Order in Multiplicity: Homonymy in the Philosophy of Aristotle

By Christopher Shields | Go to book overview
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The Meaning of Life


The right sort of large firm might advertise an especially useful android for sale on the open market. machine. Presumably the Tool cannot produce (or reproduce?) human offspring? We might, in short, wish to probe the easy assurance that the Tool is not alive.

Some are surprisingly comfortableWhat makes this android especially useful, the advertisement proclaims, is its amazing lifelikeness. According to the firm's publicity agents, the androids in this line 'think, speak, and act like humans -- except better, and, needless to say, faster'. Perhaps to assuage concerns about the propriety of buying and owning such a creature, the firm names their product the Tool and closes its announcement with the assurance, 'The Tool is essential for commodious living: it performs any domestic task you like with alacrity; indeed, it fulfils every human function but life itself.'

Before buying, we might look beyond the declamations of the advertising hype to determine whether the Tool in fact engages in the full range of characteristically human activities. It thinks. Is the Tool conscious? It speaks. Could the Tool conduct my lectures for me? It acts. Does the Tool consider what is good for itself and devise strategies for reaching its desired ends? It is a mostly silicon-based with the judgement that the Tool is not alive. After all, the Tool is a mechanism. Indeed, the Tool is a programmable mechanism. It was developed in the laboratory for a definite purpose; its physical states were contrived by conscious designers to enable it to serve that purpose; and it may be turned off at night to conserve its batteries. Of course it might pass a sort of Turing test for life -- but that just illustrates the bankruptcy of the Turing test. The case is merely a sophisticated variant on a simpler case, where our intuitions are not so muddy.1 If after showing you my garden, I reveal that the tulips are in fact powered by small internal machines designed to make them gradually larger and to have them open at the appropriate times, you might

The case of the mechanical flower is adapted from Ziff. See n. 2.


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Order in Multiplicity: Homonymy in the Philosophy of Aristotle


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