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Mind, computational theories of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-W007-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

The computational theory of mind (CTM) is the theory that the mind can be understood as a computer or, roughly, as the ‘software program’ of the brain. It is the most influential form of ‘functionalism’, according to which what distinguishes a mind is not what it is made of, nor a person’s behavioural dispositions, but the way in which the brain is organized. CTM underlies some of the most important research in current cognitive science, for example, theories of artificial intelligence, perception, decision making and linguistics.

CTM involves a number of important ideas. (1) Computations can be defined over syntactically specifiable symbols (that is, symbols specified by rules governing their combination) possessing semantic properties (or ‘meaning’). For example, addition can be captured by rules defined over decimal numerals (symbols) that name the numbers. (2) Computations can be analysed into ‘algorithms’, or simple step-by-step procedures, each of which could be carried out by a machine. (3) Computation can be generalized to include not only arithmetic, but deductive logic and other forms of reasoning, including induction, abduction and decision making. (4) Computations capture relatively autonomous levels of ordinary psychological explanation different from neurophysiology and descriptions of behaviour.

Citing this article:
Block, Ned and Georges Rey. Mind, computational theories of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-W007-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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