How not to be a Naïve Computationalist



Meta-Proposal of which this entry is a subset:

The Shortcut Reading Series is a series of less wrong posts that should say what are the minimal readings, as opposed to the normal curriculum, that one ought to read to grasp most of the state of the art conceptions of humans about a particular topic. Time is finite, there is only so much one person can read and thus we need to find the geodesic path to epistemic enlightenment and show it to Less Wrong readers.


“How not to be a Naïve Computationalist”, the Shortcut Reading Series post in philosophy of mind and language:

This post’s raison d’etre is to be a guide for the minimal amount of philosophy of language and mind necessary for someone who ends up thinking the world and the mind are computable (such as Tegmark, Yudkowsky, Hofstadter, Dennett and many of yourselves) The desired feature which they have achieved, and you soon will, is to be able to state reasons, debugg opponents and understand different paradigms, as opposed to just thinking that it’s 0 and 1’s all the way down and not being able to say why.

This post is not about Continental/Historical Philosophy, about that there have been recommendations in

The order is designed.

What is sine qua non, absolutely necessary, is in bold and OR means you only have to read one, the second one being more awesome and complex.

Language and Mind:

  • 37 Ways words can be Wrong - Yudkowsky
  • Darwin Dangerous Idea Chapters 3,5, 11, 12 and 14 - Daniel Dennett
  • On Denoting - Bertrand Russell
  • On What There Is - Quine
  • Two Dogmas of Empiricism - Quine
  • Namind and Necessity - Kripke OR Two Dimensional Semantics - David Chalmers
  • “Is Personal Identity What Matters?” - Derek Parfit
  • Breakdown of Will - Part Two (don’t read part 3) George Ainslie
  • Concepts of Consciousness 2003 - Ned Block
  • Attitudes de dicto and de se - David Lewis- Phil Papers 1
  • General Semantics - David Lewis - Phil Papers 1
  • The Stuff of Thought, Chapter 3 “Fifty Thousand Innate Concepts” - Steve Pinker
  • Beyond Belief - Daniel Dennett in Intentional Stance
  • The Content and Epistemology of Phenomenal Belief - David Chalmers
  • Quining Qualia OR I Am a Strange Loop OR Consciousness Explained - Dan & Doug
  • Intentionality - Pierre Jacob - Stanford Encyclopedia Phil
  • Philosophy in the Flesh - Lakoff  & Johnson - Chap 3,4, 12, 21,24 and 25. 

What you cannot find here you probably will on Google or (if anyone has a link to Beyond Belief (EDIT: Found it!), post it, it is the only hard to find one)

Congratulations, you are now officially free from the Naïve philosophical computationalism that underlies part of the Less Wrong Community. Your computationalism is now wise and well informed.

Feel free now to delve into some interesting computational proposals such as

Dealing with complexity is an inefficient and unnecessary waste of time, attention and mental energy. There is never any justification for things being complex when they could be simple. - Edward de Bono

There are many realms and domains in which the quote above should not be praised. But I think I have all philosophy majors with me when I say that there must be a simpler way to get to the knowledge level we reach upon graduation.

Finally, having wasted substantial amounts of time reading those parts that should not be read of philosophy, and not intending to do the same mistake in other areas, I ask you to publish a selection of readings in your area of expertise, The Sequences are a major rationality shortcut, and we need more of that kind.