20.082 designing mind

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2006 08:32:15 +0100

                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 82.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2006 06:52:04 +0100
         From: lachance_at_chass.utoronto.ca
         Subject: Re: 20.074 designing mind


You are perhaps not being fair to Landauer. You may be reading to suit
your polemical needs. You did get me to consult a thesaurus and reflect
upon the following chain :

artefact -- relic -- historical object

which led me to ponder the mind as a site of inscription, as both
inscribed and inscribing.

So I then revisit the first sentence in the excerpt you quote:

       The human mind is an artifact of human culture.

So in my machine translation way and inspired by the theme of inscription,
I substitue the copula for an equation sign.

       The human mind = an artifact of human culture

And as I recall from the procedures for solving equations, I cancel out
the equivalent terms on both sides:

       The mind = an artifact of culture

Apply a bit of grammatical parsing:

      "The mind" [note the definite article]
       may be more than
      "an artifact of culture" [note the indefinite article].


       The "x" = a "y" of "z"

Generate examples from the paradigm:

       The "x" = a "w" of "b"

       The mind is a world of toy-building.

Observe that putting pressure on the copula to be picked up in some modal
logic leads one to read:

       "is a" = "acts like"

Conclude that

       ontological commitment varies


Leads me to a statement-and-question echoing the subject lines of the
message and pondering how "function" meets "granularity"

       A designing mind is a designed mind.
       But is every designed mind a desiging mind?

> Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2006 11:44:01 +0100
> From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
> >
> Consider the following passage from Thomas K Landauer, "Cognitive
> Psychology and Computer System Design", in John M Carroll, ed.,
> Interfacing Thought: Cognitive Aspects of Human-Computer Interaction
> (MIT Press, 1987): 1-25:
> >The human mind is an artifact of human culture. Although it is not
> >constructed by the deliberate design of a team of people, nevertheless
> >it is just one realization of an infinitely pliable system, programmed
> >by culture, education, the knowledge base of the society, and the
> >demands of the tasks and environments in which it finds itself. What
> >phenomena of human cognitive processes to study is a very difficult
> >scientific issue. Granted that the mind is an extraordinarily flexible,
> >general-purpose device that might perform a vast variety of tasks each
> >in a vast variety of ways, which does the scientist who wishes to study
> >the "real" mind choose? (p. 19)
> The idea of mind as an artefact of culture is appealing -- i.e., that
> we, as a culture, make up our mind. But there is, I think, a problem
> lurking in the imagery of this passage -- a problem one finds rampant
> in writings from those you would expect to be quite philosophically
> and philologically self-aware. It is the problem of an assumed model
> which has become, as Charles Taylor remarks in Philosophy and the
> Human Sciences, cosmological -- i.e. has been taken on silently as
> the way things are. (Taylor does a fine job with behaviourism, a now
> defunct cosmology, comparing it to AI, which isn't.) One finds the
> same thing happening in Jerry Fodor's Modularity of Mind, where mind
> computes, full stop, and does so without him for one moment
> reflecting on the fact that he's naturalized an artificial vocabulary
> and way of talking. In the above passage, note "system",
> "programmed", "knowledge base", "general purpose device".
> Us literary critics have much work to do.
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM
> Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
> Computing in the Humanities | King's College London | Kay House, 7
> Arundel Street | London WC2R 3DX | U.K. | +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax:
> -2980 || willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/
Received on Thu Jun 29 2006 - 03:58:22 EDT

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