Article

Minds and Machines

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 345-364

First online:

Thinking and Computing: Computers as Special Kinds of Signs

  • James H. FetzerAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Minnesota

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Abstract

Cognitive science has been dominated by the computational conception that cognition is computation across representations. To the extent to which cognition as computation across representations is supposed to be a purposive, meaningful, algorithmic, problem-solving activity, however, computers appear to be incapable of cognition. They are devices that can facilitate computations on the basis of semantic grounding relations as special kinds of signs. Even their algorithmic, problem-solving character arises from their interpretation by human users. Strictly speaking, computers as such — apart from human users — are not only incapable of cognition, but even incapable of computation, properly construed. If we want to understand the nature of thought, then we have to study thinking, not computing, because they are not the same thing.

cognition cognitive science computers computing kinds of minds minds signs thinking types of signs