If we built a computer that could analyse our minds, and it figured out how they work and explained it to us, would we be able to understand?

Maybe 'the true and complete theory of mind' would be too difficult for us to understand or to understand fully, but if so this is not because we would be using our minds to try to understand the theory of mind, but just because the theory was too difficult for us. Just as there is no paradox in using your eyes to look at your eyes (with the help of a mirror), there is no paradox in using your mind to understand your mind.

The great Austrian logician, Kurt Gödel, proved a remarkable theorem in 1931 that he thought was relevant to this question. His theorem wasn't about minds, but with a bit of license, it could be taken to have some implications about them. For instance, this one: Assume our minds are like powerful computers, devices that manipulate symbols according to well-defined rules. Assume, moreover, that these rules are consistent with one another, that is, that they do not yield conflicting results. Then it "follows" from Gödel's result that there is some basic fact about our minds that we cannot ever know, that we could not in principle access. I suppose you might put it, as Peter Lipton did, by saying that that basic fact is "too difficult" for us to understand. But just a slightly more powerful mind would be able to grasp the fact in question about our minds! And that slightly more powerful mind would, in turn, fail to be able to grasp the same basic fact about its own functioning! So, if all these assumptions could be made intelligible and were correct, it seems it would be right to say that there is something about the structure of our minds that makes them incapable of grasping some basic feature of that very structure.

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