Re: Sum ergo cogito ? Symbolic situated-consciousness?

Sheldon Klein (sklein@CS.WISC.EDU)
Tue, 2 Jul 1996 11:02:30 -0500

It was a question asked by Mike Shupp, and a second response is in order:

To Jess, Reply 2.

>> "People don't think- they just think they think."
>>A decade ago, this was good for smiles all around.
>>Now, to my dismay, it's taken seriously.

To which JS Cook III replied,
>If you were to qualify that statement by adding "Some" at the beginning, I
>don't see why it shouldn't be taken seriously. Maybe the students of a decade
>ago took it literally and the students of today are supplying the missing

When I've said this to classes its been in discussions about
whether machines can ever 'think'. In that context,
"PEOPLE don't think, they just THINK they think,''
only universal quantifiers are implied.

In mentioning quantification you touch upon the point hidden
in the quip-- on the surface, the paradox is a joke--

But the use of meta-language by living organisms is demonstrable only for
humans (unless you count DNA/RNA).
Sometimes it is said that humans are the only creatures
capable of thinking "I know that I know," "I know that I know that I know,"
etc. and that this ability is fundamental to human consciousness.

In denying consciousness on the surface level, one must reference it in the
meta-language of the denial.

"People don't think, they just think they think." is another form of the
kind of paradox that led to Bertrand Russell's Theory of Types
[Whitehead & Russell, Principia Mathematica ]--
and includes traditional conundrums such as,

"All Cretans are Liars. I am a Cretan"

and [A two-sided card on one side of which is written]:
"The statement on the other side of this card is true."
[and on the other side is written]:
"The statement on the other side of this card is false."

[The logical problems involved led to notions of higher-order predicate
calculus that rely on quantification of quantifier statements and
quantification of quantifiers of quantifiers....

a situation which was ultimately resolved to the satisfaction of logicians
by the invention of recursive function theory (Kleene & Rosser).]

The source of the paradox is in the inadequacies of language-based
category systems. Paradoxes are inevitable in category systems
of global extent after they attain much complexity.

Would this imply that controversies about the effect of language
on human perception of 'reality' arise only because of the effect of
language on human perception of 'language' vs 'reality'?

Sheldon Klein
Computer Sciences Dept.
Linguistics Dept.
University of Wisconsin-Madison