Philosophy Hurts Your Head

The blog of a cranky Philosophy PhD Student from Newcastle, Australia.

Mind and Meaning – Arg!

Posted by Sam D on May 12, 2006

Here’s a problem I’ve hit in my doctoral research:
I have been looking for a way to resolve certain issues in AI, philosophy of Mind and Philosophy of Language. I thought that I could do this by using a combination of Saul Kripke’s sceptical solution and David Chalmers’ account of conciousness, particularly the idea of organisational invariance.

However, it’s become obvious that Kripke’s solution to the rule-following paradox is essentially functionalist, and is therefore prone to the issues of functional isopmorphs with no conscious or phenominal experience going on ‘inside’. This is a problem because one of the sticking points in showing how a manufactured intelligence can ‘mean’ something by a certain word is that the entity might have no concious expereince. According to JR Searle (and I’m inclined to agree) this is a problem, because ‘meaning’ something by a word requires conciousness as nessecary but insufficient factor.

It seems a problem if even a sceptical account of meaning is prone to the same arguments that are employed against materialism and functionalism.


6 Responses to “Mind and Meaning – Arg!”

  1. MH said

    As something of an aside on the topic of rule-following, track down a copy of H.L.A. Hart’s ‘The Concept of Law’. Hart undertakes an interesting analysis of rule-following post-Wittgenstein. Wish I had had known about it prior to the whole Kripke incident last year.

  2. Thanks I’ll do that.
    The craziness just continues. I keep on coming up with exciting theories about meaning, but none of them constiute a ‘straight’ solution, rather a complex fleshing out of a sceptical one, which I am increasingly less happy with.

  3. MH said

    Kripke will do that to you …

    As I have argued, extensively in your presence, the demands for a straight solution to problem are misguided because the problem only exists if you start from a presumption that words as used have fixed meanings. I fail to understand how this presumption could survive rigorous criticism, but it seems to go unchallenged in Kripke. If you deny the presumption then it seems as though the sceptical models work … And it seems as though Wittgenstein avoids all the problems that Kripke, and the monster Kripkenstein, create for him.

    But this is your thesis not my minor dissertation, so I’ll defer to your more expansive knowledge of the nature of the problem.

    Though, have you thought about how you would construct an artificial intelligence that does not rely on a straight account of meaning? Especially given that it is possible that human intelligence does not rely on a straight account of meaning …

  4. Well that was helpful.

  5. Well I am sure that human intelligence does not rely on a straight account of meaning. I’m thinking of focusing heavily on how to explain this, a sort of ‘metaphysics of meaning’. Some sort of non-reductionist,( and possibly non-physical) account is a possibility I am considering at this time. If I have any room left over, I will have some suggestions for AI, but that side of things has become more secondary. I know what you mean about the straight vs sceptical issue. Kripke digs his own hole by setting up this division. I am rapidly failing to see what is wrong with saying that ‘the fact in vitue of which we mean X by X etc’ is agreement. For me this is not the difficult part, nor is it the most interesting. The interaction between mind(s) and the phenomena of ‘meaning’, now there is something we know very little about.

  6. MH said

    Question – need there be an interaction between minds and meaning?

    Am assuming that you’re refering to the process where-by a mind constructs a statement which it intends to convey a certain point …

    Am still thinking about this point – there is something here, though am not sure what exactly …–>

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