June 11, 2015
In the previous post, I criticized Searle’s design thinking. Today I want to suggest an alternative.
The trouble with design thinking
Design thinking seems to be common in philosophy and in AI. The problem is that we end up attempting to design ourselves. We look at ourselves as the intended finished product. And we want what we design to have the same concepts, the same beliefs, the same ideas of truth.
There is a lot of talk about autonomous agents. But can an agent be truly autonomous if we require it to have our own concepts and our own beliefs? This, I think, is why we often have the intuition that an AI system won’t really be making decisions — it will, instead, be a mechanization of the designer’s intended decision making.
The alternative is to try to understand the problem than an organism or a perceptual system is attempting to solve. And then, once we understand the problem, we can look into ways of solving that problem.
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July 17, 2014
In a post earlier today at his new site, Massimo Pigliucci compares analytic philosophy with continental philosophy:
I found it an interesting post, and I suggest you read it. Most of the philosophy that I have read has been in the analytic tradition, so I did learn something about continental philosophy.
The starting point
By way of distinguishing between the two traditions, Pigliucci describes analytic philosophy this way:
Analytic philosophy refers to a style of doing philosophy characteristic of the contemporary British empiricists, like G.E. Moore and Bertrand Russell, with an emphasis on argument, logical analysis, and language, and it is what one finds practiced in many (though by no means all) philosophy departments in the United States and the UK. Michael Dummett  famously said that the “characteristic tenet [of analytic philosophy] is that the philosophy of language is the foundation for all the rest of philosophy … [that] the goal of philosophy is the analysis of the structure of thought [and that] the only proper method for analysing thought consists in the analysis of language.”
And, right there, you see where I disagree. The analytic tradition starts with language, and wants to make that the foundation for all philosophy. I want to start far earlier.
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June 9, 2014
In my previous post, I wrote
When I read John’s statement (either version), as quoted above, I see John mentioning the nature of knowledge as an important topic. I’ve read a lot of epistmology (the subfield of philosophy that deals with knowledge). In all honesty, I have not learned anything at all about the nature of knowledge from that reading.
Here, I want to talk informally about what I take to be the nature of knowledge.
To me, knowledge is closely connected with learning. I see knowledge is the result of learning. I guess that makes me an empiricist, at least in the broad sense of the term.
At around 10 years of age, while walking home from elementary school, I wondered about knowledge. In particular, I wondered if knowledge could be just those natural language statements such as we learn in school. But, as I pondered that, it seemed impossible. It seemed to me that there was nothing in those sentences that said how our language sentences connect with the world.
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June 6, 2014
From time to time, scientists criticize philosophy. And philosophers react. For an example of this, see the relatively recent post by John Wilkins:
In that post, John quotes some physicists, and wonders why they criticize philosophy. I am going to suggest that a lot of this is miscommunication.
To see the problem, let’s look at what John said in a comment to that post:
Philosophy, which is about the nature of knowledge at least in part, must attend to actual knowledge. Hence it cannot ignore science and just pull epistemic strictures out of its rear end. Hence, [good] philosophy must attend to science.
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February 15, 2014
I’ve been planning to post this for a while. However, I have been struggling with exactly how to present it. So I guess I should just blurt it out, and not worry. The reason for my hesitation, is that I know it will be misunderstood by some readers.
This is related to earlier posts on convention and posts on categorization.
I shall be quoting two short segments from Genesis 1. There is no religious reason for this, and I will be giving a non-standard reading of what I quote. My reason for quoting is that the quoted text will be familiar to many. And it happens to fit with the topic.
There’s a kind of epistemic nihilism, in which a person’s head is full of facts but he does not believe any of them. This sometimes explored as a way of investigating the extremes of skepticism.
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November 11, 2013
Today I want to look at “essentialism” as a possible alternative to the use of conventions. And then, toward the end of the post, I’ll briefly consider some other possible alternatives.
With today’s post, I will continue to use the hypothetical that I introduced in my previous post. That is to say, I will assume that small animals are classified into two species, which I shall call “cats” and “dogs”. There is no assumption that I am talking about what we usually call “cats” and “dogs”. I’m just borrowing those names for convenience.
The idea of essentialism, is that what makes an animal a cat is that it contains the essence of cathood. Likewise, what makes an animal a dog is that it has the essence of doghood. The name “essentialism” comes from this reference to essences.
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November 10, 2013
In this post I’ll respond to some of the objections raised by John Wilkins, as best I understand them. John raised objections during our discussions in comments to his blog post “Are species theoretical objects“. I want to be clear that I am not picking on John. It is my impression that many philosophers have similar views, and I have come across that sort of disagreement in discussions elsewhere.
I’ll start with a quote from that discussion, which I think reasonably summarizes John’s position.
As to conventions, again we may mean different things. I am basing my understanding on a read through of Lewis’ Conventions a while back. Consider correctly driving on the left side. Yes, if we all did the same things we’d all be driving on the left, but there is no fact of the matter which is best, left or right. In the same way, we may all choose to classify using the same conventions, but there need be no fact of the matter tracked in virtue of it being a conventional classification. If all we are doing is following conventions, then the ranks or categories so constructed are flatus vocus. There is nothing “out there” that is being tracked.
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November 2, 2013
I am starting a series of posts on the idea of conventions, as in social conventions. It has long been clear to me that conventions are important. This, however, seems to be controversial. As best I can tell, philosophers are deeply suspicious of convention.
As a self-declared heretic about philosophy, I am not troubled by opposing what seems to be the conventional view of convention among conventional philosophers.
Here’s some background reading:
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July 16, 2013
In my posts on consciousness, I indicated that I saw knowledge as an important issue. Today, I will say more about my view of knowledge.
The traditional account of knowledge by philosophers, is that knowledge is justified true belief (or JTB for short). That has always seemed wrong to me. It is my experience that when I express disagreement with that view, I get blow back. So the JTB idea seems to have a lot of support, though I find it hard to understand why.
When people support JTB, they usually acknowledge the need for some additional requirement to deal with the Gettier problem, though they rarely say what that additional requirement should be. Personally, I don’t worry much about the Gettier problem, since for me, the whole idea of knowledge as natural language statements seems mistaken.
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June 28, 2013
It should be evident from this series of posts, that I take consciousness as emergent from the way that the neural system works. It is not enough to simple say “emergence” and treat it as if magical. I do not consider it at all magical. Rather, I see it as consistent with the principles that I outlined in an earlier post, “A semantic conception of mind.”
My view is that the way the brain works is simple in principle, but complex in detail. So I see it as pretty much certain that consciousness would evolve, though the kind of consciousness that emerges might not be identical to human consciousness. So I see all mammals as being conscious, with perhaps their consciousness being somewhat similar to ours, though lacking the enrichment that language gives us. Other complex creatures such as an octopus or a bee are surely conscious in some way or another, but it is a little hard for us to imagine how they would experience that consciousness.
So why is there a “hard problem” of consciousness? This is because people are looking at it in the wrong way. They are trying to understand how to design consciousness, instead of trying to understand how it would evolve. To me, it seems very unlikely that a designed robotic system could ever lead to consciousness. I expect our designed robots to all be zombies.
This brief posts completes my series on consciousness. I will continue to post on other topics, such as knowledge and perception, that are related to consciousness. I realize that many will find my series unsatisfactory, in that it failed to explain to them what they wanted explained. Philosophy seems to be dominated by a kind of design thinking, and an explanation of consciousness does not fit with design thinking.