Academic journal article Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry

On Computational Psychology

Academic journal article Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry

On Computational Psychology

Article excerpt

I have devoted a good deal of my writing through the years to showing that that project of "identifying" mental states with physical or computational states is not the straightforward scientific project it might seem at first blush to be, but a chimera. (1) That project takes two forms. The simpler form involves identifying the intentionality of our thoughts (where these are conceived of as a sort of inner writing), simply with their causal covariation with what they are about, at least in basic cases. I believe that the various attempts to spell this out are subject to disastrous counterexamples. The more complex form was my own idea of "functionalism." This idea involved seeking computational states which could be identified with our various propositional attitudes. In fact, at the beginning I hoped that the required notion of a computational state had already been made precise by the preexisting formalisms for computation theory, e.g. the Turing formalism or the theory of automata.

A formalism for computation theory implicitly defines each and every computational state by the totality of its computational relations (e.g., relations of succession, or probabilistic succession) to all the other states of the given system. In other words, the whole set of computational states of a given system are simultaneously implicitly defined; and the implicit definition individuates each of the states, in the sense of distinguishing it from all other computational states. But no actual psychological theory has ever pretended to provide a set of laws which distinguish, say, the state of being jealous of Desdemona's supposed love for Cassio from every other actual or possible propositional attitude. …

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