Cognition as Computation: From Swift to Turing

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Majid Amini


            If one is going to compile a catalogue of the central concerns of Gulliver’s Travels, it goes without question or hesitation that the concept of reason looms large, if not possessing the uppermost priority, in Jonathan Swift’s authorial agenda. Swift is not only interested in reason insofar as practical rationalities, rational practicalities, and moral mores are concerned but also in the nature and constitution of reason itself. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to look at Swift’s treatment of the nature and constitution of reason and rationality in two of the Gulliver’s voyages: viz. the journeys to Brobdingnag and Balnibarbi. What is intriguing is that Swift seems to anticipate in the former voyage Alan Turing’s Imitation Game and in the latter voyage Turing’s idea of computational mechanization of intelligence, where he relates the two tales with diametrically opposite sentiments. The discussion of Swift’s anticipations is then set against the backcloth of the vicissitudes of the idea of Logical Machine from William of Soissons in the twelfth century to Alonzo Church’s Theorem and David Hilbert’s broad-ranging Entscheidungsproblem in the twentieth century.

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Amini, M. (2020). Cognition as Computation: From Swift to Turing. Humanities Bulletin, 3(1), 43-54. Retrieved from