Where does computations occur, in Mind or in Matter?


Short and silly question, but it opens-up to a separation of idealism and materialism on the basis of information.

If computations (in the scenario of a materialistic-computational perspective of the world) occur in matter, then said computation looks like some interaction (of what precisely, some generalized concept of discrete units ?); but said interaction executes then outside of these units, since it would be otherwise a negation of this "discretization": the units would need some universal medium to interact.

It then seems that the argument from a computational world needs to borrow from the mental perspective at least the idea of some medium of interaction (which can be exemplified by a force, a field, etc.), and that requires either a renewed redefinition of "matter" or the integration of some mild acceptance of idealism. I am maybe missing something as to how a computational-physicalist would build a representation to truly avoid any hint of idealism (as the general concept of things happening in some mind, be it a very natural and universal mind).

In the end, isn't the notion of "information" just a trick to avoid the use of the world Mind (by using an intermediate word which seems more physicalist) ?


Posted 2020-06-15T09:04:02.543

Reputation: 255


I agree with you... Is information a third realm, different from Mind and Body, and we have difficulties to imagine it only because we are still victim of Descartes' spell ? Otherwise, The Computational Theory of Mind is "a good model for the mind", in which case the fact that we have a physical model of the mind does not implies necessarily that the mind is physical (aircrafts are "good models" of birds but birds are not made of steel).

– Mauro ALLEGRANZA – 2020-06-15T11:03:56.773


Possibly related wrt. information: https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/69789/9274

– kutschkem – 2020-06-16T12:01:43.210

@kutschkem: I think the link relates to a definition where information is taken as "matter in motion", change of matter and its arrangement; in a way, it may imply that we are (or contain) a fixed state(s) from which variation of matter can be measured (hence establishing the comparative point upon which re-arrangement of matter produces what's commonly known as information). Under such a view, all there is is matter, information is a convenience word. My take is rather: suppose there's only matter, suppose also we're not in some monism, how do "bits" of matter interact ? – Gloserio – 2020-06-16T12:34:37.930

@Gloserio Matter obviously interacts physically. But again, computation is abstract, a turing machine is 1) the current state of the memory 2) a small internal state like where the head is 3) a transition function which tells the machine what state is next. All of this is abstract, but of course needs to be physically realized. So, we have a (physical) state that represents the (abstract) information, and we have some (physical) process of interactions that represents the (abstract) computation, and we end up with a new (physical) state that represents the new (abstract) state. – kutschkem – 2020-06-16T15:03:16.190

@kutschkem: I think I didn't make myself clear, I am concerned with a physical computational univers, so my comment relates to a very general definition of computation. Regarding the scope of your argument, which I find reasonnable by the commun definition of the words "information" and "computation", you're accepting information to be represented with a state of matter (a bit is stored in some capacity or whatever). (1/2) – Gloserio – 2020-06-16T17:34:02.417

@kutschkem: Representation is fine and well, as we could talk of the univers resembling some form of a computation, but once we transpose from representation to ontology, therein starts trouble. There's just some step were you have to sacrify the definition of Matter if you want to believe the univers is truly both physical and computational. Or at least so I sense, I was in fact interested with a counter argument. (2/2) – Gloserio – 2020-06-16T17:36:25.480

No answers