Altered States and Virtual Beliefs

Jon Oberlander, Peter Dayan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Functionalism avoids a potentially fatal infinite regress by realising the low level phenomena of mind in mere Turing machines rather than via undischarged homunculae. Adopting a narrow, logical view of human inferential competence; and a wide divergence between the supposed competence and observable human performance. These problems have produced a retreat to instrumentalism about folk psychological concepts - a retreat that has long been trumpeted by certain philosophers.
We argue that abandoning hope in this way is premature. The problems arise from two quarters: an impoverished notion of competence models that divorce them too far from performance models; and too narrow a view of possible functional mechanisms. We explore the consequences of retaining a traditional view of inference, while adopting a new mechanism for memory. We motivate the latter by developing a seemingly unnatural picture of von Neumann machines, taking their finite memory seriously. Together, the two repairs suffice to make instrumentalism avoidable.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConnectionism, Concepts and Folk Psychology
Subtitle of host publicationThe Legacy of Alan Turing
EditorsAndy Clark, Peter Millican
Place of PublicationUSA
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)978-01-9823-875-1
Publication statusPublished - 1996

Publication series

NameMind Association Occasional Series
PublisherOxford University Press


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