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Abstract: Computation is central to the foundations of modern cognitive science, but its role is controversial. Questions about computation abound: What is it for a physical system to implement a computation? Is computation sufficient for thought? What is the role of computation in a theory of cognition? What is the relation between different sorts of computational theory, such as connectionism and symbolic computation? In this paper I develop a systematic framework that addresses all of these questions. Justifying the role of computation requires analysis of implementation, the nexus between abstract computations and concrete physical systems. I give such an analysis, based on the idea that a system implements a computation if the causal structure of the system mirrors the formal structure of the computation. This account can be used to justify the central commitments of artificial intelligence and computational cognitive science: the thesis of computational sufficiency, which holds that the right kind of computational structure suffices for the possession of a mind, and the thesis of computational explanation, which holds that computation provides a general framework for the explanation of cognitive processes. The theses are consequences of the facts that (a) computation can specify general patterns of causal organization, and (b) mentality is an organizational invariant, rooted in such patterns. Along the way I answer various challenges to the computationalist position, such as those put forward by Searle. I close by advocating a kind of minimal computationalism, compatible with a very wide variety of empirical approaches to the mind. This allows computation to serve as a true foundation for cognitive science
Abstract: The ‘Fading Qualia’ thought experiment of Chalmers purports to show that computationalism is very probably true even if dualism is true by considering a series of brains, with biological parts increasingly substituted for by artificial but functionally analagous parts in small steps, and arguing that consciousness would not plausibly vanish in either a gradual or sudden way. This defense of computationalism inspired an attack on computationalism by Bishop, who argued that a similar series of substitutions by parts that have the correct physical activity but not the correct causal relationships must likewise preserve consciousness, purportedly showing that ‘Counterfactuals Cannot Count’ and if so ruining a necessary condition for computation to meaningfully distinguish between physical systems. In this paper, the case in which a series of parts are simply removed and substituted for only by imposing the correct boundary conditions to exactly preserve the functioning of the remaining partial brain is described. It is argued that consciousness must gradually vanish in this case, not by fading but by becoming more and more partial. This supports the non-centralized nature of consciousness, tends to support the plausibility of physicalism against dualism, and provides the proper counterargument to Bishop’s contention. It also provides an avenue of attack against the “Fading Qualia” argument for those who remain dualists
Abstract: A new computational methodology for executing calculations with infinite
and infinitesimal quantities is described in this paper. It is based on the
principle ‘The part is less than the whole’ introduced by Ancient Greeks and applied to all numbers (finite, infinite, and infinitesimal) and to all sets and processes (finite and infinite). It is shown that it becomes possible to write down finite, infinite, and infinitesimal numbers by a finite number of symbols as particular cases of a unique framework. The new methodology has allowed us to introduce the Infinity Computer working with such numbers (its simulator has already been realized). Examples dealing with divergent series, infinite sets, and limits are given.