Machine Mentality?

  • Istvan S. N. Berkeley
  • Claiborne Rice
Part of the Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics book series (SAPERE, volume 5)


A common dogma of cognitive science is that cognition and computation are importantly related to one another. Indeed, this association has a long history, connected to older uses of the term ’computer’. This paper begins with a brief examination of the history of the association between computers and putatively thinking machines. However, one important place where the modern sense of this association is made explicit is in Turing’s (1950) paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence’. The proposals that Turing makes in this paper have been the subject of considerable debate. Here, the details of Turing’s claims will be examined closely and it will be argued that two importantly distinct claims need to be discerned, in order to make good sense of some of Turing’s remarks. The first claim, which may be construed as an ontological one, relates to whether or not the class of entities that ’think’ includes computational devices. The second claim, which is more of a semantic one, relates to whether or not we can meaningfully and coherently assert sentences concerning ’thinking’ about computational devices. It is the second of these claims which will be the main focus of most of the rest of the paper. In particular, four methods will be employed to determine whether Turing’s prediction about this issue has come true. The methods examined are an intuitive one, a web based one and two corpus linguistic approaches, one using the Google Books corpus, the other using the Corpus of Contemporary American English. Attention is then briefly turned to the ontological claim and two objections to it are examined. It will finally be argued that, while it is okay to talk of computers ’thinking’ and to attribute some mental properties and predicates to them in certain cases, the membership of computers in the class of ’thinking things’ must remain just an intriguing possibility.


Turing Computational Thought Corpus Linguistics 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy and Cognitive ScienceThe University of Louisiana at LafayetteLafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Department of EnglishThe University of Louisiana at LafayetteLafayetteUSA

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