps nothing in the adder can pinpoint what you had in mind, but the system in question here is you and not the calculator. Can I look inside _you_ and determine what you mean.

The computationalist claim is that I am an adder (a really fancy one, to be sure, but at the end of the day an adder all the same). If that's true, then looking at me will not tell you anything more than looking at my little brother. So either I don't really intend "addition" specifically or "duck" specifically, or else I do and my mind cannot be just a computer.

My point is that if I only had to cover finitely many quadding functions, then I could actually produce evidence that I was adding for real. I could eliminate all the quadds by doing a single sum. There may be infinite quadds, but if human beings have a bound on what they can possibly have "in mind" then I can ignore most of those quads.

I think you're looking at it backwards. You can't ignore most of the quadditions, because even if you did sums for the rest of your life, you could exclude only a finite number of them. There would always be an infinity of possibilities left. But you don't need to do an infinite number of sums to know what you are intending. "Producing evidence" is the only way for a machine to "know" what it really means (and that's impossible, because it would have to produce infinite evidence). You can know what you mean because you have intentionality and can sidestep the need for doing sums in the first place.

reighley said...

Green,
"There would always be an infinity of possibilities left."

Here again is exactly the statement I am suspicious of, offered without much in the way of justification.

If the machine could conceivably be any quadder at all, then I would need infinite evidence and I could take Kripke's argument as working against computationalism.

But Kripke's argument assumes rather than proves that infinite evidence is required. For it is not sufficient (in my mind) to observe that infinite quadders exist abstractly. I must also know that the machine in question could actually be any one of those infinite number of quadders.

However, a good computationalist is going to dispute this by observing that if I actually was a finite machine, there would only, really, be a finite number of quadders I could possibly be.

Indeed, it seems to me that (machine or not) I do feel rather finite. So the proposition that I am capable of absolutely arbitrary feets of intention makes me uncomfortable with the idea of intention, much more than with mechanism.

Mr. Green said...

Reighley: However, a good computationalist is going to dispute this by observing that if I actually was a finite machine, there would only, really, be a finite number of quadders I could possibly be.

I think I see what you mean. It may be easier to see with the "123"/"1.23" example. Exactly the same adder is capable of adding 123, 1.23, 12.3, 0.123, 123,000, etc. You don't need infinite evidence of this, it's simply a fact of arithmetic that there are an infinite number of values that can be added this way using exactly the same hardware and software. The only difference in each case is the interpretation. The adding machine just takes low or high voltage input and generates low or high voltage output. (You don't have to be infinite to know that; we can figure it out by abstract reasoning.)

Only finite evidence is needed to know that the adder can cover all those possibilities. (Just examine the programming.) We could examine your programming too, but if you are just a computer, then the interpretation of your output will ultimately depend on the interpretation of your inputs too. So you couldn't mean or intend (unless you are being programmed by someone else, such as Feser's mention of "occasionalism" where we're all being "operated" by God!).

reighley said...

Green,
That's close enough for me. The core of the argument is just that I expect a finite machine to be verifiable finitely.

"So you couldn't mean or intend (unless you are being programmed by someone else"

As an aside I don't really have a problem with the idea that the adding machine might actually mean or intend something, and so have immaterial aspects just as I do. The adding machines construction might forbid it from distinguishing between different possible interpretations of the word "add". In which case if we tried to tell it that it was not adding but quadding it might be justified in insisting that there was no difference, and that it was actually meaning or intending both things with the same thought.

Meaning is use, after all.

I suspect that human reason operates under similar limitations (unable to distinguish between two concepts that are actually different).

@Mr. Green

Sorry for my late reply. I hope somebody is still reading this.

1. If the following is too mathematical, just jump to the bold part.

I have thought about your example. I dont think it solves the problem. What if we presuppose an interpretation? Then we can tell wether its an finite restriction of the addition function. I think that the original quus-example, too, presupposes a given interpretation for the input and output.

But even if assume that an interpretation for the input and output symbols is not given, then this could not prove that matter is indeterminate.

Here is why:

Let A be some machine, S a set of symbols and I1, I2 etc.. different interpretations of the symbols in S.

Let s1->A->s2 denote the situation which obtains, if the machine A produces output s2 given input s1.

And let I1(s) denote the specific I1-interpretation of the symbol s.

Now, you claim that if there is a set of different functions {f1, f2 etc...} with:

(s1->A->s2 implies f1(I1(s1))=I1(s2) and f2(I2(s1))=I2(s2) etc.. for every symbol s1 and s2 in S.)

then it is not determined which function A realizes.

Example: In your example, A = an adder. S={Symbols for the natural numbers}={"1", "2", etc...}

I1 = natural number interpretation of the symbols in S

I2 = decimal interpretation, with decimalpoint after the first position from right.

So if I interpret the strings "123", "200" as natural numbers, i.e. I1("123")=123, I1("200")=200, and put them into the machine the machine will realize an operation on the natural numbers and at the same time an operation on the rational numbers, i.e.

"123, 200" -> Adder -> "323",

and I1("123")+I1("200")= I1("323")

at the same time I2("123")=12.3, I2("200")=20.0 and I2("323")=32.3, with

I2("123")+I2("200")= I2("323")

and this is true for every input and output of A on S.

So, you conclude, that the adder does not determine one and only only function, and from this you conclude that matter is undetermined regarding which function it realizes.

But here is the problem: It does not matter what the symbols are. I can use as symbols the natural numbers themselves. So let S be the natural numbers.

Then I can use the ordinary addition function to realize different functions.

Define I1(n) = n, and let I2(n) denote the rational number, which you get if you put the decimal point after the first place in the decimal representation of the natural number n. E.G. I1(123) is just the natural number 123, and I2(123) is the rational number 12.3

So my symbol set are the natural numbers themselves and my "machine" is the addition function.

It is therefore true for every natural number n, m

n+m=p implies that I1(n)+I1(m)=I1(p)
and I2(n)+I2(m)=I2(p).

But you cannot condlude that it is undetermined which function addition realizes.

In essence: The addition function itself can be used to realize different "incompossible" functions

The conclusion is:
The possibility to give different interpretations to the input and output symbols of a machine cannot prove the indeterminacy of matter, since functions themselves would be interderminate.

My solution would be that the machine does indeed realize exactly one function, and that is a function which operates on its set of input and output symbols.

2. Mr. Green: "You can't tell whether something is a good bicycle or a bad bus just by looking at it — if physically it has the structure of a bicycle, then that's what it does, even if you intended to build a bus."

I dont agree. If the predicate "bicycle" is well-defined, then it is either true or false that the thing you are looking at is a bicycle. There is no middle option.

If you cannot tell whether the thing before you is a bicycle, then, probably, you just dont know what a bicycle is. (This is not intended to be as polemical as it sounds).

"Suppose you intend to draw a rabbit, and I intend to draw a duck; and Ludwig decides to draw something that looks like both a rabbit and a duck at the same time. We could coincidentally all end up with drawings that look more or less the same. You can't tell what the intention was (duck, rabbit, or rabbit-duck) by looking at the implementation (the physical markings are the same for all three cases)."

True, you cannot tell the intention. But that is besides the point. If you know what the expressions "to be a representation of a rabbit", "to be a representation of a duck" and "to be a representation of both" mean, then you should be, in principle at least, be able to tell whether you have a representation of a duck, a rabbit or both before you. (inclusive or) Matter is determined.

David Brightly said...

Mr Green,

Re your 13 May comment to me. Thanks for addressing my argument.
1. Surely a teleological account of a physical machine (and I take no position on that) need have nothing to do with the intentions of its designer. The purposes in nature are merely put to use to serve his purposes, about which we can be silent.
2. I don't follow your remarks about convenience. Ed's argument, as I see it, is that machines lack a certain something that makes what they do 'definite'. To do this he argues that we can't describe what a machine does without reference to its designer's intentions. I show that this isn't true. The adder computes a subset of the extension of what we call the addition function. That's just a nice compact way of saying what output goes with what input. It's perfectly definite and says nothing about the designer's intentions, no? To refute this you need to persuade me it does say something about the designer's intentions. No one has come anywhere near doing this.
3. I withdraw the bus/bicycle comparison---it's an unproductive side argument, but I second radp's last comment.

Mr. Green said...

David Brightly: Surely a teleological account of a physical machine (and I take no position on that) need have nothing to do with the intentions of its designer.

Certainly, we can physically describe the operation of the machine without any reference to intentions. That indeed is Kripke's point. If our minds were "just" brains, which can be described without any reference to our intentions, then our intentions would have to come from somewhere other than our brains. The problem isn't that the machine (matter) or operations are in any way indeterminate, it's that any attempt to tie it to intentions will be indeterminate.

Radp: If the predicate "bicycle" is well-defined, then it is either true or false that the thing you are looking at is a bicycle. There is no middle option.

In terms of matter or operation, yes. Again, there is a problem only when we try to tie it to intentions: if your intention was to build a bus, then ending up with a bicycle means something went horribly wrong. But you can't tell by looking at the finished "bike", for the very reason you say — the physical definition of bicycle is fixed; a teleological account in terms of what it does simply bypasses the interpretation.

True, you cannot tell the intention [drawing of duck or rabbit]. But that is besides the point.

No, that is the point here. The intention is something apart from the implementation. And it's precisely because "matter is determined". The operation or implementation is determinate. And the intention is determinate. But the one cannot be reduced to the other (because any attempt to reduce it to the operation would be Indeterminate, there is no one-to-one function between intention and implementation). If minds were machines (in the relevant sense), then there couldn't be such a mismatch.

Joe said...

I'm really amazed at how badly Vincent and GIP are missing the point. Yes, given knowledge of computer science etc., we know that such-and-such is a logic gate, that the machine is adding, etc. But that (rather obviously) presupposes that the machine was designed by people who themselves had knowledge of computer science, for the purpose of instantiating such and such a program. Kripke's point is that you are not in principle going to be able to determine what the machine is doing in the absence of such background knowledge; that is to say, you are not going to read it off from those properties of the machine that can be defined entirely in terms of physics, with no reference to the intentions of the designers.

So, to refute Kripke, you have to find some property or properties of the machine which (a) make no reference whatsoever, not even implicitly, to the intentions of people who design logic gates, write programs, etc. but still (b) suffice all by themselves to determine that the machine is running this program rather than that. Good luck.

The physical properties you are looking for are the exact schematic layout for all the electrical components including transistors in the computer. Given this information, you can determine how the computer will react on a physical level to any input without knowing the intention behind either the input or the device itself. Ask anyone with a background in reverse engineering who works on electrical devices, it's what we do for a living.
The argument that component failure may be intentional, and therefore indistinguishable from a desired feature is interesting. There is a whole sub-field within engineering which is focused on how and why parts will fail. In some designs, certain pieces are designed to fail in specific ways (like a fuse). Without going into to much technical detail, mechanical and electrical failures exhibit different physical characteristics when they occur as part of a designed feature then when they occur as an actual failure.
The main flaw in Kripke's argument is that the behavior of a program on a computer is dependent on the hardware of the computer, not the other way around. A plus in a computer program has, at a fundamental level, a physical nature, and a quus has a different physical nature. They can only be confused by someone who does not understand the nature of a computer.
The fact that a human could use a quus unknowingly while calling it a plus is actually a much more compelling argument against the brain being essentially a computer then Kripke's argument that computers are not governed exclusively by physical properties.

Conor said...

"The physical properties you are looking for are the exact schematic layout for all the electrical components including transistors in the computer." (Emphasis mine)

Not to haunt a dead thread, but you do realize that your use of the word "schematic" merely underscores Kripke's argument and makes whatever point you're trying to make at best trivial, and at worst point-missing.