Minds and Computers: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence

Minds and Computers: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence

Minds and Computers: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence

Minds and Computers: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence


Could a computer have a mind? What kind of machine would this be? Exactly what do we mean by 'mind' anyway?The notion of the 'intelligent' machine, whilst continuing to feature in numerous entertaining and frightening fictions, has also been the focus of a serious and dedicated researchtradition. Reflecting on these fictions, and on the research tradition that pursues 'Artificial Intelligence', raises a number of vexing philosophical issues. Minds and Computers introduces readers to these issues by offering an engaging, coherent, and highly approachable interdisciplinary introduction to the Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence.Readers are presented with introductory material from each of the disciplines which constitute CognitiveScience: Philosophy, Neuroscience, Psychology, Computer Science, and Linguistics. Throughout, readers are encouraged to consider the implications of this disparate and wide-ranging material for the possibility of developing machines with minds. And they can expect to develop a foundation forphilosophically responsible engagement with A.I., a sound understanding of Philosophy of Mind and of computational theory, and a good feel for cross-disciplinary analysis.


This is a book about minds. It is also about computers. Centrally, we will be interested in examining the relation between minds and computers.

The idea that we might one day be able to construct some artefact which has a mind in the same sense that we have minds is not a new one. It has featured in entertaining and frightening fictions since Mary Shelley first conceived of Frankenstein's monster.

In the classic science fiction of the early to mid-twentieth century, this idea was generally cashed out in terms of 'mechanical men' or robots – from the Czech word robata, which translates roughly as the feudal term corvée, a term which refers to the unpaid labour provided to one's liege lord.

In more modern fiction, the idea of a mechanical mind has given way to the now commonplace notion of a computational artificial intelligence. The possibility of actually developing artificial intelligence, however, is not just a question of sufficiently advanced technology. It is fundamentally a philosophical question.

It is this question that we will be centrally concerned with throughout this volume. In order that we might be in an informed position to consider the possibility of artificial intelligence, we will need to answer a number of related questions.

Firstly, we will be asking just what the human mind is. The twentieth century saw a succession of philosophical theories of mind, culminating in the currently dominant theory which accommodates the possibility of artificial intelligence. Our first goal, which we will spend Chapters 1 to 10 pursuing, is to clearly articulate this theory.

Philosophically responsible engagement with this theory requires a sound understanding of precisely what a computer is. Consequently, we're going to spend three chapters developing a rigorous technical account of computation. Although this material is technical, the . . .

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