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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 115, Issue 7, July 2018

Peter Koellner
Pages 337-360

On the Question of Whether the Mind Can Be Mechanized, I: From Gödel to Penrose

In this paper I address the question of whether the incompleteness theorems imply that “the mind cannot be mechanized,” where this is understood in the specific sense that “the mathematical outputs of the idealized human mind do not coincide with the mathematical outputs of any idealized finite machine.” Gödel argued that his incompleteness theorems implied a weaker, disjunctive conclusion to the effect that either “the mind cannot be mechanized” or “mathematical truth outstrips the idealized human mind.” Others, most notably, Lucas and Penrose, have claimed more—they have claimed that the incompleteness theorems actually imply the first disjunct. I will show that by sharpening the fundamental concepts involved and articulating the background assumptions governing them, one can prove Gödel’s disjunction, one can show (by invoking results of Reinhardt and Carlson) that the arguments of Lucas and Penrose fail, and one can see what likely led proponents of the first disjunct astray.

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