Re: Searle: Is the Brain a Digital Computer?

From: Salcedo Afonso (
Date: Sun Mar 18 2001 - 21:17:22 GMT

> So how could the mind be represented as a computer program if there are
> no definitive rules for behaviour?

That's the thing. What if there is a set of simple rules that actually
define behavior, though they are not known at this time? If we look in the
general case, millions of completely different people, they all share one
common thing: the brain. They might have complete different minds and
ideas, that would yield totally different reactions, but they do share the
same inner workings of the brain. So if some scientist/philosopher, at
some point in some years time, actually gets the grasp of how these basic
set of rules function inside the brain, then probably we could build
millions of different computers that share the same basic set of rules,
but yield completely different answers... Would that be a computer with a

> Also, Salcedo comments that the mind works in different ways and
> identical
> internal processes might produce different outcomes. On the other hand,
> differing internal processes might produce the same outcomes with a
> number
> of people. How would it be possible to model this with a computer
> simuation? I argue that it would be impossible.

I think it's exactly the same theory as before. If you look at the very
basic process of how neurons work, if you could actually find a logical
set of rules that define this, then you'd be able to define a
mind... Obviously, only if the mind is actually 100% physical, inherent to
us and not something more spiritual or of higher energy than this

> What is a 'Cartesian soul'?

Cartesian dictum "I think therefore I am". In the Cartesian theory animals
are mere automata. It is only by the Divine assistance that action between
soul and body is possible.

> However, I do think that it is wrong to see the
> brain as 'just an information processing device'. I think that is what
> Searle and Salcedo are doing.

Exactly. The brain is an information processing device, but not *just* an
information processing device.

> Another point I will make is the reference made by Salcedo to the brain
> being completely interconnected to all other human senses at the same
> time. During lectures we have explored the idea of the brain being
> stripped of all external organs, such as the skin and the eyes etc. and
> the possibility that it will still function as a brain, and I just
> wondered where that idea fitted in with Salcedo's commnents. As I
> understand, he is making the assumption that in order to function as a
> brain, it has to be connected to two arms, two legs, eyes that work,
> tastebuds that work.. What happens in the case of a blind person, or
> someone who has lost their sense of taste or smell. Is Salcedo
> suggesting
> that their brains cannot function because they are not connected to all
> their human senses?

The brain does depend on all human senses at the same time. And this
includes lack of sense. I was talking about the concept, not necessarily
the functionality of it. A blind person still has a lack of visual sense,
but the concept of seeing or not seeing still exists on him/her. Sorry for
not making this clear beforehand. :)

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