Brent Meeker wrote:
> 1Z wrote:
> >
> > Brent Meeker wrote:
> >
> >
> >>>That's not very interesting for non-conscious computations, because
> >>>they are only useful or meaningful if they can be observed or interact 
> >>>with their
> >>>environment. However, a conscious computation is interesting all on its 
> >>>own. It
> >>>might have a fuller life if it can interact with other minds, but its 
> >>>meaning is
> >>>not contingent on other minds the way a non-conscious computation's is.
> >>
> >>Empirically, all of the meaning seems to be referred to things outside the
> >>computation.  So if the conscious computation thinks of the word "chair" it 
> >>doesn't
> >>provide any meaning unless there is a chair - outside the computation.
> >
> >
> > What about when a human thinks about a chair ? What about
> > when a human thinks about a unicorn?
>
> He thinks about a white horse with a horn, both of which exist.

But the unicorn per se doesn't. "Unicorn" doesn't have a referent, but
the parts of which it is a composite have referents. That's a step
away form referntiallty. And we
can take other stepts, talking about quarks and branes.
Evetually our referential theory of meaning will
only be referntial in the sense that an an empty glass is a
glass that is not at all full.

> What is the meaning
> of "Zeus"...it refers through descriptions that have meaningful elements.

> >What about a computer thinking
> > about a unicorn?
>
> That's what we're puzzling over.  Is it meaningless if the computer isn't
> conscious...but refers to a horse with a horn if the computer is conscious?

It doesn't refer to a horned horse because there aren't any.

perhaps if we understood how such non-referential meaning works,
it would give us a clue to how consciousness works.


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