Turing’s Imbecile Computors

This Thursday Vishal Chakraborty will be speaking on the Church Turing Thesis. Below is an intro. We are in Wellman 201 as usual at 7pm. See you there!


In his classical 1936 paper, Alan Turing introduced the Logical Computational Model and proved the Entscheidungsproblem to be undecidable. In 1935, Alonzo Church had arrived at similar conclusions using the circuitous notion of effective calculability. Each forwarded their own thesis, from which, in 1967 Kleene coined the Church Turing Thesis (CTT). Since then, the CTT has often been misinterpreted as making claims on the computational powers of the human mind. We will defend the CTT from such malapropos readings. Since the early years of the twentieth century, we see an emphasis on the need of “blind calculations”. In this light, Turing’s reference to a man being able to simulate his computing machine alludes to the mechanical nature of these machines. The “computor” needs no insight of numbers or understanding of the machine itself. Instead, the ability to follow simple instructions is sufficient. “Post-workers” further strengthen this claim. We will conclude with a brief chronological survey of the developments of Computation as we know today.

Incivility in Public Life

This Thursday Professor Marina Oshana will be presenting. The topic of the talk will be “Incivility in Public Life”. She’s interested in investigating what public civility amounts to, and why it seems to be a threatened commodity. As always we are in Wellman 201 at 7pm. See you there!

Movie Night Saturday

Hey all! Movie night Saturday the 5th at 8pm. If you need a ride from Davis or Sacramento, someone can probably give you one so comment on the post on Facebook or respond to the email that was sent out with where you need a ride from and we will try to work something out. We hope to see you there!
Address: 4005 Cowell Blvd Apt 306

Cannibals on Moral Twin Earth

This Thursday, Professor David Copp is presenting on some of the moral considerations of a twin earth. An introduction to the material is below. We are, as always, in Wellman 201 at 7pm. See you there!

Cannibals on Moral Twin Earth
R.M. Hare asked us to consider the following thought experiment. Some European missionaries come across some cannibals in a remote part of the world.  The missionaries say that cannibalism is bad.  The cannibals say that cannibalism is “doog” using a word in their language.  They agree about all other relevant things — that cannibalism involves eating people for instance and that the people who are eaten don’t want to be eaten. Obviously the cannibals go in for eating people and the missionaries don’t — especially if they, the missionaries, are going to be on the dinner table!  How should we translate the word “doog”?
Horgan and Timmons ask us to imagine a twin earth where the twin-people speak twin-English — which is just like English except for a few words.  Twin Earth and Earth are alike in every relevant way except for a certain oddity.  The Earthlings say that lying is always wrong (say) but the twins say that lying is only “t-wong” if it makes people unhappy.  In general, they say, something is “t-wong” only if it makes people unhappy.  How should we translate the twin word “t-wong”?
It seems that our translations should be driven by the role that the terms “doog” and “t-wong” play in the lives and especially in the reasoning and decision making of the cannibals and the twins.  Since the cannibals go in for cannibalism, maybe “doog” means “good.”  But if moral convictions were ordinary beliefs, like (other) beliefs about the world, then our translation should instead be driven by figuring out what properties people’s uses of the terms seem to be responsive to.  Since the cannibals are responding to the very properties of cannibalism that the missionaries are responding to when they call cannibalism “bad,” maybe “doog” should be translated as “bad.”