Essay Assignment

When you ask the question, “Who am I?”, what is the answer?

Organize your essay as an extended argument for your own recommendation about how to understand the self, and during this argument bring in the views of the following persons and say how their views support your own view or differ from it: Buddha, David Hume, Derek Parfit’s ego theorists, John Searle, and several of the neuroscientists, psychologists or philosophers interviewed by Susan Blackmore.

Turn in seven pages or less, typed double space. You must show evidence of outside research by including footnotes and a bibliography. We will discuss all this in class.


Homework 1

Is substance dualism dead?

3 pages typed double space.


Homework 2

1. What is eliminativism in the philosophy of mind, and what reasons can be, or have been, offered for and against of it? What do you, yourself, think of eliminativism?

2. Briefly describe John Searle’s Chinese Room Argument and Ned Block’s Chinese Brain Argument. Then compare the two arguments. Is either argument successful?

3. What are the two kinds of philosophical zombies, according to Ned Block? What are his views about whether they could exist, and why does he hold those views? Do you agree with him?

3 pages typed double space.


Homework 3

1. With regard to consciousness, what are supervenience and emergence?

2. In the excerpt from her book Brain-Wise, Patricia Churchland discusses the direct and indirect strategies. Summarize what she says about each, but don’t quote her. Be sure to explain the significance of neurons N3 and N4 somewhere in your answer.

3. According to Robert Van Gulick in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, there are many contemporary senses of the term “consciousness.” (a) What are the various kinds of creature consciousness? One sentence on each is sufficient. (b) Which of these would you say it’s likely that a Neanderthal had? Why? (c) What would you guess Princeton University psychologist Julian Jaynes would say about the Neanderthal? Why? (d) When discussing consciousness as an entity from a realist perspective, Van Gulick says we can think of consciousness as more on a par with electromagnetic fields than with life. Explain the point he is making. Label the four parts of your answer to question 3, but use no quotations from Van Gulick; say everything in your own words.

3 pages typed double space.


Final exam
Phil. 153, Prof. Dowden

Answer all four questions.

1. In the 2004 action film “I, Robot” starring Will Smith, the main robot-developer, Dr. Lanning, says that someday robots will intentionally keep secrets from us humans, and they will have dreams.

How feasible do you think this is? Why? Briefly discuss the related issues in the philosophy of mind that are raised in the discussion below that took place on May 12, 1997. What criticism do you have of what your opponents would say on these issues?

Yesterday, in the sixth and final round of man versus machine, IBM's Deep Blue computer beat world chess champion Gary Kasparov.

WARNER: And now the...larger meanings of this match. Daniel Dennett teaches philosophy at Tufts University. He wrote about computer intelligence in his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea. And Hubert Dreyfus is a philosophy professor at the University of California at Berkeley. He's the author of the book What Computers Still Can't Do. Welcome, gentlemen, to all of you. Hubert Dreyfus, what do you think is the significance of this? There'd been a lot of commentary about it. "Newsweek" Magazine called it the "brain's last stand." What do you see as the significance of this outcome?

DREYFUS: Well, I think that's a lot of hype, that it's the brain's last stand. The reason the computer could win at chess--and everybody knew that eventually computers would win at chess--is because chess is a completely isolated domain. It doesn't connect up with the rest of human life [the informal world], therefore, like arithmetic, it's completely formalizable, and you could, in principle, exhaust all the possibilities.

WARNER: Daniel Dennett, what do you see as the significance? And respond, if you would, to Mr. Dreyfus's critique.

DENNETT: Certainly. It seems to me that right now is a time for the skeptics to start moving the goal posts. And I think Bert Dreyfus is doing just that. A hundred and fifty years ago Edgar Allan Poe was sure in his bones that no machine could ever play chess.... The idea that there's something special about human intuition that is not capturable in the computer program is a sort of illusion, I think, when people talk about intuition. It's just because they don't know how something's done. If we didn't know how Deep Blue did what it did, we'd be very impressed with its intuitive powers, and we don't know how people live in the informal world very well. And as we learn more about it, we'll probably be able to reproduce that in a computer as well.

DREYFUS: ...I don't think that's just a limitation of our current knowledge. That's where I differ with Dan. There is something about the everyday world which is tied up with the kind of being we are. We've got bodies, and we move around in this world, and the way that world is organized is in terms of our implicit understanding of things like we move forward more easily than backward, and we have to move toward a goal, and we have to overcome obstacles. Those aren't facts that we understand. We understand that just by the way we are, like we understand that insults make us angry. You can state those as facts. But I think there's a whole underlying domain of what we are as emotional embodied beings which you can't completely articulate as facts and which underlies our ability to make sense of facts and our ability to find any facts relevant at all.

WARNER: Daniel Dennett, I know you're not a chess expert, but I mean, do you feel that in this situation the computer was thinking in the way that...Gary Kasparov thought it was, I mean, that it was somehow independently making judgments? I'm probably using the wrong terminology here.

DENNETT: No. I think that's fine. I think that Kasparov has put his finger on it too. It's the performance that counts. And Kasparov is not kidding himself...when he confronts Deep Blue and feels that Deep Blue is, indeed, parrying his threats and recognizing what they are and trying to trick him, this is an entirely appropriate way to deal with that.

WARNER: But do you think it was capable of trying to trick Kasparov?

DENNETT: Certainly.

WARNER: And Mr. Dreyfus, your view on that.

DREYFUS: No. I think it was brute force, but the important thing is I'm willing to say, okay, it's the performance that counts....

WARNER: Daniel Dennett, briefly in the time we have left, where do you think we are in the continuum of developing [computer intelligence]--50 percent?

DENNETT: No. I don't think that's the right way to look at it. In fact, Deep Blue in chess programming in general is a sort of offshoot to the most interesting work in artificial intelligence and largely for the reasons that Bert Dreyfus says. I think the most interesting work is the work that, for instance, Rodney Brooks and his colleagues and I are doing at MIT with the humanoid robot Cog, and as Dreyfus says--you've got to be embodied to live in a world, to develop real intelligence, and Cog does have a body. That's why Cog is a robot. Now, if Bert will tell us what Cog can never do and promise in advance that he won't move the goal posts and he won't say, well, this wasn't done in the right style, so it doesn't count, if he'll just give us a few tasks that are now and forever beyond the capacity of Cog, then we'll have a new test.

WARNER: All right. We have just a few seconds. Mr. Dreyfus, give us two tasks it'll never be capable of, very quickly.

DREYFUS: Okay. If Cog is programmed as a symbolic rule-using robot and not as a brain-imitating robot, it won't be able to understand natural language. [But] there's no reason why a computer that's simulating the way the neurons in the brain work won't be intelligent.

2. A blind man walks into a store with his seeing-eye dog. All of a sudden, he picks up the leash and begins swinging the dog over his head. The manager runs up to the man and shouts, “What are you doing?!” The blind man replies, “Just looking around.”
The notion of looking around is very tricky philosophically. Some philosophers take the position that when someone has an hallucination and sees an hallucinatory dagger, he has the same appearances as when he’s seeing a real dagger. The appearances he has in common both times are what we call “sense data.” That’s what we all perceive directly when we look around. Discuss this position regarding perception.

3. To quote Daniel Dennett, “Frank Jackson’s thought experiment about Mary the color scientist is a prime example of an intuition pump, a thought experiment that is not so much a formal argument as a little scenario or vignette that has been pumping philosophical intuitions with remarkable vigor since it first appeared in 1982. For sheer volume and reliability, this must count as one of the most successful intuition pumps ever devised by analytical philosophers. But is it a good intuition pump?”
Explain the situation with Mary, and discuss the philosophical issue.

4. (a) "All theory is against the freedom of the will; all experience is for it," said Samuel Johnson in 1778. What did he mean by saying that? (b) Is free will the ability to do otherwise? (c) In cases of supposed freely-willed actions, the idea to act has a curious connection with the resulting action. As the 20th century poet T.S. Eliot says, “between the idea and the action falls the shadow.” Benjamin Libet studied this shadow. What is the neurophysiology research that Libet did, and what significance do you think it has for understanding free will? [Divide your answers into three lettered parts.]