The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Symbol Grounding and the Origin of Language

Harnad, Stevan (2002) Symbol Grounding and the Origin of Language In, Scheutz, M. (eds.) Computationalism: New Directions. Evolving Consciousness MIT Press pp. 143-158.

Record type: Book Section

Abstract

Many special problems crop up when evolutionary theory turns, quite naturally, to the question of the adaptive value and causal role of consciousness in human and nonhuman organisms. One problem is that -- unless we are to be dualists, treating it as an independent nonphysical force -- consciousness could not have had an independent adaptive function of its own, over and above whatever behavioral and physiological functions it "supervenes" on, because evolution is completely blind to the difference between a conscious organism and a functionally equivalent (Turing Indistinguishable) nonconscious "Zombie" organism: In other words, the Blind Watchmaker, a functionalist if ever there was one, is no more a mind reader than we are. Hence Turing-Indistinguishability = Darwin-Indistinguishability. It by no means follows from this, however, that human behavior is therefore to be explained only by the push-pull dynamics of Zombie determinism, as dictated by calculations of "inclusive fitness" and "evolutionarily stable strategies." We are conscious, and, more important, that consciousness is piggy-backing somehow on the vast complex of unobservable internal activity -- call it "cognition" -- that is really responsible for generating all of our behavioral capacities. Hence, except in the palpable presence of the irrational (e.g., our sexual urges) where distal Darwinian factors still have some proximal sway, it is as sensible to seek a Darwinian rather than a cognitive explanation for most of our current behavior as it is to seek a cosmological rather than an engineering explanation of an automobile's behavior. Let evolutionary theory explain what shaped our cognitive capacity (Steklis & Harnad 1976; Harnad 1996, but let cognitive theory explain our resulting behavior.

HTML harnad02.symlang.htm - Other
Download (44kB)

More information

Published date: 2002
Additional Information: Address: Amsterdam
Venue - Dates: Evolving Consciousness, 2002-01-01
Keywords: language, evolution, categorisation, learning, symbol grounding
Organisations: Web & Internet Science

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 257714
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/257714
PURE UUID: aa81f4b0-49d8-4c58-a606-dd620b3e4d43

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 19 Jun 2003
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 09:37

Export record

Contributors

Author: Stevan Harnad
Editor: M. Scheutz

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×