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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

14 - Not Even Computing Machines Can Follow Rules

Summary

Conceiving of our mental capacities on the model of a computing machine is a natural and sound way both to stave off skepticism about the epistemic reliability of those capacities and to provide a scientific metaphysics for mental states. The computational mechanism underlying the mental actions of a human being could provide a clear account of what those actions consist in and how they work. The core idea of Saul Kripke's refutation of functionalism is that functionalists fail to recognize a deep problem engendered by the distinction central to functionalism: namely, "the distinction between the abstract diagram of an abstract mathematical automaton, and the physical machines themselves that realize the diagram". One functionalist response to Kripke's problem is to invoke counterfactuals to describe what physical computing machines (PCM) would compute if it never malfunctions, and has infinitely many memory cells.
Kripke, SaulWittgenstein on Rules and Private LanguageCambridgeHarvard University Press 1982
Fodor, JerryRepresentations: Philosophical Essays on the Foundations of Cognitive ScienceCambridgeMIT Press 1981
Dummett, M. A. E.Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of MathematicsThe Philosophical Review 68 1959 324