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Michael Rescorla: Is Computation Formal?

Lecture by Michael Rescorla (University of California, Santa Barbara), organized by the Department of Theoretical Philosophy


The classical computational theory of mind (CTM) holds that mental processes are importantly similar to computations executed by a Turing machine. Proponents typically develop CTM in conjunction with a formal-syntactic picture of computation, according to which computation is sensitive to syntax but not semantics. Advocates include Jerry Fodor, Zenon Pylyshyn, C. R. Gallistel, Stephen Stich, and many others. A few philosophers (such as Tyler Burge and Christopher Peacocke) favor an alternative "content-involving" conception of computation. On the content-involving conception, certain computational descriptions characterize computational states in representational terms rather than formal syntactic terms. I sketch a content-involving version of CTM, and I argue that it offers important advantages over the formal-syntactic picture.


Michael Rescorla took his Ph.D. at Harvard and is Associated Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He works on philosophy of language, philosophy of mind (including philosophy of psychology), and philosophy of logic. His current research concerns three topics: the nature of assertion; non-propositional varieties of representation; and the relation between computational and mental processes. Publications by Rescorla can be found in such journals as Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, and Synthese.

Everybody welcome!

When & where?

Monday, June 16, 2014, from 3 to 5 p.m.
Faculty of Philosophy, Room Alpha

Last modified:06 June 2019 12.43 p.m.