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Why are people so skeptical about the notion that a sufficiently advanced

Why are people so skeptical about the notion that a sufficiently advanced computer program could replicate human intelligence (meaning free will insofar as humans have it; motivation and creativity; comparable problem-solving and communicative capacities; etc.)? If humans are intelligent in the way we are because of the way our brains are built, than a computer could be constructed that replicates the structure of our brains (incorporating fuzzy logic, neural networks, chemical analogs, etc). Worst comes to absolute worst, a sufficiently powerful molecular simulator could run a full simulation of a human brain or human body, down to each individual atom. So there doesn't seem to be anything inherent in the physicality of humans that makes it impossible to build machines with our intelligence, since we can replicate physical structures in machines easily enough. If, however, humans are intelligent for reasons that do not have anything to do with the physical structure of our brains or bodies - if there...

My colleague and I disagree somewhat here, though perhaps on everything essential to your question, we agree.

We all agree that in principle the right kind of "machine" could be every bit as conscious, free, you and I. And Prof. Nahmias may well be right when he says that if a robot of the C3PO sort acted enough like us, we'd have a very hard time not thinking of it as conscious. I even agree with my co-panelist that people's religious beliefs and the relatively crude character of our actual gadgets may be part of the reason why many people don't think a machine could be conscious.

So where's the residual disagreement? It's on a point that may not be essential, given the way you pose your question. Prof. Nahmias thinks that replicating the functional character of the mind would give us reason enough to think the resulting thing was conscious. I'm not inclined to agree. But that has nothing to do with belief in souls (I don't believe in them and don't even think I have any serious idea what they're supposed to be) nor with the fact that the computers we have are primitive compared to full-fledged people. Interestingly, Prof. Nahmias himself actually identifies -- and agrees with -- the sticking point for folks like me. As he puts it, "we have no theory to explain [how our brains could produce consciousness] and in part because we have no models for how mental properties can be composed of material properties."

Now I don't take this to show that matter appropriately arranged can't be conscious. In fact, I believe that we are just such matter. That is, I agree with folk who think that somehow, I know not how, the right physical goings on make for consciousness. But I don't think a purely functional story will do. And it's not just because I don't know how it would work, but because it seems clear to me that a functional story alone doesn't have the resources.

All this is to say that I take what's often called the "explanatory gap" very seriously. I stay in the materialist cam because there's enough we don't know about matter that I'm cheerfully willing to believe that if we knew more, we might have an explanation for consciousness. As a fall-back, I'm quite willing to go along with Colin McGinn's "Mysterianism": it's matter doing its thing that makes us conscious, but we aren't wired to understand how. But it seems clear to me that not only do we not understand how a purely functional story could fill the gap; we understand enough to know that it couldn't.

On this point I'm cheerfully willing to agree to disagree with Prof. Nahmias; I hope he's willing to do likewise. My point isn't to convince you that he's mistaken, but rather to note that for at least some claims about how matter and mind are related, there are reasons for doubt of a different sort than the ones Prof. Nahmias highlights, though reasons that his own further remarks point to.

'Normal' people don't do very bad things (murder, rape, etc), so if someone does something bad, can't we assume that the person is sick rather than evil? Why is it that people with mental disabilities, people with addictions, etc. can use that as their excuse and usually get people to pity them while other "crazy" people don't get any pity whatsoever and instead get thrown into prison for the rest of their lives?

We need to be careful to avoid equivocating here. What we can safely say is that most people don't do very bad things; the people who do are in the tail of the statistical distribution. However, that isn't enough to count them as mentally ill or disabled. To come to that conclusion, we'd need to know whether the person was able to reason effectively, whether they have adequate impulse control, whether they're subject to delusion, and various other such things.

The mentally ill, the addicted and people with various other mental disabilities are - as the word suggests - disabled. In one way or another, they aren't able to function as we are. If a person with severe dyslexia misread a set of instructions and the result was some misfortune, it would make sense to take that into account when deciding how much to blame them. What's easy for most of us (reading instructions) might be much harder for them, through no fault of their own. But if a person's frontal lobes don't work properly and they don't have the ability to rein in their impulses that most of us do, then once again we might want to take that into account in deciding how much to blame them. The same goes for various other mental disabilities.

What we should do with this information is not simple, of course. If someone's mental illness makes them dangerous to others, we're still entitled to protect the public. And different disabilities might call for different responses. (Addiction might not lessen culpability in the way that severe schizophrenia does, for example.) It may also be that some of the people we treat as compos mentis but criminal shouldn't really be thought of that way. But if someone has a real disability that gets in the way of acting wisely or well, it doesn't seem strange that we'd take that into account when judging their accountability.

Hello philosophers,

Hello philosophers, I have a question concerning experience. I have dreamt that I have had a French kiss. Although, I have never had such empirical experience in my real life. However, how have I managed to fell like it tastes in my dream? I mean, how have I managed to understand and feel the sense of it if I have never had it?

Hm, if you haven't *really* experienced it, then how do you know that what you dreamt was accurate? Moreover, even if you haven't had such a kiss exactly, isn't it possible that the specific sensory components of the kiss ARE all things you've experienced, if not exactly in that combination? (Why couldn't the mind rearrange sensory components to creat new overall arrangements -- as it does when we use our imaginations, say?) Most importantly, your question presumes we could never dream about something we haven't experienced while awake -- but why believe that, esp. when this very dream might well refute it? (No doubt your sensory organs have the capacity to detect far more tastes and smells and feels etc. than they ever in fact meet with during waking life; why can't the brain fire, during dreaming, so as to reflect those preivously unactivated capacities?)

best, ap

Are we us,or our brain? If someone put our brain in a diffrent body will we be

Are we us,or our brain? If someone put our brain in a diffrent body will we be the same person? When we say 'me' we mean our brain? Because our brain is responsible for every single thought and move we make. Kostas 16years old,Greece

Your question goes to the heart of debates about personal identity, and even goes back to the early modern starting point for those debates, the chapter on personal identity in John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Much discussion about personal identity has turned on the question of whether personal identity is to be located in psychological continuity or in bodily continuity of some sort; if one is inclined to think that the identity of a person is to be identified with the identity of her brain, then personal identity does indeed seem to consist in bodily continuity.

Your question goes even further, for you wonder whether the brain is to be identified as the locus of personhood, so that a person just is her brain. One thing that this view has going for it is that it seems that all human persons have had--it's not clear whether we can know, without doing brain scans, that all human persons have brains--brains. So having a brain would seem to be necessary for being a human person. But is having a brain sufficient for being a person? It's not clear to me that it is. For one thing, if one takes a person to be an agent, capable of having long term goals and forming life plans, then many human beings with brains do not count as persons. Moreover, even if one thinks that personhood is tied to being a human being (and human beings certainly have brains), it's not clear that personhood consists essentially in the identity of one's brain: the rest of one's body, and even one's psychology, could also be bound up with being a human being. As for whether a person would be the same person if her brain were transplanted into a different body, I don't really know what to say. Assuming that such a transplant could be done, if the rest of the body helps to determine the nature of a person, as much as her brain, then merely transplanting a brain into a different body would not preserve the identity of a person. (Maybe if the body into which the brain was transplanted was relevantly similar enough to the first body, then identity might be preserved.) Even if identity just consists in one's psychology, only if one's psychology could be preserved when one's brain was transplanted into another body, would identity be preserved. But I hesitate to draw conclusions about personal identity on the basis of a consideration of this sort of science fiction scenario.

I myself am inclined to think that the brain is importantly related to personal identity, although this is only an intuition, and I'm not at all sure just what role the brain plays in determining personal identity; I'm not, however, inclined to think that a person just is her brain. But cashing out this intuition is a matter for further, deeper, reflection. (Much of the philosophical literature on personal identity is devoted to exploring just such issues: if you're interested in exploring further, there are numerous good, relatively introductory starting points. I recommend Amelie Rorty's anthology, The Identities of Persons, and John Perry's Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality.)

My psychology professor once told the class that power is a basic human motive.

My psychology professor once told the class that power is a basic human motive. I asked the professor what was appealing about power and he responded that I was asking a philosophical question rather than a psychological question. I told him that my philosophy professor thinks that my questions are often psychological questions rather than properly philosophical questions. So is the question about why power is appealing a philosophical or psychological question and why is that? Also what is your answer about why power is desirable to people?

Interesting! The historical relationship between "philosophy" and "psychology" is a bit complex. Some in psychology tend to see themselves as principally working from within the sciences or an applied science such as medicine, but some philosophers tend to see psychology as something that emerged historically from philosophy. In any case, the claim that human beings have a basic motive or drive to gain power is a bit abstract. I wonder if the professor meant something specific, such as the power to dominate or control other persons or something less sinister such as the power to think, feel, grow, act justly, and so on. In any case, theories of human nature are (in my view) naturally described as philosophical. Hobbes thought we fundamentally desire power and safety (social bonds are based on our shared fear of premature violent death). And this seems to be properly described as a philosophy that is distinct from, say, Thomas Aquinas' or John Locke's, both of whom thought we had a fundamental desire for social bonds. So, I suggest that your professor's claim is a philosophical one and it can be tested philosophically in terms of its coherence and in light of our best theory of values. (For what it's worth, I am more on the side of Aquinas and Locke than Hobbes.) But when the professor suggests empirical means of testing his thesis about power (perhaps he will propose tests involving human subjects being given choices that reveal "basic human motives") then he might rightly claim to be doing psychology as a social science rather than practicing philosophy.

For a fuller defense of the view that people desire more than power but a host of values, you might check out the work of Max Scheler.

Marijuana impacts the aesthetic dimensions of human life such as art, nature,

Marijuana impacts the aesthetic dimensions of human life such as art, nature, and especially the subtleties of human interaction? Have any philosophers talked about the effects of marijuana from a philosophical perspective?

Yes, there is a book just out that you might like, called Philosophy for Everyone: Cannabis:

The sub-title is quite fun: "What were we just talking about?"

That book, just published last year, should give you lots to consider.

Probably the most positive treatment of psychotropic drugs by a philosophically minded author is Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception.

Many philosophers think that mental states can be reduced to physical states. It

Many philosophers think that mental states can be reduced to physical states. It seems to me however that properties such as sadness and happiness are adjectives that apply to a person's mental states. It doesn't make any sense to say "this is happy brain tissue" does it?

I might just add one further observation here. At the risk of sounding pedantic, 'happiness' and 'sadness' are not adjectives (as you suggest). They're nouns. The corresponding adjectives here are the words 'happy' and 'sad'. Now, I would agree with you that there seems to be something deeply peculiar about a sentence like "this is happy brain tissue". Admittedly, and as Sean Greenberg indicates, philosophers don't tend to seek to reduce mental states simply to brain tissue but rather to states of that tissue. But still, that doesn't help: the sentence "this is a happy brain state" or "this brain state is happy" doesn't sound much less jarring. However, I think the reason why these sentences sound so harsh is not because we're here talking about a neurological state as opposed to a mental one. It would strike me as equally peculiar to say "this mental state is happy". That's because I disagree with your suggestion that we apply these adjectives to mental states at all. We do apply the nouns to them: the word 'happiness' is just the name of a certain mental state. But, when it comes to the adjectives, these are terms that we apply to people, not to states of those people. The proper thing to say is surely something like "this person is happy" or "this is a happy person". And the occasion for saying such a thing is when the person is in the state that we call 'happiness'. But this doesn't seem to depend in any way on the ontological status of that state. Regardless of whether happiness should turn out to be just a mental state, or alternatively a state that is in some way both mental and physical, we could still say all of the same things about the person: "this person is happy", "this person possesses happiness", etc.

Can madness be explained in terms of irrationality?

Can madness be explained in terms of irrationality?

If so, then we are all mad -- for much empirical research demonstrates the endless ways in which all of us behave irrationally practically all the time ... (see best-selling work by Dan Arielly, for example!) ... And anyway, surely we are familiar with at least the literary/cinematic stereotype of the absolutely even-keeled, coldly rational/logical/calculating supervillain who is simply MAD in his desire to conquer the world etc.... I don't know if there ever have been individuals fitting that description but the sheer fact that it's conceivable suggests that we conceive of "madness" in terms other than "irrationality" .... And finally, perhaps, "irrationality" is a matter of how well the means we pursue are apt to obtain the ends we pursue -- but madness (at least in that stereotype case) is a function only of the status of the ends themselves .... so a mad "end" might be pursued very rationally, or a sane "end" might be pursued very irrationally ....

hope that's useful!

Can I a sociopath be held morally responsible for his/her crimes? Is there any

Can I a sociopath be held morally responsible for his/her crimes? Is there any literature written on the subject of ethics in relation with those who lack empathy for others (or psychopaths who have uncontrollable urges to kill)?

This is a very interesting question--sociopaths and psychopaths have long figured in the literature on free will, but relatively little sustained attention has been devoted to the question of whether they are morally responsible for what they do until quite recently. One psychopath who has been treated at length is Robert Alton Harris, who figures prominently in Gary Watson's paper, "Responsibility and the Limits of Evil: Variations on a Strawsonian Theme": although the paper treats Harris's case at length, its chief aim is not to to determine whether Harris is morally responsible but instead to examine the relation between reactive attitudes and judgments of freedom and responsibility, and thereby to illuminate P. F. Strawson's fascinating and amazing article, "Freedom and Resentment." Recent sustained engagements with the question of whether psychopaths can be morally responsible include P. S. Greenspan, "Responsible Psychopaths," Philosophical Psychology, 16/3, 2003; Paul Litton, "Responsibility Status of the Psychopath: On Moral Reasoning and Rational Self-Governance," Rutgers Law Journal Volume 39 (2008): 350-392; Matt Talbert, "Blame and Responsiveness to Moral Reasons: Are Psychopaths Blameworth?" Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 89 (2008): 516-535; and Gary Watson, "The Trouble with Psychopaths" (forthcoming).

Before turning to the question of whether a sociopath or a psychopath can be held responsible for what s/he does, however, a couple of caveats should be entered. First, it seems to me that it may be a mistake to treat psychopaths and sociopaths interchangeably: although the DSM-IV treats them similarly, according to the various criteria that I have encountered, these are actually somewhat distinct disorders, with the chief difference consisting in the fact that psychopaths are quite 'organized', whereas sociopaths are not. This difference is related to the second caveat that I want to enter. It seems a bit quick and even question-begging to say that psychopaths and sociopaths are subject to "uncontrollable urges": if the urges are literally "uncontrollable," then an agent overcome by them wouldn't be responsible for what s/he is prompted to do by them, unless s/he is responsible for such urges. The question of whether there are such "uncontrollable urges," and if so, whether agents can be responsible for what they do that is prompted by such urges, is a distinct question that deserves independent treatment. (It's closely related to the question of whether agents can be responsible for their emotions, which are often characterized as being out of an agent's control, but for which agents are nevertheless often blamed, which seems to manifest a tension in how we conceive of the relation between emotions and responsibility.) Given the fact that psychopaths are sometimes distinguished from sociopaths with respect to their psychological 'organization', however, it may well be the case that sociopaths are subject to and prompted to act by "uncontrollable urges" whereas psychopaths are not. This is, however, a vexed empirical question on which I'm in no position to take a stand, so below I focus exclusively on psychopathic agency.

What's characteristic of a psychopath, according to the literature that I've read, is that the psychopath does not recognize the interests of others, nor does he recognize the claims that morality makes on him, especially with respect to interpersonal relations, yet the psychopath is capable of engaging in complicated instrumental reasoning in order to achieve his ends. Insofar as the psychopath is capable of reasoning, it would seem that his actions are attributable to him, and that he is responsible for them, because he is not merely being acted through by forces or urges; insofar as the psychopath does not recognize the interests of others or the claims of morality, he seems to take himself out of the intersubjective world in which judgments of responsibility are made. Psychopathy thus seems to reveal a tension between two different aspects of judgments of responsibility. One might claim that because the actions of the psychopath are attributable to him--as, say, the actions of a child are not, since the child cannot reason--then the psychopath is responsible for what he does; since, however, the psychopath does not recognize the claims of others on him, then it might seem that the psychopath is not a part of the moral community, and subject to blame for what he does, and, hence, is not responsible for what he does. It's not clear to me how to resolve the tension, which I think goes very deep, although attempts are made in various ways in the articles cited in the first paragraph to resolve it. But this is precisely the sort of case to which attention needs to be devoted if we are to understand the nature of responsibility.

Somethings are said to exist in the mind rather than in the real world but can

Somethings are said to exist in the mind rather than in the real world but can something really be said to exist "inside" the mind? Doesn't that assume that the mind can contain things?

Strange, isn't it? Maybe the key is to appreciate that not all "containment" or things with an inside are physical or spatial. So we might talk about how a theory of justice should contain or include an account of property rights or a theory of what the mind is should contain an account of the origin of mind. And we might talk about what is inside or included in a concept or theory we might even speak of trying to get inside someone else's mind --which (I hope) is not a literal matter but a metaphorical way of speaking about understanding someone else's thoughts and feelings! Pointing out that we use the language of "containment" and "Inside" in nonphysical, non-spatial contexts may make things seem more mysterious than ever! But perhaps we need to appreciate that our language and ways of thinking about ourselves invovles more than speaking of concrete spatial things that contain things, like the way our brain is contained in our head!