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June 21, 20121 response
June 7, 20123 responses
Oliver Leaman, Nicholas D. Smith and Gabriel Segal
A good way of starting to get out of it is to ignore it. Spinoza argued that we should never feel depressed, or sorry about anything we have done or that is done to us, since this makes us even more miserable. That results in our becoming more passive, and so more unhappy, and this is a highly self-destructive process.
He thought that we should observe the effects of our feelings on us and try to redirect them in a way which results in their becoming more positive. Easier said than done, you might well think, but it might be that he would say it is part of a process, and this is how we should start, by doing all we can to pay attention to what is happening to us and then taking steps to alter our reactions.
May 31, 20122 responses
Stephen Maitzen and Gabriel Segal
It is a good question. It is possible that a sane person
might believe that the government is controlling him by means of radio signals
sent to his dental filling when in fact that is far from the truth, and that a
psychotic person might believe such a thing and the belief be true. Some
apparently sane thinkers believe that the commonsense world as we normally
think of it, as populated with people, teeth, tables, chairs and governments is
not real. Notions like that of a government are too vague and confused to pick
out genuine denizens of reality. Only science tells us what is real. If
that or some other skeptical hypothesis turns out to be right, then perhaps
most of us do not have contact with reality in respect of most of our beliefs.
But that doesn't mean that we are all psychotic. We might be very bad
judges about the justification of beliefs about empirical issues. So perhaps judgements
about whether someone is psychotic should not require us to make judgements in
relation to other, tangential empirical issues. Similarly it is not clear that
psychosis is best understood in terms of imperviousness to evidence of a
certain kind. Evidence is an epistemic notion bound up with the idea of truth,
of a way of cognitive functioning that is likely to arrive at true beliefs and
avoid false ones. Questions about ways in which one ought not to be impervious to evidence seem to be questions for
science and philosophy of science, not psychiatry, psychology and philosophy of
psychology or medicine. So perhaps the kind of cognitive disorder or
abnormality associated with psychosis, if there is any such thing, is best not
understood in terms of loss of contact with reality at all, but rather in some
quite different way
May 24, 20121 response
May 10, 20121 response
Yes, something the court has to take account of is the passage of time since the event and it is entirely reasonable for your memory to be an issue that has to be taken into account. You may be closely questioned on this and to be honest you will have to be frank on how reliable at this stage you think your memory is. You gave evidence in the past nearer the event, and if you still think that evidence was true the fact that you now no longer have the same relationship with it is not that relevant, I should have thought. It is what you said then that is probably most significant, even if now your memory of those events, or even if now what you then thought they were, is rather vague.
Nothing to worry about legally, although don't quote me if you are sent off for hard labor!
September 9, 20112 responses
Miriam Solomon and Gabriel Segal
December 20, 20112 responses
Miriam Solomon and Gabriel Segal
January 3, 20123 responses
Andrew Pessin, Richard Heck and Gabriel Segal
This is a great question, and one with a very long history. There's a key ambiguity in it though, that should be clarified at the start: 'what would it have to be for us to consider it sentient?' might be read metaphysically or epistemologically. To read it metaphysically is to ask what, in fact, is sufficient for the robot to be sentient; to read it epistemologically is to ask what evidence would be sufficient for us, or any third party, to judge that the robot is sentient. The difference is important because it might be that there is some essential feature to sentience, but it is not one which would ever allow us to judge with any confidence/reliability that some creature other than ourselves possesses it. ....
That said, a good starting point for you would be Descartes's Discourse on Method, where he argues (in brief) that the possession of genuine linguistic competence and general rationality are marks of the 'mental', or of 'sentience' broadly construed; he holds that no purely mechanical/physical account could ever explain why a creature demonstrates those properties, and while his account is dated, there's no question that 'language' and 'reason' remain very challenging things even today, for researchers in Artificial Intelligence to instantiate in 'robots.' Then, after Descartes, skip a few centuries and read John Searle's famous and controversial paper, "Minds, Brains, and Programs" originally in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, in 1980 -- which set of a decades-long debate over whether any computer or computer program could ever actually instantiate mental states (as opposed to merely mimic them). If you read that paper, and then google 'responses to Searle's Minds Brains Programs' (or more generally 'responses to Searle's Chinese Room Thought Experiment') you will get plenty for you to chew over as you contemplate your excellent question!
hope that's a useful start --
The other classic paper on this issue is Alan Turing's "Computing Machinery and Intelligence", from 1950, which articulates what has come to be known as the "Turing Test". Turing's idea was to set up an experiment. A modern version might use some kind of internet chat program. You are talking with two other "people". One really is a person. The other is a computer. You can talk to them for as long as you like, about whatever you like. Then if you can't tell the difference, Turing says, the computer is intelligent. Obviously, this is, at first blush, what Andrew calls an "epistemological" approach to the problem, but Turing doesn't see it just that way.
Let me mention, by the way, that 2012 is also the "Alan Turing Year", celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth. Turing had a very interesting, and tragic, life. Not only was he one of the founders of modern computer science, he put his genius to work for the British military during World War II and helped crack the German codes. The tragic part lies in Turing's being prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952 and then being forced to take female hormones as "treatment" instead of being sent to prison. He committed suicide in 1954, at the age of 41.
January 18, 20122 responses
Stephen Maitzen and Gabriel Segal
"I recognize that there is some not inconsiderable
paradox in doubting the very idea of being able to form a thought and
using thought to achieve that doubt". Well spotted! Suppose that your doubts about memory lead you this: "I cannot trust any thought, including this one". Where do you go from there? It doesn't look as though the paradoxical nature the thought undermines it in such a way that you can conclude that it is false, and proceed to trust some thoughts. It sort of leaves you with nowhere to go.
I agree with Stephen. Memory is not that unreliable. It is much less reliable than we think. When we seem to remember things our brains seem to do a lot of construction and interpretation, and present to us a partly made-up image of some past even as if it were a perfectly accurate representation. This can get us into trouble. But our short-term memory is pretty good and serves its purpose. It is not hard to keep track of the thoughts involved in a short line of reasoning. It also gets a lot easier if we write them down. We can the create longer lines of reasoning by understanding shorter ones and stringing their conclusions together, keeping track of the overall structure. Memory, combined with pen and paper (or today's equivalents) is good enough to support reason as a discursive process.
January 3, 20121 response
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