Glossary

Purists and pedants beware: these definitions are rough and colloquial, intended to convey the essence of an idea to the novice.
algorithm
A specific sequence of steps to execute in order to carry out a task. The paradigmatic example is a computer example. If this does not have a lot of meaning for you, think of a recipe or assembly instructions for a new bicycle.


bit
The smallest chunk of information you can have, a bit is a quantity that can be either 0 or 1.


Cartesian theater
A common metaphor for the mind, named for Rene Descartes. It refers to the show between our ears, in which whatever is perceived, remembered, thought about etc. is taken to be on the stage of the theater for the benefit of a presumed homunculus in the audience.


CPU
Central Processing Unit. The real brain of a computer, the part that actually does stuff and controls other parts, like memory and input/output devices. The CPU is the part that fetches the algorithm from memory and executes it, one step at a time.


dualism
The belief that there are two fundamental kinds of stuff in the universe, mind and matter (see monism). The classic problem for dualists is that of interaction: if matter and mind are really so fundamentally different, how could they possibly interact and influence each other? how could we mentally perceive the physical world, and how could our mental wills have an effect on our physical body parts(as when I lift my arm)?


emergence
The tendency for "high-level" properties to magically emerge from collections of "low-level" things in such a way that the high-level properties are irreducible to the low-level things or their properties. An example might be the way liquidity emerges from the aggregate motion of molecules of H2O.


epistemology
One of the major branches of philosophy, most often contrasted with ontology. Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know.


identity theories
The set of theories that identify the mind with its supposed physical or neurological basis. According to identity theorists, the mind just is the various workings of the biological brain. Identity theories have been largely superseded by functionalism in orthodox circles.


mereology
The study of the relations of parts to wholes.


monism
The belief that there is only one fundamental kind of stuff in the world (see dualism).


Multiple realizability
Supposedly, one of the strong points of functionalism, in that functionalism allows for it. Multiple realizability refers to the possibility that a theory of mind leaves open for minds to be implemented or realized by any of a variety of physical substrates.


ontology
One of the major branches of philosophy, most often contrasted with epistemology. Essentially, ontology is the study of what actually is. For most people, for most purposes, ontology ultimately comes down to physics.


phenomenal
Of or pertaining to phenomena, the qualitative aspects of consciousness as presented to us.


quale
A "raw feel", a basic "what it is like-ness" of a particular sensation or state of mind. The redness of red is an oft-cited example.


qualia
Plural of quale


quark
One of the fundamental building blocks of the physical world. You may think of it as a tiny particle that, as far as anyone can tell, is indivisible. Quarks make up protons and neutrons, which in turn make up the nucleii of atoms.

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