Consciousness and Cognition: Semiotic Conceptions of Bodies and Minds
Fetzer (James)
Source: Smith & Jokic - Consciousness: New Philosophical Essays
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

    Considerations adduced within this study suggest that the computational conception--in versions advanced by Haugeland, by Dennett, and by Chalmers--confronts insuperable problems, which stem from inadequate understanding of psychophysical laws and from static and dynamic differences between the modes of operation of digital machines and of thinking things. The theory of minds as semiotic systems explains more of the available evidence and thereby provides a preferable conception of consciousness and cognition.
  1. A comprehensive and complete theory of mentality, including an account of the nature of consciousness and of cognition, would have to include at least the following three ingredients familiar from classical philosophy of mind, namely: a theory of mind, a solution to the mind–body problem, and a resolution of the problem of other minds. This enquiry has the purpose of guiding a summary of the theory of minds as sign-using (or ‘semiotic’) systems and to explain how this approach can solve the mind–body problem (by means of a nomological theory of mind-body interaction) and can resolve the problem of other minds (on the basis of epistemic principles supplied by inference to the best explanation).
  2. This approach appears to fulfil the desideratum advanced by Jerry Fodor – namely; that a cognitive theory aims at connecting the intensional properties of mental states with their causal properties vis-a-vis behaviour – by employing the concept of a sign as something that stands for something else in some respect or other for somebody as a foundation for understanding the nature of a mind, where minds are those kinds of things for which something can stand for something else in some respect or other. It successfully connects the intensional properties of mental states with their causal properties vis-a-vis behaviour, but it also contradicts the popular view of minds as digital machines.
  3. Virtually from conception, the discipline of cognitive science has been dominated by the computational paradigm, according to which cognition is nothing more than computation across representations. Minds are symbol systems (in the sense of Newell and Simon, 1976), the relation of minds and. bodies is that of software to hardware, and the problem of other minds resolved by means of the Turing test. John Haugeland has formulated the theses that sustain this conception by observing that, on this approach, thinking is reasoning, reasoning is reckoning, reckoning is computation, and the boundaries of computability define the boundaries of thought ("Haugeland (John) - Semantic Engines: An introduction to Mind Design", 1981). It is an appealing conception.
  1. The Chinese Room (Again)
  2. Simulation and Replication1
  3. Chalmers’s Conception
  4. Chalmers’s Misconception
  5. Chalmersian Supervenience2
  6. Chalmers’s Sleight-of-Hand
  7. Maximal Specificity
  8. A Broader Approach
  9. Minds as Semiotic Systems
  10. Iconic Mentality
  11. Indexical Mentality
  12. Symbolic Mentality
  13. Language and Mentality
  14. Concepts and Cognition
  15. Dennett’s Alternative
  16. Action and Meaning
  17. The Meaning of Mental States
  18. The Role of Rationality
  19. Psychophysical Laws
  20. Minds and Brains
  21. Mind-Body Interaction
  22. Brains and Behaviour
  23. The Nature of Perception
  24. Icons, Indices, Symbols
  25. Turing Machines
  26. The Static Difference
  27. The Dynamic Difference
  28. Ordinary Human Thought
  29. Inference to the Best Explanation
  30. The Problem of Other Minds


Part Three: Consciousness and the Brain, Chapter 10

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