Computational foundations of phenomenology
Lopes, Jesse Daniel
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The purpose of the dissertation is to investigate the degree of compatibility of two fields: phenomenology and computational cognitive science. The former field proposes to explicate all structures of conscious experience in terms of conscious experience. The latter proposes to explicate all structures of consciousness partly in terms of unconscious causal factors. These endeavors have been seen as mutually exclusive. I put forward the thesis that the original formulation of phenomenology may be seen to have a computational theory of mind in the background. To this end, I show in the first chapter that the founder of phenomenology articulated, prior to founding phenomenology, a computational theory of mind in terms of its two modern theses: (1) syntactic representations, and (2) their causal generation and interaction. Insofar as I am able to provide sufficient evidence for this thesis, I am theoretically licensed to proceed to trace its influence on the founding of phenomenology proper. On the above textual basis, I proceed in the second chapter to discuss Husserl's methodology in the founding work of phenomenology - the Logical Investigations. I there show how my compatibility thesis may be true; indeed, I demonstrate that formal evidence is the causal product of what Husserl calls “unsere Denkmaschine” – a thought-machine that manipulates syntactic symbols. The third chapter discusses several arguments against (Humean) associationism, and by extension against (Churchlandian) connectionism, and show that they demand in their stead computationalism, both on account of the nature of the explananda as well as for the sake of theoretical completeness. In the fourth chapter, I discuss, with a view to deepening my interpretation, the much-celebrated property (since Chomsky) of productivity. This leads to a discussion of the methodological relation between “universal grammar,” as it appears directly in the 4th Logical Investigation, and the computational theory of mind. In the fifth chapter, I discuss how Husserl’s descriptive treatment of the propositional attitudes (as act-matters & act-qualities), nominalization, and categorial intuition may be supplemented on the explanatory side by a language of thought.
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