Computation Is Just Interpretable Symbol Manipulation: Cognition Isn't


Harnad, Stevan (1994) Computation Is Just Interpretable Symbol Manipulation: Cognition Isn't. Minds and Machines, 4, 379-390.

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Description/Abstract

Computation is interpretable symbol manipulation. Symbols are objects that are manipulated on the basis of rules operating only on the symbols' shapes , which are arbitrary in relation to what they can be interpreted as meaning. Even if one accepts the Church/Turing Thesis that computation is unique, universal and very near omnipotent, not everything is a computer, because not everything can be given a systematic interpretation; and certainly everything can't be given every systematic interpretation. But even after computers and computation have been successfully distinguished from other kinds of things, mental states will not just be the implementations of the right symbol systems, because of the symbol grounding problem: The interpretation of a symbol system is not intrinsic to the system; it is projected onto it by the interpreter. This is not true of our thoughts. We must accordingly be more than just computers. My guess is that the meanings of our symbols are grounded in the substrate of our robotic capacity to interact with that real world of objects, events and states of affairs that our symbols are systematically interpretable as being about.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Special Issue on "What Is Computation" Minds and Machines 4:379-390 [Also appears in French translation in Penser l'Esprit: Des Sciences de la Cognition a une Philosophie Cognitive, V. Rialle & D. Fisette, Eds. Presses Universite de Grenoble. 1996]
Divisions: Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering > Electronics and Computer Science > Web & Internet Science
ePrint ID: 253361
Date Deposited: 25 May 2000
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014 19:55
Further Information:Google Scholar
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/253361

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