God’s mind

A puzzle. Is it possible to know your own mind? Suppose you were hooked up to some miraculous scanner that displayed the whole state of your brain, every neuron. Could you eventually understand yourself? Not in detail, because to understand one neuron requires many neurons, and not in real time, because to understand one step requires many steps.

The same reasoning works for any computational device. A mind can’t fit into itself, any more than a box can fit into itself. Tricks with data compression don’t help—a smashed box doesn’t fit into itself either.

Easy so far, right? So let’s take a corner case, God. Can God know Its own mind?

The puzzle is: Suppose you want to answer “yes”. How many ways can you find to make that conclusion possible? To my way of thinking there are only two classes of solutions, but one of them is open-ended so maybe you will think of something that I didn’t.

Any constraint on the mind of God is interesting, isn’t it? Even a weak constraint that leaves choices. You can’t be properly ineffable if you’re constrained.

(Hint: The easy solution is that God’s mind might be infinite. An infinite box can fit into itself, with infinite room to spare. )

Original version, August 2009.
Updated and added here March 2010.