Attack on Determinism or on Psychologism?

Consider, for example, an attempt to assert that all of man’s actions are conditioned and mechanical. Typically, such a view has taken one of two forms: Either it is said that man is basically a product of his hereditary constitution, or else that he is determinate entirely by environmental factors. However, one could ask of the man who believed in hereditary determination whether his own statement asserting this belief was nothing but the product of his heredity. In other words, is he compelled by his genetic structure to make such an utterance? Similarly, one may ask of the man who believes in environmental determination, whether the assertion of such a belief is nothing but the spouting forth of words in patterns to which he was conditioned by his environment. Evidently, in both cases (as well as in the case of one who asserted that man is completely conditioned by heredity plus environment) the answer would have to be in the negative, for otherwise the speakers would be denying the very possibility that what they said could have meaning. Indeed, it is of talking from intelligent perception, which is in turn capable of a truth that is not merely a result of a mechanism based on meaning or skills acquired in the past. So we see that no one can avoid implying, by his mode of communication, that he accepts at least the possibility of that free, unconditioned perception that we have called intelligence. David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, p65-66

After reading this part I started wondering if this should be classified as a classical free will vs. determinism (putting the Compatibilism aside) argument, or maybe better as an attack on psychologism(see this post)?

The Inverted Slashdot Effect

The Inverted Slashdot Effect, also known as Energy Drain Effect and Philosophy Blog Linked To You, So You Should Panic – Effect is newly found and as far as I know, undocumented effect.
The effect happens when an author of a site that has negative visitor statistics (more people leave the site than come in) thinks of linking to another site (particularly if it is big and established). Through, what is currently considered to be quantum mechanical process, a negative pressure on the target web-site is provoked, causing the over-under-loading of the target servers, and eventually their taking off the Internet.
The effect was noticed this monday morning, when I, author of a philosophical blog which has negative statistics, thought of linking to Google. Needless to say, Google went down, and it hasn’t recovered yet from the underloading.
Though, as noticed, majority of scienterists think that the effect is due to the unknown quantum mechanical processes (which are known also to be source of things like negative statistic, consciousness, math and bad breath), there are also different opinions. We can divide them roughly into three groups:
1. The effect is due to the fact that author was playing Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II game, and somehow the special dark force called Drain which he won in the game, transfered through unknown quantum mechanical process to his real body.
To test this theory I tried the alleged force to few people I love, but it didn’t work.
2. Another theory says that the author of this site is a digimon called Soulmon, and that he deliberatly performed Energy Drain attack on Google.
To dismiss those roamers, here I present picture of me, which clearly shows that I’m NOT a digimon:

I forgot what was the third group.
Anyway, there are those who say that there is no such effect – that the whole thing is just a coincidence. But that is of course non-sense, as I saw the effect with my own eyes.

Update of the post with philosophy videos


What is added…
I stumbled upon the Counterbalance library, which hosts a number of video and audio presentations on philosophical and other topics. So, I added link to it, and to some sets of videos I found there.
Also I added a link to the Rick Grush’s video podcasts page.
The thing is that while adding that link to the list I thought I double check the link, and seems that web-page went down just because I thought of linking to it. It is special (inverted) version of Slashdot effect, called Draining effect that happens when one creates a link to a site – a link which nobody in the whole history of the universe will not click, creating negative pressure on the linked web-page. Needless to say, servers couldn’t deal with negative pressure.
Anyway, I hope it is a temporary thing, so I won’t remove the link for now.

More on Hegel and Ratios

Some time ago, I had two posts (here and here) on infinite series, in which Hegel was also quoted saying that what is expressed in a ratio, can be only deficiently represented as aggregation (as infinite series).
While I tried to explain how that is so through an example, I didn’t try to give account of why it is so, which is of course more important that pointing to a fact. I will try to do this now, though in somewhat superficial way.

It has to do with the nature of the number…

Take for example some quantum… for example a distance in space. By itself that quantum is not determined as a number. It is not neither 1, nor 2, nor any other number by itself. It becomes number only in its relation to other quantum, to some other distance. So, it is their ratio which is 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, or any other. By, and within themselves both the distances aren’t any specific number. Only in their synthesis there is a number. Here we should be careful, and note that the fact that 1:1, 2:1 and 3:1, can be also presented by number as aggregate (i.e. 1=1, 2=1+1 or 3=1+1+1) in which the notion of ratio is left out, doesn’t mean that they are merely some kind of representations of that aggregate. On contrary, what is argued here, is that the number in its proper concept is always a form of ratio. So we can say that 1 is ratio of two qualities, 2 is also ratio of two other qualities and so on. Or said differently, the form of number as aggregate is abstraction from the richer concept of number as ratio. It shouldn’t come as surprise, then, that there will be a problem of expressing in a form of aggregate what is expressed in a form of ratio.

Further, concept of number as a ratio, also allows for natural connection to the rest of metaphysics in which it needs to relate to other “non-mathematical” concepts. And that is visible in the concept of measurement – there one quantum of some specific quality is compared with an another. The distance in space is quantum only as long it is compared with another distance, the amount of  time is quantum only if it is compared with other amount of time. Abstracting from the specific quality of the quanta compared (which is implicit in the act of measurement) we are left with the concept of number as ratio. What should be kept on mind in the measuring then, is that it is not a quantum as something in itself, but it is properly understood as quantum as ratio. Such understanding is implicit in all numbers which appear for example in natural science, and there too every measurement needs to be seen as a ratio (except in the counting of discrete things, where the unit presents itself as ontologically basic, i.e. – one thing, and where we can’t change it to something smaller or larger without changing the nature of the thing. For example, there is not much sense in counting in half-planets, or double-planets).

I should notice here that Hegel’s account of numbers isn’t left in this kind of “outside” connection to measure, which as I said at the start is somewhat superficial. In Science of Logic, the movement from quantity to measure, and further to essence is seen as a necessary resolution of contradictions that appear in those concepts when taken as separate and abstract. In the movement in Hegel’s Logic, number doesn’t stop at its proper understanding as ratio also, but is sublated further (brought into) in the concept of inverse ratio, and ratio of powers, before it “develops” into measure, and further into essence. But I don’t think I understand enough this particular development to write about it. If you are interested, you can check David Gray Carlson’s paper Hegel and the Becoming of Essence. (I had problems opening it directly from the web, but it opened fine after downloading it).

Free Trial of Philosophical Review Online

After reading the post at Thoughts, Arguments and Rants, I visited The Duke University Press site. It hosts online version of The Philosophical Review. I was pleasantly surprised when on entry, the page told me that I have free trial period of aprox. one month. Without any forms to fill! There are January 2000-April 2006 editions of the journal accessible for reading (in pdf format).
Check also other journals by Duke University Press on their entry page. There seems to be some other which might be interesting for people who love philosophy, like New German Critique (last issue is available online) and Common Knowledge (winter 2002-spring 2006 available online).

Time as Abstraction

When I look around me, I see two types of change.
Either things which are undergoing mechanical changes, or acting agents. I never see or am aware of such thing as a moment. Further I remember what has happened, and see possibilities of what can happen (which opens possibility for phenomenological alternative to folk psychology as a theory). I don’t see any such thing as time, except as abstraction based on my awareness of aforementioned changes, remembering what was, and awareness of possibilities open in what I see. In such way time is not something basic in our cognition, it is abstraction from those “wealthier” concepts.

If we put attention at the concept of change as we are aware of it, it contains the identity of thing, and the change of something about the thing. Things change only within their identity – their identity is necessarily connected to their change – they are not some kind of pure non-changing essence, but their essence is to change.

Anyway, I think usual mistake in metaphysics is that time is seen not as abstraction, but as ontologically primary, as something which is outside of the things themselves. This is usually combined with the view that the things themselves are some unchanging essence that changes only because some sort of universal clock makes them change. But this view, ignoring that time is merely abstraction, and positing it as ontologically primary, necessarily gets into problems…

1. Because such view imagines things as static states of affairs, some kind of disconnected moments in universal or local (in point in space?) time, it has problems with the notion of identity when it needs to transcend this imagined time. As how can this philosophy say that the same person has lived so many years? Instead of taking the thing as ontologically fundamental, and taking time-slices as abstractions; it wants to do it the other way around, to start from the (imagined, nowhere to be seen) slices and reconstruct the identity of the thing through time. However whatever “glue” is added from outside, as something external to those slices, it can never provide the ontological basis for things, it will only provide some for of conceptual/theoretical framework in which thingness will be seen as matter of definition. That definition won’t come from our understanding of the things, but it will be added just to (somewhat) satisfy intuitions that those time-slices can’t work. It is no wonder that this kind of thinking gets lost in it own, and wonders about questions if we should define thing as a four dimensional entity in which all those slices exist in some sense, or is it just the time-slice in now which exists. What is here argued, that those are unnecessary complications, which disappear if we accept time as abstraction.

2. A theory which takes on itself the task of explaining away change by what is abstracted from change, namely the time and the different values of the property that changes, will get into the kind of paradoxes as those presented by Zeno. No matter how you try to connect those abstractions mechanically from outside, you can never succeed to construct change from them,as those are not parts which are there by themselves merely connected in notion of change. For a particular change – a movement which can be described by the s=v*t formula, that mathematical description is merely an abstraction of how the potential measurements in some given framework happen, but the theory about time and values separate from change, about time and position separate from movement, will try to say that what is first is t and x. That there are ontologically existing positions, and ontologically existent times. And in the moment t1, it is in position x1; in moment t2 in position x2 etc… And in such theory there is no movement, just sequence of position in sequence of times, and there the movement appears as a merely nominal concept.

It is also imagined that the difficulty of Zeno’s paradoxes can be overcome by adding infinitesimals to the story. But often it is the “bad” notion of infinitesimals which is used, the one where the infinitesimals are something ontologically primary – again the abstract moments of time are imagined, but now which are infinitely close, i.e. where the distance between two moments is smaller then any given “distance”, but yet it is not zero. But this infinitesimals understood this way are yet another contradiction. And while it is true that calculus gives good way to solve the Zeno’s paradoxes, it is not through this contradictory interpretation of infinitesimals connected to the contradictory notion of change as aggregate of moments.

The mind left within the confusion created by combining those two notions (or interpretations), each contradictory in itself, is hoping that there is something about putting two things which mind can’t comprehend together, and through that – the magic of change comes about. And what the mind does in such situation is to blame the reality and our limited power of understanding for this weird state of affairs, as if the best we can do is to catch the pieces which reality throws to us. And while our minds are really to blame, it is not because our comprehension is limited, but for wanting to make our abstractions the basis of reality, instead of seeing them for what they are.

3.This view where time is taken as absolute basis, and on other side the values of some variable (e.g. space), are also taken as separate, is the picture of Newtonian physics. And the revolution in physics produced by special and general relativity was motivated by comprehension that they are not absolute, but are abstractions.

Examples of Neural Adaptation – Visual Illusions

If you look at one of the white X-es in the colored circles (just look at the X, nothing else) on left side for 15-20 seconds, and then look at the X on the right side, you probably will see an afterimage, which will be in what Paul Churchland calls chimerical colors. Those are colors which can not appear to you in the normal looking at the things (for explanation of why afterimages happen, you can check this post at Mixing Memory, or check the page with videos on this blog, for a link to a presentation of Paul Churchland). Anyway the short story is that there is neural adaptation, a process where the neuron after given period of being excited with certain input, will “get tired” and go, all by its own, to its “normal” state. If after that the excitatory input goes away, there will be aftereffect such that the neuron will go to inhibited state, even that there is no input which inhibits it. Or the other way around, if inhibitory input is present for a longer time, and then removed, the neuron will go into excited state even there is no excitatory input.

As explanatory model it explains the afterimages (though of course doesn’t explain the phenomenal “look” of the colors, and taken by itself doesn’t explain some other visual illusions). But what is interesting is that this kind of aftereffects can be seen not just in case of color, but also other “more complicated” features. In the following picture there are faces of prototypical female on left side, prototypical male on the right, and a female/male morph image in the center. Try and concentrate on the left picture first (for e.g. 30 seconds), and then look at the center picture. Does it look as male or female? Then concentrate on the right picture for 30 seconds, and then look at the center picture. How about now?

If all is successful, this should show gender adaptation phenomenon, and if we connect this to the theory about how aftereffects in colors happen, should mean that probably there are also neurons in the brain which are used for recognition of gender. (also check Mixing Memory post for more).

BTW, I took the pictures for the second example from the Beauty Check site. It is about how morphing of multiple faces affects attractiveness of the face. Check it out here.

Closure of Phenomenal World

The moment I want to philosophically understand the world, I find myself as a subject existing in the phenomenal world. Everything which has appeared to me appeared as a part of the phenomenal world, including me and my intentional acts… Other people appear to me as part of that world too. There is nothing that can be thought of, which would fall outside of it, as my thoughts themselves are based on my living in phenomenal world, and appear as part of my being in the phenomenal world.
Thus as long I’m interested in fully comprehending things, I have to understand them in what they are in the phenomenal world – there is no “outside of the phenomenal world” view for me, nor “outside of the phenomenal world” concepts. Every word that we use is historically based on communication practices within the phenomenal world.

Phenomenal world is not in the mind… “mind” is yet another concept I learned in the phenomenal world. And as long the words are learned through the practice in the phenomenal world, I need to comprehend the practices, how they are practiced and how my skills of those practices are developed in the phenomenal world. I can only think of what I can think, and the comprehension is limited to the things that can be thought of. Same situation is with the notion of  “outside objective world” (which would stand vs. the phenomenal
world) – the notions of “outside”, “objective” and “world” are
concepts I learned within the phenomenal world, and to comprehend what they mean, I need to comprehend how I learned them. Their meaning is again connected to the practices in the phenomenal world, to my being as subject with a will within the phenomenal world.
But neither the language or practices in general, nor the content of my thoughts, as long as my comprehension is concerned can be considered in some otherness. They are learned and based in my living in the phenomenal world. And as long philosophy is possible it can be possible only through this kind of comprehension.
Specifically my comprehending can’t be based on the society and its practice, as it affects me only as much as it appears in the phenomenal world. And it can’t be based on the scientific theories of physics, biology and neuroscience, as they are based as theories on the phenomenal world.

I must recognize the theories as theories, the paradigms as paradigms, and comprehend the abstractions (concepts) as abstractions, and what they are based in. I must return to the basis of me being willful subject in the phenomenal world, and as long I want to comprehend abstractions to see how they are grounded in my being in the phenomenal world, and to recognize their relations.

It is not theories, paradigms and metaphors all the way down, when I remove the paradigms, I find myself in the world surrounded with things, with changing things, of whose change and movement I’m aware. They are things on whose shape, color, movement and so on, I can put my attention, I can put my attention to events going on including multitude of things. I find myself as remembering agent, who can remember things, but not as in my head, but as something in the phenomenal world that was. I’m also aware of the possibilities open to the willful acts, and see the others use those possibilities.

If we imagine the learning as an inverted cone, with our current state being the widest part of the cone, the critical stance of phenomenology needs to explore the whole cone, in order to comprehend not just the words it uses, but also in this being as a subject in the phenomenal world to find possibility of transcendental intra and inter-subjectivity and possibility for a priori judgments (comprehension of relations between concepts) – to find the possibility of philosophy.

Can reports of how things seem to us be false?

At Splintered Mind, Eric Schwitzgebel has raised the issue of the intuitive infallibility of subjects’ reports of how things seem to them (see this post about non-obvious illlusions, and the Section IV of his comments on Titchener’s introspective training manual).

The Issue

First response might be that intuitively it is clear to us that when we sincerely say “That horizontal line looks to me longer then that vertical line”, it has to be the case that the horizontal line looks longer then the vertical one, after all I’m the final authority of how things look to me. But when one tries to explicate what this intuition is grounded in, and what this authority consist of, the issue becomes not so clear.

One way to approach the issue of infallibility of reports of type “it seems to me”/”it looks to me as” is to imagine some passively received information about the phenomenal world, some aggregation of facts which is on other hand intimately available to the subject, and to which it has privileged access. One can recognize that we ended up with an idea of sense-data of some kind, a notion of given criticized by Sellars in Empricism and Philosophy of Mind.
But even if we don’t go into the arguments against sense-data, when we look at our experience, there is no such sense-data , what we have is our being in the phenomenal world, and as Eric says about one of his introspections about trying to pass judgment about particular illusion:

How could it be hard to reach a judgment about how things appear to you? Although judgments about how things are understandably carry some risk, judgments about how things look to you right now are insulated in a particular way. Could you really go wrong in such a judgment? And if you couldn’t go wrong, where does the difficulty lie?

If we remove this idea of sense-data, of such facts “handed” to our passive receptivity so to say, our starting intuition seems little shaken.

In this post I will try to show how alternative approach based on subject’s intimate knowledge of the performance of his willfull mental acts might provide better explanation of what the intuition of infallibility of those “seem to” reports based on.

Reports based on Self-Agency

A) We have infallible sense of authorship of our own actions. We are exising in the phenomenal world, but as selves. One of the roots of this selfhood, seems to me is this fact of awareness of own self-agency. We make distinction between us moving the hand voluntary, or if our hand is moved by someone else. In same way if we are undergoing spasms, even the movement is in our own body, we don’t recognize it as ours, as the agency of the self is missing… the movement is not willed.
(There is problematic area of what we call acting by habbit or “mechanical” actions, but let’s leave those aside for this argument.)

B) Willfull acts are:

  1. Planned, the self sees the possibility for acting in the phenomenal world, and initiates it
  2. Intimate, there is no separation between the subject and the Will – it might make sense to say that the self is the Will.
  3. Done through time, acts are not some kind of momentarily things, it is actING by the agent.
  4. Even the act is seen as possibility by the Will, the act is done in the phenomenal world. Because the phenomenal world is not dependent on the subject, the possibility imagined by the subject might be accomplished or not… For example, one can will to pass his hand through a wall, but the act won’t be accomplished because in the phenomenal world the hand will be stopped in its movement when it reaches the wall.

C) The mental acts are also acts done in the phenomenal world, and as such they are:

  1. Willed
  2. Done in time
  3. Can be successfully done or not (with intimate awareness if the act succeeded or the subject has “hit the wall with the hand). It is the fact that even mental acting is done in the phenomenal world (not dependent on the
    subject), which
    plays role of the “given”, or “sense-data”… It is not up to the will (or not merely up to its skill to do an act), but up to the phenomenal world if the action can be successfully performed. (The issue of skill to perform action, is also one other interesting issue, which I will ignore here)

On side note, there is interesting issue here of where the distinction might lay between the mental acts and bodily acts. While by being acts they share their basic properties, few things might be distinguished among which those two come to mind:
a)accessibility of mental acts to other people
b)the relation to the things in the phenomenal world. the bodily actions affect objects in the phenomenal world, while mental acts, e.g. the recognition is seen as leaving the object as it is. Though this is also not necessary so, because e.g. in case of Necker Cube, it seems as if we are changing the phenomenal world with mere mental acts.

After this said, I will now state that the reports of subjects are based on mental acts performed, and not passively received fact (sense-data). It seems obvious to me, that when we are required to report how something seems to us, we are willfully performing some acts, in minimal case at least focusing on the things in the world.
Together with what is said in A), B) and C), I think that is enough to give account for the intuition of infallibility of reports.

Comparing lines

In the next part, I will focus on a specific case – the recognizing the relation between sizes of two lines (i.e. if of two lines, the first is shorter, longer or same length with the second one). To do that, I will try to more precisely explicate what the mental act of recognizing might consist of (I’ll give myself some speculative freedom):

D) Here is a caricature of how I think the ostensive teaching of the usage of words “same, longer and shorter line” would go…
Let’s say we have person who doesn’t know what it means to compare the lengths of two lines, and we want to teach him. How can we do it? We can present that subject with pairs of lines of different lengths (directly one above the other), and pronounce the judgments “A is longer than B”,”A is equal length with B”, and “A is shorter than B”. To learn the concepts, the subject must figure out what are we talking about… he must learn to discern some specific feature of the examples, because in the pictures there are lot of things we could be talking about… we could be talking about the number of the lines, their color, their position on the paper, and so on… This figuring out consist of finding the cognitive act (or set of acts), whose success will coincide with the different words pronounced .
At the end, when learning is successful,  the person has figured out what (mental) act he has to do in order to pass judgment.

This mental act seems to be irreducibly simple, but by little introspection we can see that it successful performance requires bunch of different steps…

  • abstracting the two lines. If the person can’t abstract two lines, he can’t go further with the act. If we present one line to him, and say “which is longer?”, he can’t pass the judgment. Same thing when we show three or more lines to him – the mental act requires that two lines are “located”. (the lines don’t have to be drawn on paper, we can talk about distances before things, one distance being longer then another)
  • abstracting the ends of the two lines. Imagine two lines drawn on paper, which have normal parts, but also on both sides they don’t have sharp endings, but where slowly the line disappears. Imagine that line A has longer normal part than B, but that the B is longer if taken with the slowly disappearing parts of it on both sides… The person has to decide what is counted as end points of the lines
  • keeping in mind the result from comparing the results from the left ends of the lines (e.g. if those ends coincide), while we turn our attention to the right ends. If we present the person with lines which extend to one of the sides in time, it would require some additional consideration to pass judgment.

On any of those points, and I guess in the bunch more others, the act can be unsuccessful, in which case the subject will not be able to pass judgment.

E) The need to pass a judgment (or to determine applicability of the concepts learned in previous point), might appear for lines which are not given one besides the other. In such situation one would require additional mental act, of imagining the two lines put one besides the other, and after that using the previously learned mental act.

According to this analysis then, the subject is willfully (and skillfully) performing mental acts – acts of trying to recognize the relation between the length of the lines. The actions might succeed or not. In case of success the subject reports this fact (of successfully performing the mental action). If the act of recognizing line A as longer than line B is succesfull, then the subject will say “line A is longer than line B”. If the act of recognizing A as shorter than line B, then the subject will say “line A is shorter than line B”, etc..


But, while possibly explaining where the intimate relation with this reports come from, I haven’t mentioned “seems” at all. It was the “seem to us” reports of which we  intuitively think of as infallible.

F) The acts are done in the phenomenal space… the one which is seen as publically accessible – it is the act of recognition of those lines there on the monitor (or on paper, or wherever). However subject can be critical of his acts as passing infallible judgments about the state of affairs in the world . Probably this comes from experience, coming to distinguish less reliable acts from more reliable recognition acts. For example subject can learn that his mental acts as I described in point E might be shown incorect when he takes the actual objects and put them one beside another, and does the recognition act again (as in point D). Because of that subject who passes judgment can add “seems to me”, “looks to me” or something simmilar to qualify his judgement as possibly false. So, I think that this adding of “seems” is kind of external addition of critical mind which accepts fallibility of his judgments.

I think it is connecting the intuition of infallibility of reports, to this “seems”, that might be the cause that initially put us on bad path, and tricks us to start to think about the issue in terms of some kind of “sense-data”.


So, giving this account of “seems”, and put in one sentence, saying that “the situation seems X to me” would be saying “if the situation is objectively the way I recognize it in my acts, it would be X”. The report can’t be false (if it is sincere) because the person has succesfully done the acts for recognition of X, and he just report that success, with added critical stance towards his powers of recognition of objective states of affairs in the world.

World’s Top Three Tests Of Conscious Intelligence

Here are three tests for checking if a machine has conscious intelligence, in no particular order.

The Deep Thought test of conscious intelligence

In Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,  we learn that the Earth is just a giant computer made to produce the Ultimate Question (the answer was previously computed by other computer named Deep Thought). However, five minutes before the conclusion of the 10-million-year program, the Earth is destroyed by Vogons.
The following test is similar and goes like this:

  • Create bunch of A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), say 10,000 of them.
  • Put them in virtual reality (they will end up putting us in virtual reality anyway, so don’t feel bad for it).
  • Wait, say… 3.000 years.
  • Check their published philosophical virtual-works.
  • Has anyone mentioned “qualia”? If yes, they have conscious intelligence.

Vogon fleet can destroy the Earth in meantime

Voight-Kampff test of conscious intelligence

Remember the movie Blade Runner ?
In that movie Rick Deckard, played by Indiana Jones Harrison Ford, was hunting down few remaining replicants. Replicants in the movie are genetically-manufactured beings created by humans to do dangerous work at the “off-world” colonies. They are created to live only 4 years, so that they can’t develop their own “emotional responses”. But after a mutiny, special police units (Blade Runners) are sent to kill all the replicants. As they are same with humans in all respect except their emotions, Blade Runners use special Voight-Kampff test. In the test bodily responses such as heart rate, eye movement etc. are observed while asking “carefully worded questions and statements”.

Good just for replicants. I’m mentioning it mostly because I found that On The Edge Of Blade Runner (2000) documentary about the movie is available online. (As part of the Free Movies Fallen out of Copyright site…

Turing Test of conscious intelligence

Without intention to kill anyone, Turing proposed a test, which is today often mentioned in the context of the question – how can we know if machine has consciousness. In this test the machine(say a computer) which we are testing for consciousness and one (genuine) human are put in separate rooms, Then a Judge who communicates with both through text-only medium (e.g. Internet chat) asks them questions, trying to determine which is the human and which is the machine. In this test there can’t be “carefully worded questions and statements” which Judge could ask, as that would allow programmers to “carefully” program the replies. So,  unlike the Blade Runners, the Judge will need to improvise and think of new smart questions as the test goes.

The Judge is human – once the humans are gone, A.I. won’t know if they have conscious intelligence or not.

Transcendence, Strawberries and Mindless Robots

I will try to give a sketch of how I think transcendence of the intentional matter (or if you like it better – objectivity of intentional content) can be grounded in something else. First let me say, that I don’t think it can be grounded in language, because this kind of transcendence is needed for learning language to occur in first place. In order to learn language we must figure out what other people mean by their words, so what the words mean (be it a concrete thing, a category, abstract concept, etc..) must be accessible to us in order to learn the word.
To provide the possibility of learning what those words mean, we must also beforehand admit the possibility of multiple people to access the same thing which is the meaning of the word (the signified).
So, transcendence of intentional matter must be grounded in public accessibility of intentional matter, and can’t be grounded in the language itself, but is necessary condition for language.

From phenomenological standpoint, we don’t have to search very far for this public accessibility of the intentional content. If we reflect on our experiences, we experience ourselves as a subject in the world – in fact a subject which exists-along with other subjects in the same world. The things we see around us, are there publicly accessible in the form they are, and their being like they are is not dependent on us.

So, if we are looking at a strawberry, it is there in the world, in front of us, it has that specific color, shape, specific taste and smell. And neither of those is seen as belonging to something inside of our head. My head is <here>, and it is the strawberry which is of that form, of that color, and with that particular taste.
Because the strawberry is seen as existing in the world and as having all those qualities by itself, it is seen as publicly accessible along with its shape, color, taste, etc… it can be accessed by me and/or other subjects in the world by seeing, tasting, touching and so on… It’s color, taste and shape are in such way seen as independent of my sensing them.
The accessibility covers more then direct acquittance  with the shape, color and other sensible qualities of the thing – we are also aware of the changes things undergo in the world around us, and possibilities of how things can change.
Allowing that kind of awareness to other people (and animals) is what the problem of other minds is about, allowing that other people notice the things, notice the changes and are aware of the possibilities of their changes. In such way other-minds are different from the other things we observe around us – while the mindless things simply undergo changes, the creatures with minds are additionally aware of those changes, and the possibilities of how things may change. This awareness constitutes the awareness of other minds.

But how come we become aware of other minds? For the “mindness” to be accessible it must be also placed in the world, and one possibility that comes to mind is that we observe goal-directed behavior, where other people (and animals), act upon other things accomplishing some goals… their acts are of intentional nature, they show awareness of the things and their changes, and awareness of  the possibilities – in their acting they choose to bring one of those possibilities vs. the other.
Of course, having the technological know-how we have at this historical moment, it is easy for us to imagine a machine, which might show the same kind of behavior, and still be “mindless”. Does that mean that the observing intentional acting is not enough for grounding the other minds? I would say no, as imagining of mindless machine with goal-directed behavior is possibility imagination of more abstract type. In our direct awareness of the world, the intentional acts are necessarily first seen as connected to awareness of the things, their changes, and possibilities of change. The possibility of a mindless machine which merely undergoes changes, but which looks like acting intentionally (without being aware) can come just later in our knowledge. So to say, we don’t need theories in order to see a creature as having mind (e.g. Folk Psychology as a Theory) the awareness and intentional behavior is transparent in the being-along with others. In fact we need a theory in order to see a creature who appears to act intentionally as not having a mind.

I use awareness here, and don’t qualify it specifically as “conscious awareness”, as I think that this distinction of conscious vs. some normal awareness is product of the confused looking at things… Namely, it is only when we give primacy to the reductionist view of natural sciences and we classify us as just another type of machines, that we come around to a need to distinguish ourselves from other machines. Having abstracted from the distinction which is already there in our living in the world (namely the distinction between creatures aware of things, changes and possibilities and mechanical creatures which are merely undergoing changes) we try to reintroduce the distinction in “mechanical” way by adding another abstract notion of “consciousness” to the picture of mechanical body (human body which mechanically undergoes changes).

Some connected posts:
Qualia and Natural Science
Two things about colors worth considering (the first thing)
Intra-Subjective vs. Inter-Subjective Transcendence

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