Thinking and Computing: Computers as Special Kinds of Signs

Author: Fetzer, J.H.

Source: Minds and Machines, Volume 7, Number 3, 1997 , pp. 345-364(20)

Publisher: Springer

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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.

Keywords: cognition; cognitive science; computers; computing; kinds of minds; minds; signs; thinking; types of signs

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN 55812, U.S.A. E-mail:

Publication date: January 1, 1997

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