Saturday, February 19, 2005

Response to Science vs. Romance Part II

I could be wrong, but it seems that describing our cognitive and conscious processes as "software" (i.e. Hilary Putnam's version of functionalism) has the possibility of eerily taking on the egoitism of the 15th century Catholic Church. It not only elevates "human software" above any other possible version, but also has positioned itself as a relevant theory of mind. The chauvanistic aspects can easily be fixed. When we discover another version (say from Martians or any other relevant lifeform), we (or the beings who posses it) can praise it's/ their own complexity and then re-develop theories describing it's place in a greater metaphysical system. Yet the tendency to eternalize one's vision of truth and their place within this truth, is a ridiculous tendency and also has been proven a condition of humanity. It is therefore unfair to ascribe any tendencies to extraordinary 'software' that may have nothing to do with our own.

It is widely known that the "software" hypothesis is a relevant theory of mind. Turing machines (both non-deterministic and deterministic) and their conceptual consequences allow us to philosophically develop this hypothesis and account for each step with probable certainty. Yet the biggest criticism of "software" or functional theories of mind come from the consideration of phenomenological arguments. Phenomenology attempts to deal with the immediacy of being. Many object to functional theories of mind because it has no capability to describe qualia (properties of sense experience). In other words, no "software" can account for explaining the direct experience of existence within the software program. The "how it feels" argument is crucial because we wouldn't be to the point of establishing theories of mind unless the mind itself caused us to feel. Software may be able to explain inputs and outputs and their causal relations, but the fact that it has no account of the qualitative aspects of consciousness is a major blow due to the fact that this same qualitative aspects give rise to the discussion in the first place. To prove itself, functionalism ("software" theory) has to say that qualitative aspects don't exist. But, as I stated earlier, it can't say this, because the qualitative feeling itself brought us to the question at hand.

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