Skip to main content

Goedel's Theorem and Mechanism

  • David Coder (a1)

In “Minds, Machines, and Gödel”, J. R. Lucas claims that Goedel's incompleteness theorem constitutes a proof “that Mechanism is false, that is, that minds cannot be explained as machines”. He claims further that “if the proof of the falsity of mechanism is valid, it is of the greatest consequence for the whole of philosophy”. It seems to me that both of these claims are exaggerated. It is true that no minds can be explained as machines. But it is not true that Goedel's theorem proves this. At most, Goedel's theorem proves that not all minds can be explained as machines. Since this is so, Goedel's theorem cannot be expected to throw much light on why minds are different from machines. Lucas overestimates the importance of Goedel's theorem for the topic of mechanism, I believe, because he presumes falsely that being unable to follow any but mechanical procedures in mathematics makes something a machine.

Hide All

1 Philosophy, Vol. XXXVI, No. 137, pp. 112–27; reprinted in Minds and Machines, Anderson A. R., editor (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1964). My page references are to the original.)

2 P. 112.

3 P. 126.

4 P. 112.

5 P. 113.

6 P. 113.

7 See e.g. Mendelson E., Introduction to Mathematical Logic (Princeton, N.J., 1964), pp. 229 and following.

8 Pp. 113–4.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 4 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 113 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.