Research Workshop: "Misconceiving the Mental: Model Instantiation and Computational Functionalism"

Tyler Millhouse (Santa Fe Institute)

Friday, April 2, 2021 (12:10-2:00 PM) via Zoom.


The "Chinese Room" thought experiment is a staple of courses in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of cognitive science. The thought experiment is the foundation for Searle's argument against computational functionalism, and the most famous reply to this argument is the "Systems Reply" (or some variant thereof). As I will argue, both the Chinese Room and the Systems Reply deeply misunderstand computational functionalism, and as a result, neither argument addresses the plausibility of the position. Rather than conduct my own assessment of computational functionalism, I focus the remainder of my attention on the nature of model instantiation in science and how the realization of models often involves the realization of properties closely analogous to mental properties--i.e., the very properties of which Searle is skeptical.  



Tyler joined SFI as a program postdoctoral fellow in February of 2021. He will be working with Melanie Mitchell and Melanie Moses, studying the nature of intelligence in natural and artificial systems and facilitating interdisciplinary workshops and outreach efforts on the subject.

Tyler's research is highly interdisciplinary, building on work in computer science, cognitive science, and philosophy to understand how agents model their environments and what predictively successful scientific models actually tell us about the world. He is especially interested in the processes by which agents/scientists construct representations of the systems they model, what makes some representations more useful or more accurate than others, and how these processes are related to analogous processes in computer science (e.g., feature extraction). At SFI, Tyler hopes to work closely with experts in cognitive science, the natural sciences, and computer science to further his research on these subjects.

In his free time, Tyler is an avid cook, programmer, and astrophotographer. He received his MA in Philosophy from Tufts University, and his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Arizona.




All Research workshops will be held via Zoom for the 2020-2021 school year. Zoom links are available on the Philosophy Major and Minor Canvas site.

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