The Ockham Society (Thursday - Week 6, TT19)

Ockham Society

Advances in computer science raise the question whether the human mind itself operates as a computing machine. In this talk we will focus on two prominent computational-representational theories of mind: 

1.    Fodor’s Language of Thought (LOT) hypothesis, and
2.    Connectionism.

LOT postulates that thinking takes place in a mental language, which consists of a system of representations, and proceeds by forming symbolic-syntactic relations between these representations.

Connectionism aims to describe the nature of cognitive information processing by interconnected networks of simple units of neurons. This approach is inspired by both the physiological structure of neural connections in the brain and the applications of AI such as Deep Learning.

We will first contextualize computational theories of mind in the general functionalist approach to mental phenomena, and clarify the notion of a Turing machine. Thereupon, we will address the following questions: Does the systematicity of thought require a Language of Thought (LOT) hypothesis? Is Connectionism a viable alternative account? Are these computational theories of mind mutually exclusive, or may they be regarded as complementary to one another? 

We will close by hinting at limits of computational theories of mind, in particular the problem of consciousness.

Ockham Society Convenor: Sean Costello | Ockham Society Webpage