[ExI] Does the computational theory of mind imply a "soul"?

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Mon Apr 3 22:09:48 UTC 2023

On Mon, Apr 3, 2023, 1:00 PM Max More via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Jason, thank you for your informative and helpful reply. I think we are
> very close to agreeing on the important points.

You're most welcome. I am glad to hear that.

> I take your point about the evolution of language. I’m not ready to use
> the term “soul” while understanding it from a functionalist perspective,
> but perhaps I will at some point if I think it won’t lead to
> misunderstanding. You are right, of course, that we often retain a word
> even though our understanding of the underlying phenomenon has changed
> radically. We still use the term “calorie” even though no one believes
> there is a real fluid called caloric. We even still talk about the sun
> rising as if we are geocentrists.

Great examples.

If there were not other terms such as “mind” and “consciousness”, I would
> probably adopt “soul”.

I don't disagree with your preference and they puts you in good company. As
far as I can tell, Democritus was the first to propose that the soul = mind:

"Democritus has expressed himself more
ingeniously than the rest on the grounds for
ascribing each of these two characters to soul; soul and mind are, he says,
one and the same thing, and this thing must be one of the primary and
indivisible bodies, and its power of originating movement must be due to
its fineness of grain and the shape of its atoms; he says that of all the
shapes the spherical is the most mobile, and that this is the shape of the
particles of fire and mind."
— Aristotle in “On the Soul” (350 B.C.)

It's remarkable that in one paragraph, Democritus introduces both the
concepts of materialism, as well as reductionism to the philosophy of mind.

> There are other terms such as “demon” that we have dropped and replaced by
> terms like “mental illness” or “lesion in the x area”.We have also
> abandoned the term "phlogiston."  As of now, I’m too put off by the
> connotations of “soul” but this is a matter of taste. Your explanation
> makes sense.

That's a good point and again I like your examples. I wonder what
determines whether words are dropped vs retained and modified.

> One other area where I may disagree still – and I’m not sure about this –
> is where you say “Our consciousness may even exist in purely
> mathematical/platonic objects, or existing as a necessary consequence of
> mathematical truth.”

This is an entirely different discussion. I describe the justification for
it in that lengthy article I linked in "Why does anything exist?" There's
also a 4 hour video version of the article if you prefer
listening/watching: https://youtu.be/6hGH-roVl3w

That seems to conflict with your agreement that some physical instantiation
> is needed (and I mean to include energy in “physical”)

I believe I said some instantiation is needed but added that the
instantiation need not be a physical instantiation. Here our disagreement
is only in regards to ontology -- what we accept as real; we both agree a
real instantiation is required.

and with your agreement in disputing Moravec’s mind-as-interpretation view.

> The remaining area where I have doubt is the idea that *any* Turing
> implementation would be a conscious mind.

I do not know and would not argue that any Turing machine represents a
conscious mind.

My point was only that in any universe where it is possible to build a
Turing machine, it is possible to realize any conscious mind. That is the
potential to realize it exists. But realizing a particular mind in that
universe of course depends on whether the correct program is run.

I think that not all causal relationships that output coherent responses
> that satisfy Turing will be conscious. However, I’m years behind on my
> philosophy of mind and rusty and so I’m not going to try to defend that
> view at this time.

Note they when I say "Turing machine", I refer only to general purpose
computers (introduced in Turing's 1936 paper "On Computable Numbers). This
should not be confused with Turing's Test (introduced in his 1950 paper
"Computing Machinery and Intelligence").

I have made no comment on Turing's test in this thread, and it is a whole
other topic as to how and whether it pertains to consciousness.


> --Max
> P.S. I notice that my posts keep coming out with apostrophes replaced with
> question marks. I’m going to put this into plain text before posting and
> see if that fixes the problem.
> --
> Max More, PhD
> Director of Communications
> Biostasis Technologies
> Editor, *The transhumanist Reader*
> _______________________________________________
> extropy-chat mailing list
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
> http://lists.extropy.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/extropy-chat
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