, Volume 141, Issue 2, pp 175–215

The First Computational Theory of Mind and Brain: A Close Look at Mcculloch and Pitts's “Logical Calculus of Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity”

  • Gualtiero Piccinini
Editorial Commentary

DOI: 10.1023/B:SYNT.0000043018.52445.3e

Cite this article as:
Piccinini, G. Synthese (2004) 141: 175. doi:10.1023/B:SYNT.0000043018.52445.3e


Despite its significance in neuroscience and computation, McCulloch and Pitts's celebrated 1943 paper has received little historical and philosophical attention. In 1943 there already existed a lively community of biophysicists doing mathematical work on neural networks. What was novel in McCulloch and Pitts's paper was their use of logic and computation to understand neural, and thus mental, activity. McCulloch and Pitts's contributions included (i) a formalism whose refinement and generalization led to the notion of finite automata (an important formalism in computability theory), (ii) a technique that inspired the notion of logic design (a fundamental part of modern computer design), (iii) the first use of computation to address the mind–body problem, and (iv) the first modern computational theory of mind and brain.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gualtiero Piccinini
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyWashington UniversityU.S.A

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