HONR 258N Philosophy and Computers: From Logic to Thinking Machines?
Tuesday/Thursday, 2:00-3:15 p.m.
Dr. Christopher Cherniak, Department of Philosophy
During the past century, formal logic made its greatest progress since Aristotle. Its achievements are perhaps comparable to better-known ones of our era–for instance, relativity theory or quantum mechanics. Paradoxically, the main results of mathematical logic are negative, demonstrating absolute as well as practical limits on all computing: simple, clear problems that an ideal machine the size of the Universe could never solve. Engineering technology of actual digital computers grew directly out of this research on the abstract theory of computation, principally in connection with weapons projects of WW II and the Cold War (practical large-scale computation was essential in the design of nuclear weapons). A more positive outcome of the emergence of real-world computing hardware has been research on machine intelligence. Indeed, the computer model of the human mind serves as a central unifying conceptual framework of the cognitive sciences.
This course proceeds from an introduction to computation theory, to some philosophy of mind–that is, from the unsolvability results of computation theory to questions regarding whether machines can (ever) think. The first half of the course is organized around the key concept of computation theory, that of the algorithm or program-schematic. The second half focuses on the philosophical adequacy of computational psychology, the information-processing model of mind.
There are homework problem assignments in connection with the first part of the course, some to be worked out using PC instructional software developed for the course. For the second half of the course, the main requirement is a series of short essays on the philosophical issues. This is not a programming course, not does it assume any programming background.
Readings include portions of a text-in-progress by the instructor, and a set of philosophy articles.
CORE–Math and Formal Reasoning