Life, the Universe, and Everything

A Course Blog for GET1029/GEK1067

Category: Q&A (page 1 of 3)

W12 Q/A

The below are my notes for each of the questions submitted beforehand, with some brief expansions. Those actually touched on in the recording are marked “#”. The questions we didn’t get to come after the break (* * * * *). Questions added in chat are marked “%”.

Update: More questions that came in via email added to the end (search for “Questions that came later by email”).

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W11 Q/A

Update: New question on Virtual vs Simulated Life, Substrate Independence vs. the “Brain-Computer Assumption” added to the end. 

Here we go…

Isn’t AI a developing form of simulated consciousness?

Please review Slides #16-17, 19, 48. Make sure you are clear about the distinction between intelligence and consciousness, and therefore, the distinction between AI and AC. The confusing part comes in because some researchers use the term “AI” when they really mean “AC”. Or alternatively, “Strong AI” (which includes AC), as opposed to “Weak AI” (which doesn’t). And people don’t all agree on using the terms the same way. But whatever else, just be clear that for the purposes of our class, we are distinguishing between talking about AI and talking about AC, just as we distinguished between talking about intelligence and talking about consciousness (see also W10 Slide #25). The above is important else you don’t get the punchline of the Simulation Argument.

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W10 Q/A

Update: A few items from the archive added to the end.

Here goes…

Is there a clearer and stricter definition of ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ and what it means for something to be a mental state or a physical state?

Unfortunately, no. And there’s a reason too–it’s actually an extremely complicated topic, how the “physical” in “physicalism” should be defined (for those sleepless nights). Nonetheless, there is a sort of method to the madness here–at the end of the day, the theories are meant to illuminate basic and intuitive notions we already have. Those notions might need to be revised given a more rigorous analysis and empirical investigation, but they are the starting points. If we don’t already notice that some things have mind, or mental attributes, and others don’t, we won’t even be in this conversation at all. For our purposes, that more basic and intuitive understanding is thus all that we need to get the topic off the ground. It won’t stop there of course, if you are pursuing this more deeply.

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W09 Q/A

Update: A couple more came in later and I’ve included them. Look for those with the “[Added]” marker.

Here goes!

Is epistemology descriptive with a prescriptive edge?

A big part of it is prescriptive. Like morality, rationality involves an evaluative dimension–just as there are such things as good or bad, right or wrong with it comes to action, there are also rational or irrational, justified or unjustified, true or false, etc., when it comes to beliefs.

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W08 Q/A

Here goes.

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W07 Q/A

Here goes. I have also published several (longish) posts relating to the topic–they were created in response to recurring student queries from previous batches. So do browse them if you have a chance. These include–a taxonomy of the main positions in the so-called “free will and determinism debate”, a post distinguishing causal determinism from two other ideas (foreknowledge, and fatalism) that are often confused with it, and a recap of the Strawson-Hurley debate. I also added a few questions (marked with #) that came from previous years.

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W06 Q/A

Update–from some of the questions (look for the section beginning “The Sam Argument(s)” below), I realized that some students are confused about what Philosophical Anarchism (vs. Philosophical Statism) is claiming. So let me begin with some clarification, distinguishing it from some nearby claims.

To do that, let me pose a series of yes/no questions:

(Q1) Does government have the moral permission to coerce (at least some times) because it is government that’s doing the coercion?

(Q2) Does government have the moral permission to coerce, at least some times?

(Q3) Do citizens have the moral duty to obey the government, at least some times, because it is the government that’s issuing the order?

(Q4) Do citizens have the moral duty to obey the government, at least some times?

(Q5) Does government coercing subjects bring about good outcomes at least some times?

(Q6) Do citizens obeying the government bring about good outcomes at least some times?

For the purposes of the class, Philosophical Anarchism is the position that answers “NO!” while Philosophical Statism is the opposing position that answers “YES!” to Q1. What you need to keep in mind is that answering Q1 in either way does not entail taking a stand an answer to any of the other questions. The converse is true as well. So suppose you have reason to believe the correct answer to Q2-Q6 is “YES!”–this doesn’t constitute an objection against answering “NO!” to Q1 at all.

It’s conceptually possible for someone to answer “NO!” to Q1, and “YES!” to all the other question. Such a person won’t be a typical Philosophy Anarchist (since typically, they would answer “NO!” at least to Q3 as well), but the position she holds won’t be contradictory. (To see this–just imagine a case where you (by the terms of the scenario) have a moral duty to obey someone. So if you don’t obey, you would be morally blameworthy. But by itself, this won’t entail that the someone has the permission to coerce you–to apply force or threaten you with force–to get you to obey. Likewise the reverse.)

Here goes…

What do you think is the ideal method of governance? (Democracy/Communism/Etc)

Most certainly not Communism as it was/is practiced in actual Communist countries (as opposed to imaginary ones). Other than that, probably some sort of representative democracy with a healthy respect for the private sphere and civil association and other qualifications. But what do I know? Let me quote a passage from Plato though–

Socrates: “Until philosophers rule as kings or those who are now called kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophize, that is, until political d power and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures who at present pursue either one exclusively are forcibly prevented from doing so, cities will have no rest from evils, Glaucon, nor, I think, will the human race.” (Plato, Republic 473c-d)

Moving on…

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Quiz 04 Hints

Note: Some small edits made, all marked in red. To make things clearer, etc. Also, now that I’ve completed my answers for the W05 Q/A, do take a look. Some of the items there are… relevant.

  • Question 6

Clarification added to Options A and D in the quiz itself.

W05 Q/A (Done!)

Was somewhat tied up over the weekend so was unable to get to this. I’ve answered up till just before the “common objections” part.

The first ones below, mainly on the demandingness of objection.

Why do you feel that the responses to ‘personal interest’ and ‘integrity of character’ are different?

Only because, conceivably, they don’t have to go together–as long as it is at least conceivable that, sometimes, upholding integrity of character requires paying a personal the cost, and conversely, pursuing what’s in one’s interest implies setting aside integrity of character. But of course it’s also possible that they go together, perhaps even perfectly. Since I’ve not settled the issue, it’s better to keep them distinct for now.

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W04 Q/A

The questions pertaining to Norcross and Lomasky will be in the next post. First, some questions concerning arguments:

must premises be before conclusion for the whole thing to be an argument

When we express arguments in words, there are ways to do so putting the conclusion statement in front, in the middle, and at the end–all this is possible as long as you know how to use the usual words we use to mark premises and conclusions, e.g., “because…”, “since” (marking what follows as a premise), “therefore”, “thus” (marking what follows as a conclusion). Nonetheless, by convention, when we formulate an argument explicitly in premise conclusion form, e.g.,

  • Premise 1: …
  • Premise 2: …
  • ——————–
  • Conclusion: …

Then you should put the premises on top, and the conclusion below. Some extra fussy people will also insist upon a line in between the premises and conclusion. Other extra fussy people may also demand that you mark out exactly how the statements relate to each other–which can be useful in more complex, multi-move arguments (the above is basically just one simple argument–“single move” from premises to the conclusion). We might see some of that later in the semester.

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