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Why We View the Brain as a Computer

Oron Shagrir
Synthese
Vol. 153, No. 3, Neuroscience and Its Philosophy (Dec., 2006), pp. 393-416
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27653433
Page Count: 24
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Why We View the Brain as a Computer
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Abstract

The view that the brain is a sort of computer has functioned as a theoretical guideline both in cognitive science and, more recently, in neuroscience. But since we can view every physical system as a computer, it has been less than clear what this view amounts to. By considering in some detail a seminal study in computational neuroscience, I first suggest that neuroscientists invoke the computational outlook to explain regularities that are formulated in terms of the information content of electrical signals. I then indicate why computational theories have explanatory force with respect to these regularities: in a nutshell, they underscore correspondence relations between formal/mathematical properties of the electrical signals and formal/mathematical properties of the represented objects. I finally link my proposal to the philosophical thesis that content plays an essential role in computational taxonomy.

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