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Conceptual Atomism and the Computational Theory of Mind: A defense of content-internalism and semantic externalism (Advances in Consciousness Research) [Hardcover]

by John-Michael Kuczynski
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Book Description

August 23, 2007 902725205X 978-9027252050
What is it to have a concept? What is it to make an inference? What is it to be rational? On the basis of recent developments in semantics, a number of authors have embraced answers to these questions that have radically counterintuitive consequences, for example:
• One can rationally accept self-contradictory propositions (e.g.
Smith is a composer and Smith is not a composer). • Psychological states are causally inert: beliefs and desires do nothing.
• The mind cannot be understood in terms of folk-psychological concepts (e.g. belief, desire, intention).
• One can have a single concept without having any others: an otherwise conceptless creature could grasp the concept of justice or of the number seven.
• Thoughts are sentence-tokens, and thought-processes are driven by the syntactic, not the semantic, properties of those tokens.

In the first half of Conceptual Atomism and the Computational Theory of Mind, John-Michael Kuczynski argues that these implausible but widely held views are direct consequences of a popular doctrine known as content-externalism, this being the view that the contents of one’s mental states are constitutively dependent on facts about the external world. Kuczynski shows that content-externalism involves a failure to distinguish between, on the one hand, what is literally meant by linguistic expressions and, on the other hand, the information that one must work through to compute the literal meanings of such expressions.
The second half of the present work concerns the Computational Theory of Mind (CTM). Underlying CTM is an acceptance of conceptual atomism – the view that a creature can have a single concept without having any others – and also an acceptance of the view that concepts are not descriptive (i.e. that one can have a concept of a thing without knowing of any description that is satisfied by that thing). Kuczynski shows that both views are false, one reason being that they presuppose the truth of content-externalism, another being that they are incompatible with the epistemological anti-foundationalism proven correct by Wilfred Sellars and Laurence Bonjour. Kuczynski also shows that CTM involves a misunderstanding of terms such as “computation”, “syntax”, “algorithm” and “formal truth”; and he provides novel analyses of the concepts expressed by these terms. (Series A)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 541 pages
  • Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Company (August 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 902725205X
  • ISBN-13: 978-9027252050
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 6.6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,283,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Some systems (e.g. clouds) consist of parts that do not exchange information with one another. (Water molecules do not intercommunicate.) Other systems (e.g. the stock market) consist of parts that do exchange information with one another. (Stock-brokers do intercommunicate.) Given a system of the second kind, to what extent is it possible to make principled predictions about that system from within that system? This is the question that I am currently trying to answer. The answer to it, whatever it might turn out to be, is to be understood in terms of the following principles. (1) Information must be encrypted if it is to be stored. (It must be written down, photographed, etc., and the corresponding inscriptions, etc. must be encoded in brainwaves, electrical activity, etc.) (2) There are many different ways of encrypting a given piece of information. (3) Information-transmission involves information-degradation. (4) Information cannot be transmitted instantaneously. (5) A given body of information changes more slowly than the events with which that body of data is concerned. (6) If a given body of information is itself a constituent of the system of events with which it is concerned, it affects that system. (7) When beliefs concern systems to which they themselves belong, those beliefs tend to be false, as opposed to merely inaccurate, and they also tend to be unprincipled, as opposed to merely false.

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Kuczynki's book has many virtues, and a couple of vices.

First, his analyses are swift and breathtaking. The rigor of his writing is immediatly apparent. It commands respect. And his command of the literature is astounding.

There are two problems with his book.

First, it is too long, and it is too loaded with footnotes. One worries that there may be some reducancy with a book this long.

The main problem with his book is that it does not exhibt unity. There is not a sense that Chapters connect up in such a way that we have a unifed manuscript.

Still, I would recommend this book. Selected Chapters from his book could be usefully used for upper-divsion courses in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of psychology.
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