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Winston Ewert explains why the mind is not a computer

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Winston Ewert is one of the authors of Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics. Here he explains why he thinks that, once we understand clearly what a computer is, we will see why consciousness is not a form of computation:

In the world of computer science, there is a standard definition of a computer: anything that can be simulated on a Turing machine. But what is a Turing Machine?

It is an abstract machine. It is not a device that physically exists or even could physically exist. We imagine its existence in a purely mathematical realm. The machine operates on simple rules. Nevertheless, if the machine is appropriately configured, it can compute anything that any computer can, regardless of the computer’s sophistication.

So, by the standard definitions of computer science, a computer is something that can be simulated on this abstract mathematical device. But an abstract mathematical device cannot experience qualia or consciousness. If they could, we would expect mathematical formulas like the quadratic formula or the area of a sphere to experience consciousness. But that seems absurd, so we must conclude that a computer cannot exhibit consciousness. Put another way, consciousness is not a form of computation.

Winston Ewert, “Is the human mind a computer?” at Mind Matters News

Also by Winston Ewert: Remember the Luddites! The Luddites became famous for breaking machinery during the Industrial Revolution. Were they entirely wrong? It’s not as simple as some think.


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One Reply to “Winston Ewert explains why the mind is not a computer

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    News, I would add Reppert’s point:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A [–> notice, state of a wetware, electrochemically operated computational substrate], which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief [–> concious, perceptual state or disposition] that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.


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