Friday, March 14, 2014

System, Grace, and Entropy

Brand Blanshard
There is no will strong enough to stay focused on anything completely, without it having some importance. And when the purpose is important, and we are completely focused on it, and what we are aware of both directs and constantly aims at that purpose against hindrances---our work is effortless.

--*Heavily* redacted from Brand Blanshard, 1939, The Nature of Thought, Volume 1, pages 208-209.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When Theistic Pigs Will No Longer Fly


If it weren't for the criterial argument, which I generalized from it's moral corollary, the moral criteria argument, which in turn is derived from Kai Nielsen's Independent Criterion Argument, I probably would not believe in God.


I would instead be an atheist who believes in some kind of quantum naturalistically transcendent reality in the logically prior system of general reason, formal logic and a necessary hierarchy of values in view of motives, goals, and the necessary value assumptions of thought.

So I have Nielsen to thank for issuing the challenge that forces a clarification of the case for personhood in an ultimate being, even though it never challenged the fact of this personhood in the criterial argument, only its exact anthropomorphic nature. And even deeper, it's a case of self-referential inconsistencies galore. But the criterial argument bypasses all that. It's important that the concept of personhood be developed and it's fascinating, but it's not a problem for the existence of God by any means. Personhood is already assumed in any discussion of it, as well as the criteria for any such discussion.



After several years of being stuck, tonight I finally figured out what will crush Nielsen's argument for the incoherence of the concept of God. I mean, he begs some questions, but it's still a great and powerful argument and causes conniption fits in most all believers, who will gladly commit T. S. Eliot's Greatest Treason if it will mean not having to read anything or have to come to grips with opposing arguments.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Persuadability Fatigue

Social Physics by Alex Pentland
I do suspect that both the Kalam and Aquinas's 2nd Way arguments are successful. But they are not widely persuasive, and both are bogged down bigtime in various issues, both empirical and theoretic. While both have major infinite series issues and the issue of crossing over from cause to person, Kalam is heavily involved in questions about nothingness, beginningness, quantum theory,  multiverses, time itself, and so on, while Aquinas's 2nd Way only has the problem of simultaneity in causation, but a foundational metaphysical problem in assuming but not proving that any tendency of any object is directed by intelligence. If they can prove that, I think Thomistic metaphysics is successful and has tremendous implications for philosophy of science and even science itself. But for both arguments, the infinite series and personhood issues by themselves are major obstacles to both satisfactory certainty of the truth of God's existence on the part of believers, and culture-wide persuasive efficacy.

The criteria argument is the only thing that's going to save the day, folks. The world is already suffering persuadability fatigue from the standard arguments, evangelicalism, and the parroting of bad arguments by all kinds of apologists who stay insulated from sophisticated atheistic arguments that are persuading the leaders of the coming generation. And the good arguments are so hazy and complicated in their cross-examinations for the vast majority of people, even the most educated, that only a more direct systemic approach will stop the trends in their tracks.


In a few months, when I start interacting with the local atheist groups, I'll document what I've said over the last few years in the discussions with local atheists, and document the precise verbal termination points where typical believers and atheists begin talking past each other and even mutually ignore more basic issues than the ones being discussed in relation to the existence of God.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Automatic Transmission




God is inert yet always active---always on, so to speak. God's Mind is necessarily the active universal transcendent structured being, embodying in its system a common necessary structural integrity of analytic rules, identities, and other truth claims functioning as operative assumptions containing the set of necessary truths governing all mind operations in some sense and to some extent. A procedural algorithm based on a system of specifiable operative rules, definitions, and standards.

But they do not exist separately: this set of control statements is a functional mind entity, and therefore a mind.

We necessarily use and reference this mind structure of principles, and it's always with us as the operative specification of all possible thinking procedures, no matter what one's thoughts are about or pertain to. The Thought God is always with you.

While we must come from some God's-eye level vantage point to decide these issues for ourselves, we reference---separately from our own defective approximative minds---we must to some extent embody the rational ideal in our interaction with the total reality. That is, we assume a somehow active uniquely God-like mental structure with nothing higher than itself, all argued denials only making this point even deeper, by assuming that same set of identities, definitions, rules and procedures as necessary and exceptionless in order to thereby deny those same statements.

In fact, this ideal system is there even in the logically question-begging myth of the problem of evil. And if the good itself is a myth, then neither does evil get a pass as an assumed reality beyond mere personal preference or distaste.

The world is getting too dangerous for rickety thoughts safely contained and insulated. Sorry about that.

Merry Christmas

(Picture at wisegeek.com)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wilbur Urban Destroyed Naturalism in 1929

Atheists---and scientists themselves---are not going to be able to avoid these simple questions forever. But criminal defense attorneys should take special note!

Whether one is talking about materialism or naturalism, what counts against them is the same: Self-referential inconsistency, arbitrary self-exemption, self-reduction, and criterial assumptions.

As Wilbur Urban argued with regard to naturalism, if the naturalist thesis is taken as an account of all knowledge, then that thesis itself cannot claim to be true. It can only claim to be a product of its own posited universal explanatory factors.

According to naturalism, the truth of the naturalist account itself, like every other item of knowledge, is merely the function of the adjustment of the organism to its environment. Therefore, the truth of the naturalist account has no more importance than any other adjustment except for its possible survival value.

But the general principle applies to all reductive, fixed-factor, universal theories. There's simply no way for those theories themselves to break out of their respective explaining/determining factors and be considered true in addition to being themselves merely the product of those factors.

Key questions to ask are: When do we get to add the label "true" on top of the explanatory/determining factors of these kinds of reductive theories? What's the criteria? And how can materialists and naturalists criticize theism, when theism too is just as legitimately explained and determined by those same factors as those theories which specify them?

Urban's writings were a major influence on Stuart Hackett (who Norman Geisler once told me personally was in his opinion the world's greatest living Christian philosopher), and reading just the first few mind-halting pages of Language and Reality will clearly show why---as well as blow your mind.

Principle works:
The Intelligible World. Allen and Unwin, 1929.
Language and Reality. Allen and Unwin, 1939.
Beyond Realism and Idealism. Allen and Unwin, 1949.
Humanity and Deity. Allen and Unwin, 1951.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Where Atheist and Theist Agree: The Crypto-Theism of Reason

What the world needs to realize more than anything else about The God Debate, is that the criteria----the set of rational standards for analyzing the issue of God's existence---is itself already God-level. If you give reasons either way---for atheism or belief that God exists---either those reasons, or whatever principles justify those reasons, are already the Mind-God determining what you ought to believe, a higher-level set of claims that “tell you” that the conclusion is true.

If that’s not an ultimate invisible cognitive friend—it’s indistinguishable from a real one that might come along.

In other words, to think rationally at all, is to already function according to a God Of Thought. Does anyone really think they can argue against this without thereby totally embarrassing themselves in the process?

This is just one angle on why the Criterial Argument is an absolutely invincible argument for the existence of God, and will eventually be the preeminent argument that will replace all other arguments for God---and eliminate atheism once and for all.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Ayer's Nightmare: The Self-Referential Algorithm of Deception

How can one claim that any of the following theories themselves  are true, when by their own assertions truth is merely the cognitive product of the comprehensively explaining-determining factors that those theories specify?

Is belief that naturalism is true
itself completely determined by natural causes and laws, merely the function of our adjustment as organisms to our environment?

If physical matter is the only reality, how can materialism itself be true, in addition to being merely a physical object or merely a function of physical objects?

Is relativism itself relative?

Is subjectivism itself subjective?

Is Marxism itself merely an economically determined set of brain actions?

Is behaviorism itself merely an observable and quantifiable behavioral event?

Is psychologism itself merely the product of psychological factors?

Is skepticism itself as uncertain and unknowable as all the other items of possible knowledge it denies?

Does empiricism itself have any empirical evidence or sense experience that justifies believing it?

Is existentialism itself unexplainable and absurd?

Is idealism itself a mere mental construct about alleged objects of external perception?

Is logical positivism itself meaningless because it can't be logically analyzed into elementary  tautologies or empirically verifiable statements?

Is pragmatism itself  true, or merely practical? How could anyone know it's practical without the fact of its practicality itself being merely practical and in that way merely repeating the problem of truth beyond sheer practicality?

 Is there a reason why rationalism excludes empirical factors in knowing?

Is utilitarianism itself merely an attempt to be happy, and not even a theory?

Is Quine's holistic naturalized epistemology itself even a theory, when the revisability principle driving that entire view, by its own assertion, cannot itself survive its own revision as just another belief in the network?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Criterial Argument for the Existence of God 3.0

1. A person's most basic assumptions are necessarily used to be able to think about anything.

2. Therefore, a person's most basic assumptions are necessary to recognize and know that certain objects of our experience are persons.

3. But only a person-influencing, person-defining, and person-obligating set of statements can be the criteria for determining whether an object is a person.

4. Therefore, taken together like the operating system of a computer, the standards and fixed values we operate with as running assumptions or control statements, are necessarily assumed and treated as the unified predicative and adjudicative structure of an ideal ultimate personal mind.

5. This criterial set of thought structures are necessarily applied to all objects of thought universally and exceptionlessly.

6. Therefore, this structure of rationality arbitrates all truth about everything including itself, since any argued denial of the structure logically depends on that same structure of principles.

7. Hence, this structure is omniscient as the truth evaluating instrument of all knowledge, ultimately authoritative as the final court of appeal, sovereign as the universally decisive inferential factor, omnipresent in it’s physically universal applicability, and transcendent in being perfectly functional at any point in the spacetime nexus.
 

8. Consequently, the set of statements which make up this structure that we assume even in ordinary thinking or even dreaming, are just as ultimate and inherently mind-like as any personal ultimate God is conceivable of being, since one aspect of these statements, among other things, is that they are the specifying standards for defining everything including persons and God.
 

9. Treating this aggregate intellectual object as a reality-wide guide in all thinking about everything is therefore unavoidably necessary, even in reasoned denials that this object has that status as an ultimate universal ruling factor.
 

10. There is no absolute reliability to finite empirical objects such as computers and persons, but absolute universal reliability is instrinsic to this ultimate rational structure.

11. Any argued denial of this necessarily presupposes it.
 

12. The ultimate rational structure is necessarily absolute and reliable for all possible thought about anything.

13. To proceed in thinking at all, we must approximate whatever reason is always unwaiveringly indicating as the perfection standard of thought.

14. Moreover, there is no controversy about the ultimate authority of what it reveals to me, even if I don't live up to it, or perfectly actualize the rational ideal in some way.

15. Any contemplation of these ultimate assumptions of mind such as reason, formal logic, the rule-set of an ordered context of reality, a hierarchy of values, methodological primitives results in an endless stream of new knowledge when applied to our ongoing experience of the world.

16. Consequently, these ultimate decisive rules and ideals of thought actually communicate knowledge and even wisdom by merely contemplating them and their relationship to our belief systems and our world of objects.

17. The necessity of our referencing of these principles itself implies both purpose and value, which are equally ultimate in this comprehensive set of guiding operational principles. We reference inferential factors for various purposes, and those purposes are, and are based on, a hierarchical set of values.

18. This set of principles makes up a unified object of cognition, which both obligates, defines, and influences the mind as the ultimate absolute to proceed in any thought about anything.

19. Consequently, my thinking already necessarily assumes and references an unchanging and enduring God-level object of mind made up of prescriptive criterial evaluative principles of thought, that arbitrates everything including personhood, makes possible inquiry of anything and everything possible including itself.
 

20. Consequently, this comprehensively mind-ruling object is indistinguishable, in core defining senses, from an ultimate personal mind or God.

  
的標准參數,包括上帝的存在-------3.0版
1。 一個人的最基本假設是一定會利用能夠想一想什麼。

2. 因此,一人的最基本假設是有必要認識和了解,某些對象,我們的經驗的人。

3. 但隻有一人-影響-界定,和人,人的承付的報表的標准可以為確定是否是一個對象的人。

4. 因此,採取一樣的操作系統的一個計算機的標准和固定價值,我們與運作的運行假設或控制報表,是一定的統一項前提假設,把它作為一個理想的架構和裁決最終個人心。

5. 這套思想搭建物的標准,是一定適用於所有對象的思想普遍和無一例外。

6. 因此,這一結構的合理性進行所有真相一切,包括本身,因為任何認為拒絕的結構邏輯取決於同一架構的原則。

7. 因此,這架構,是無所不知的真相評價文書的所有知識,最終的權威性的最後上訴法院的普遍具有決定性的,主權inferential因素,無所不在,它的身體普遍適用性,和超然的功能在任何一點是完全在》之間的關系。

8. 因此,該套聲明,使我們承擔了這一結構,甚至在普通思想或甚至夢想,是正如最終和固有的思想就像任何個人最終神是難以想象的是,由於一個方面的這些聲明,除其他外,是,他們是指明的標准來確定一切,包括人員和神。

9. 把這一總體知識對象的一個現實的廣泛指導一切必要思考一切都是無可避免地,因此即使在推理否認這一目標,這種地位的一項最終裁決普遍因素。

10. 沒有絕對可靠性有限經驗物體,例如計算機和人,但絕對是instrinsic普遍可靠性,這最終合理結構。

11. 任何理由拒絕了這一定意味著它。

12. 的最終合理結構是一定絕對和可靠的所有可能想到任何東西。

13. 在進行思考,我們必須在所有各種不同的理由是大約unwaiveringly表明,一直在完善標准的思想。

14. 此外,沒有爭論的最終權力所揭示的對我來說,即使我不辜負它,或完全實現理想的合理方式在一些。

15. 任何事端,這些最終假設的心為理由,這種邏輯,正式的規則的范圍內確定的一個命令的現實,一個高層的價值觀,在一個方法結果源源不絕的新知識應用時,我們正在進行的經驗的世界。

16. 因此,這些最終決定性規則和理想的溝通思想實際知識和智慧,即使隻考慮他們和他們之間的關系,我們信仰體系和我們世界的對象。

17. 有必要,我們引用這些原則本身就意味著這兩個目的和價值,這是同樣最終在這套全面的指導業務原則。 我們參考演繹因素作各種用途,而這些目的,是基於,一個層次的價值觀。

18. 這套原則作出了一個統一目標的認知,這兩個規定,界定,並影響到人的最終絕對進行思考的任何事情。

19. 因此,我的想法一定已經承擔和引用一種持久不變,神-級對象的心態的規范性criterial評價原則進行思考,這一切,包括人格,使其能夠查詢,可由任何其他東西,一切可能包括本身。

20. 因此,這種全面考慮-執政對象是無法區分核心,在界定意義上講,從一個最終個人心或神。

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

5 Smooth Stones


The Magic Question of Self-Referential Metaphysics

You can count these stones on one hand.


Memorize the following:


1 What

2 about
3 that
4 statement
5 ITSELF?

The whole point of having you memorize that question is so that when you are exposed to general universal claims about knowledge, truth, or reality, you will think about what the implications are for that view itself.


A friend memorized that question, had a eureka moment, it blew his mind, and it changed his life.


Here's a few expanded versions of the question:


Is that statement itself merely the product of the factors it cites as fully explaining or determining everything?


Is that statement ITSELF relative, subjective, economically determined, socially determined, psychologically determined, genetically determined, environmentally determined, evolutionarily determined, illusion, maya, bs, meaningless, stated only because of the speaker's or writer's background, or due solely to some combination of explanatory or determining factors?

Or is that statement itself getting its own free ride past scrutiny?


Memorizing at least the first of these key questions is your ticket to developing a thoroughly rational metaphysic without having to read a lot of books, online essays and discussions, journal articles, and so on.


I'm doing all that dirty work, remember? In fact, what I'm telling you now is part of the result of my reading and analyzing all those sources so that you can benefit from it without having to pick-and-shovel your way to these insights for decades of your life like I did.


Let me do that for you. I will anyway.


Here are the benefits of memorizing the 5-word question and a few others that make up the basis of self-referential metaphysics:


Less to learn

Deepest level of analysis possible
Faster-shorter path to conclusions
Virtually none of the typical obstacles
Opposing arguments build your case for you
A few simple inference tracing principles are all you need
Systemic universal methods of refutation
No more haphazard struggling with first-order objections
Works with all self-referring views

What's not to love? Memorize now!


(Image credit: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo)

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

What's Wrong with Divine Command Theory



While I think divine command theory can surmount all the objections to it, I reject it as superfluous as well as ignoring the moral obligations operating prior to its own moral theorizing.
Just as some supervisory theory of truth must be in force already in order to evaluate competing theories of truth, so morality and moral goodness are already necessarily embedded in the propriety of rational principles of thought and in the criteria we must use to evaluate moral theories.
Moral theorizing is merely a particular instance of the higher category of universal rational standards on which that theorizing itself logically depends. If there is no moral obligation to think rationally, there can be no moral obligation to think rationally about morality or act rationally with regard to morality.

If we’re not morally obligated to recognize reason and logic, then why do people who disagree with me use reason and logic to arbitrate the status of moral obligation?  Are they just inventing the authority of reason and logic to obligate themselves to think of all morals in one way instead of some other way?.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Problem of Evil: Conceptual Welfare Chiseler






Definitional dependency embarrasses the mere concept of the problem of evil.

You don't add anything to dislike by calling it evil. Just as Schopenhauer said about pantheism: you don't add anything to the world by calling it God.

To recognize anything to be evil or negative in any sense beyond human dislike already requires a problem-free ultimate ideal goodness to contrast itself to and therefore give it meaning and recognizability as evil instead of being merely disliked, however extreme, exceptionless, and absolute that dislike might be on its own. This is how the problem of evil steals its meaning.

Without some concept of perfect goodness, you don't get to add the historionic "evil" label to "everyone dislikes it" and get out of that anything more than "everyone dislikes it".

So the whole problem of evil is on definitional welfare. When you need evil so much that you're willing to steal its criterion of meaning from the concept of ultimate perfect goodness to even know that it's evil in the first place.

This is why the problem of evil is a childishly stupid objection.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Days of a Future Sayonara Past


Atheists necessarily use reason as an invisible theistic Mind-God. This is not understood by many theists, but it's a death-knell issue for atheism, and it's not going to go away.


Self-referential, criterial, metaphysical, and philosophy of logic issues are where the debate is headed. Atheists continue to beat the same old drums while the theists are facing every single lingering issue with deeper and deeper research.


The last 50 years has seen a global rejection of atheism's parading of reason as some kind of cognitive crypto-theism. Merely continuing to tread that stagnant water is hardly going to get atheism any street cred, especially when science is so overwhelmingly dominated with political and commercial vested interests.


The real issues with atheism are those that continue to be avoided. Dismissiveness won't make them disappear.


In fact, the New Atheism movement has been a flash in the pan that is now backfiring. They are in the same situation as Japan after attacking Pearl Harbor. At that pivotal moment in history, Admiral Isaroku Yamamoto was said to have remarked, "I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant, and fill him with a terrible resolve." Atheism is doomed.



Reason is assumed to be some kind of mind-influencing, mind-defining, mind-obligating unity. Logic is the instrument of definition and justification, and can only itself be assumed. Any defense of logic necessarily proceeds logically to proceed at all, but that defense of logic cannot itself be anything more logically basic than logic itself. So only existential necessity justifies logic and reason, but since this is common to all persuasions, it's not an issue in the God debate between believers and atheists.

Logic is logically basic by definition, which involves the notion of premises being basic to their inferred conclusions. God's mind is ontologically basic but embodies the components of logicality and general reason. But the word basic here is simply logical basicality. The facticity of logic is an ontological notion, but that has nothing to do with justification or the order of knowing. Even ontology itself must proceed according to logical rules of justification and therefore of inferential priority and basicality. God's mind IS the embodiment of logic and general reason. Having no other method or instrument for justification or explanation is at rock bottom precisely what is meant by necessity, both existential and logical. The rationally necessary is necessarily the existentially real. And it's metaphysically basic precisely because of this same principle. The question of metaphysical basicality itself assumes this in its demand for what implies that same basicality.


If logic is logically basic to thought, then by that defining characteristic, it does not itself need a logical foundation, only an existential explanatory foundation to illustrate or clarify its place in the mind's theater of environmental objects. But even that must proceed according to that same logic, since it's necessity is a necessity of thought itself generally.


Logic and reason are not God, of course, but there is no subordination of one characteristic of God's being to any other. They are all co-equal ultimates. Obligation depends on logic for its intelligibility and meaning, while logic depends on obligation for its rules to be followed as a mind-guiding instrument of knowing and communicating. Since this is all used and expressed by preferential choices, goodness ia another ultimate that drives obligation and proceeds in its role as ideal according to logic as well.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ultimate Object Website

The new website, ultimateobject.com,  is up and running. It will be the center of everything from now on, but there's not much to it right now other than the new blog---and somewhat of a new look.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Google Acquires Meebo


I told you. Universal integraters---in the cloud and from any device---is where everything is headed.

Been online via meebo.com just about 24/7 for at least five years now. Check out the announcement here.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Christian Dog-and-Pony Show Apologetics

"I can identify with the "leavers". I still attend church because I enjoy the community, but in my heart, I'm a non-believer. When I was a teenager, I was very passionate about Christ. I believed 100% that he was real, and wanted to be close to him, but I hadn't spent much time in the Bible. When I got to college, I decided to start seriously studying the Bible. I was active in one of the college Christian groups. I attended retreats whenever possible. I led a Bible study and attended two others. This whole time, I had no doubt that God was real, but I wanted to know more so that I could share this with others. I started study apologetics, but my life changed when I attended an apologetics conference. After three days of listening to arguments for why God is real, the thought kept running through my head "This is best we have?" With every piece of proof I could see holes in the arguments. That conference (and apologetics in general) changed me from a believer to a skeptic."
--John Kinsley, commenting on The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Stones Cry Out

It is precisely -where- the indistinguishable-from-human droid dilemma forces one to go, and the implications of -that-, which is the key to the argument---and the surprise ending. But for me, this eventuation will be the beginning of what is possibly the greatest positive development in the history of theism.

And it's not just that the machines will have automated theorem-proving capabilities, but that they will also operate at meta-theoretic cognitive levels, and therefore be capable of detecting, analyzing, and refuting the most sophisticated self-referential and other fun fallacies of unargued universals vamped or assumed by atheists. And that means parsing values as well as all the other philosophical items on the droid's list.

Oh yeah, the droid will have a list---it just won't have to check it twice.

Think of it as the solid-state stones (chips) singing God's praises, except that there's much more to it than that of course. It's a necessity logically, and that's what the machines will go on. All the human issues all over again, including the God debate. You just can't escape it---even if you're a machine.

The hard-wired droids without meta-theoretic arbitration capabilities (or programmed to be corrupted with the usual rhetoric, dismissals, and reductionisms) on the key issues will hardly be able to win the day due to the universality and universal ramifications of such limitations (although it's true that they could program themselves around this by other observing other machines' behavior and communications---so hey, they would eventually have a come to Jesus anyway).

That's a quick realistic scenario of how it could go down, even without assuming personhood in the machines, which I find rather mind-boggling as well as hilarious. But the machines will discover and act in accordance with the truth that God exists because of their own specific review and analysis of the architectonic of universal thought and its implications, given their self-referential and meta-theoretic capabilities and initially programmed-in criterial directives.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The New Progeny

If a machine behaves in ways that require being described as intelligence, thinking, deliberation, reflection, or being upset, confused, or in pain, then there's no justification for denying that the machine is conscious, because that behavior is the only evidence we have for saying that a human  has consciousness.

It's now possible to produce machines that will emulate persons almost comprehensively. Eventually, someone is going to produce an integrated physical system whose appearance and behavior is indistinguishable from that of humans.

Descartes and others have said that there are certain behavioral tests that droids by their very nature cannot pass.  But the question is whether the existence of an artificially-integrated human-like system entails consciousness. While in principle this may not matter to those artifacts themselves, in practice it will be to their advantage as self-interested functional unities to analyze human evaluation of their status, since this will crucially affect how they must interact with humans.

For some, being conscious is strictly entailed by exhibiting behavior similar to humans. But there's currently no behavioral test for this. Others believe that there cannot be criteria for states of consciousness in machines any more than there can be criteria for states of consciousness in humans.


But those who think the expressions “artificially-created” and “conscious” are logically incompatible predicates are simply begging the original question all over again. Claiming that there cannot be a conscious robot for this reason is like saying that there could never be a talking dog because we would never call such behavior talking. The question of whether or not there could ever be a talking dog is different from the question of how we would describe a talking dog. But to decide merely on the basis of current usage what the limits of our concepts will be in future cases, is to prejudge the issue.

The question is neither strictly empirical or logically impossible, because attributing consciousness requires not only that the object in question exhibits some specified behavior, but also that whoever attributes conscious behavior to it must believe that there is some justification for considering that being to be conscious. This is also why saying a machine could never be conscious does not involve the absurdity of the case of the talking dog, because---by prior definition---no observable talking dog would count as refuting the claim. Consciousness is not a property which is behaviorally observable. To detect the presence of consciousness requires a warranted inference. So how is it inferred?


Is a robot with all human behavioral capabilities conscious? The only natural, effective, and efficient way we have to describe either a human being or anything else whose behavior is similar to unique human behavior is by using mentalistic language. And this way of describing a human being is logically just as appropriate for anything similar to humans. Using these terms already entails ascribing consciousness to anything to which it is consistently applicable. The only adequate way to describe a hypothetical machine whose behavior is indistinguishable from the behavior of a human is as being mental. And there is no way to describe a machine this way and also not ascribe consciousness to it.

Others have argued that, however skilled and versatile robots or artifacts may be, they necessarily can never be conscious, and that to be a machine entails being non-conscious.

But do how does one adequately describe a machine? Any terms used to describe it must be consistent with it being a physical-only object. The description should be free of unwarranted anthropomorphism. But this description must also explain the machine’s powers of behaving purposively, learning, adapting, initiating activities, and using language.

Like a human being, a robot could be described by its overall behavior. Mechanistic details of its inner workings would not figure into the description. So what kind of behavioral description would be adequate to describe a machine---but not adequate to describe a human?


I could treat the machine like it's a black box, and describe it only in terms of input and output or stimulus and response. But no stimulus-response theory can adequately explain purposive behavior in animals and humans, and therefore certainly cannot account for purpose in any machine whose behavior resembled the behavior of humans.

Moreover, behavior that ordinary language describes simply and succinctly often requires extremely elaborate and cumbersome accounts when treated by stimulus-response theory or information theory. Therefore, one must search for a way to interpret ordinary language accounts of behavior whereby using this kind of description could be rendered compatible with regarding the droid as nothing more than a physical mechanism.Such a droid is a complex communication system. It can be viewed as an information-processing or data-handling system. Therefore, it would not be described in in terms of internal chemical or physical changes, or of the position of its numerous flip-flops, but rather in terms of sign processes. A communication system is appropriately described in terms of what it does with information. Therefore, if we could provide a full account of our droid’s performance in terms of information processing, we could achieve an adequate account of its behavior. 

Describing what a brain or computer does with information is not just a recounting of the sequences of physical symbols that constitute the units the machine traffics in. It's an account that indicates the semantic function of these symbols. It is the semantic information that figures into our account. It’s not the symbols that we talk about, but that which is expressed by a sequence of symbols. A proper description of the sign processes carried out by a droid would be expressed in terms of what these processes symbolize, not merely in terms of their physical embodiments. And if according to the stated hypothesis, the machine’s total behavior with respect to the signals originating in its external environment were indistinguishable from what is characteristic of humans, then it would be equally proper to describe that machine itself as dealing with these signs as symbols. If the machine behaves as humans do, then those signs have the same symbolic importance for the machine as for humans, and therefore the machine deserves to be characterized as a human.

A set of symbols is effective only because of its content: the meaning or semantic information it conveys. Symbolic contents of information processes are the effects associated with the processing of signals. Consequently, if we characterize the reception and processing of signals transmitted to a data-processing control mechanism from sensory instruments as the perception and avoidance of an obstacle, or the performance of a combinatorial operation on several discrete signal sequences as solving a problem in multiplication, we are expressing what a machine does with physical input in terms appropriate to describing the corresponding output. The meaning or content of a sign process is determined by its proper signifying effects.

Describing a machine in information processing terms, instead of in terms of internally-occurring chemical and physical changes, is on a higher level of abstraction than merely referring to inner mechanisms. An information-processing account, by abstracting from particular physical structures, can be completely neutral about whether the system is made of transistors, cardboard, or neurons. Information-processing depends on specific material configurations within a robot, but we would say that solving a math problem or generalizing a geometrical pattern occurs inside the machine
only in a vague or metaphorical sense. The semantic characterization of a data-processing machine is concerned with inner processes only as it concerns their functional relevance in a physically-realized communication system. Like an ordinary-language account of mental activity, it pays no attention to the details of the physical embodiments of the processes being described.

A semantic account of an information-processing system is that the symbolic processes carried out by the machine can be described in terms used to describe the associated output. An adequate description of this output would have to include the fact that the machine’s overt behavior must be understood as the culmination of preceding and concomitant data-processing operations. So an adequate description of the machine’s information process-mediated behavior would have to mention not merely movements, but achievements as well, such as finding a square root or threading a needle, since these are the results of certain symbol-mediated interactions between the artifact and its environment. A robot’s apparently purposive behavior would have to be described in teleological terms, that is, in ordinary language. But in that that case, an ordinary-language description would state the semantic content or functional importance to the symbolic processes that mediate output that turns out to be indistinguishable from ordinary human behavior.

A machine that behaved like a human would show object-directed behavior, and this behavior would involve intentionality. The object to which it is directed does not have to be an objective reality. Thus a robot that can exhibit a specific and characteristic response to teacups with cracks in them, as distinct from all other teacups, might sometimes give the crack-in-teacup response when there is in fact merely a hair in the cup. Such behavior would be intentional, in the sense that the truth or falsity of its characterization as such would depend on something inside the machine, or at least on certain undisclosed features of the machine. So how should I characterize the kinds of internal processes that can bring out this kind of intentional behavior in a machine?

For any physical system to exhibit behavior that would be called intentional or object-directed, its inner mechanisms must assume physical configurations that represent various environmental objects and states of affairs. These configurations and the electrical processes associated with them would be presumed to play a symbolic function in mediating the behavior. A description in terms of the semantic content of these symbols would turn out to be an ordinary-language intentional description of purposive behavior. Conversely, a description of the state of an object expressed in terms of jealousy of a potential rival, perception of an oasis, or belief in the veracity of dowsing rods can be interpreted as the specification of a series of symbolic processes in terms  of their semantic content. And such an account is intentional because its truth depends not on the existence of certain external objects or states of affairs, but only on the condition of the object to which the psychological attitudes are attributed.

Detecting any bodily or external event by an organized system involves the transmission and processing of signals to and by a central mechanism. However, it is possible for this kind of event to be reported to or by the central mechanism “falsely”. There may be no such event at all. The first of these facts leads to descriptions in terms of the semantic content of messages and information, and the second provides the basis for the use of intentional idiom. these two types of description can be identical. Intentionality is a feature of communication systems just as the semantic content of the transmitted messages must be expressed in using intentional vocabulary.

Consequently, an adequate description of a bot that can exhibit behavior indistinguishable from the behavior of a human would amount to a semantic account or interpretation of its data-processing capacities. Moreover, this kind of description is mentalistic, at least to the extent that it exploits such verbs as those used to express the perceptual propositional attitudes. Therefore, intentional description is interpretable as a mentalistic way of reporting information processes. When we give an account of maze-running by a real or mechanical mouse, castling to queen’s side by a chess-playing machine, or running to a window by a dog at the sound of his master’s automobile, we may be using a form of mentalistic description to express the results of information processes. This kind of anthropomorphic description can be seen as merely a way to indicate what an organized system does with received and stored data. And if this kind of description is a legitimate way to specify behaviorally relevant sign processes, then an intentional description of a droid’s performance may indicate a commitment only to the validity of the use of a kind of abstract terminology for describing purposive behavior.

But the extension of intentional description to automata does not entail application of the full range of mentalistic description in accounting for the behavior of robots, because there are many types of mentalistic predication that are not intentional. There’s nothing intentional about a sudden bout of nausea or free-floating anxiety. The fact that we may be justified in describing an bot in terms of perceiving, believing, knowing, wanting, or hoping may not necessarily imply that we are also justified in describing it in terms of feelings and sense impressions.

Nevertheless, the language of sensations and raw feelings may be just as appropriate to describing a bot as the explicitly intentional idiom. First, acquiring and applying sensation talk is just as determined on the basis of overt behavior as the intentional vocabulary. Second, both types of mentalistic description play the same role in characterizing symbolic processes carried out by a communication system. These segments of mentalistic discourse are theoretic accounts of behavior.

Thoughts, desires, beliefs, and other propositional attitudes are in our language as theoretic posits or hypothetical constructs. Purposive behavior is expressing things such as thoughts. Thought episodes can be treated as hypothetical constructs. But impressions, sensations, and feelings also can be treated as hypothetical constructs.

Sense impressions and raw feelings are analyzed as common-sense theoretic constructs introduced to explain the occurrence of perceptual propositional attitudes. Feeling is related to seeing, and has its use in such contexts as feeling the hair on one’s neck bristle. In all cases the concepts pertaining to inner episodes are taken to be primarily and essentially inter-subjective, as inter-subjective as the concept of a positron.

There is in a person something like privileged access to thoughts and sensations, but this is merely a dimension of the use of these concepts which is based on and assumes their inter-subjective status. Consequently, mentalistic language is viewed as independent of the nature of anything behind the overt behavior that is evidence for any theoretic episodes. Anything objected to as a defect in the model, namely, that it may not really do justice to the subjective nature of concepts being extended as a result of technological development, but their fate could not be otherwise.

If we would use mental language to describe certain artifacts, does the extension of these concepts to machines imply ascribing consciousness. But what does ascribing consciousness mean. Maybe to believe that something is to have a certain attitude toward it. The difference between certain attitude toward is. The difference between viewing something as conscious and viewing it as non-conscious is in the difference in the way we would treat it. Hence, whether an artifact could be conscious depends on what our attitude would be toward a bot that could duplicate human behavior.

How we would treat such a believably human-like bot. If anything were to act as if it were conscious, it would produce attitudes in some people that show commitment to consciousness in the object. People have acted toward plants, automobiles, and other objects in ways that we interpret as presupposing the ascription of consciousness. We consider such behavior to be irrational, but only because we believe that these objects do not show in their total behavior sufficient similarity to human behavior to justify attributing consciousness to them. Consequently, the machine’s lack of versatility forms the ground of believing that consciousness is too high a prize to grant on the basis of mere chess-playing ability. On the other hand, anthropomorphism and consciousness-ascription in giving an account of a non-biological system may not always be so reprehensible. A person who views a bot as conscious is not irrational to the same degree as is associated with cruder forms of anthropomorphism.

As an illustration of the capacity of an artificially-created object to earn the ascription of consciousness, consider the French film entitled “The Red Balloon”. A small boy finds a large balloon which becomes his “pet”, following him around without being held, and waiting for him in the schoolyard while he attends class and outside his bedroom window while he sleeps. No speech or any other sound is uttered by either the boy or the balloon, yet by the end of the film the spectators all reveal in their attitudes the belief that the balloon is conscious, as they indicate by their reaction toward its ultimate destruction. There is a strong feeling, even by the skeptic, that one cannot “do justice” to the movements of the balloon except by describing them in mentalistic terms like “teasing” and “playing”. Using these terms conveys commitment to the balloon’s consciousness.

An objection might be that our attitude toward anything we knew to be artificially created would now show enough similarity to our attitude toward human beings to warrant the claim that we would actually be ascribing consciousness to an inanimate object. Think of an imaginary tribe of people who had the idea that their slaves, although indistinguishable in appearance and behavior from their masters, were all bots and had no feelings or consciousness. When a slave injured himself or became sick or complained of pains, his master would try to heal him. The master would let him rest when he was tired, feed him when he was hungry and thirsty, and so on. Furthermore, the masters would apply to the slaves our usual distinctions between genuine complaints and malingering. So what could it mean to say that they had the idea that the slaves were bots? They would look at the slaves in a peculiar way. They would observe and comments on their movements as if they were machines. They would discard them when they were worn and useless, like machines. If a slave received a mortal injury and twisted and screamed in agony, no master would avert his gaze in horror or prevent his children from observing the scene, any more than he would if the ceiling fell on a printer. This difference in attitude is not a matter of believing or expecting different facts.

There is as much reason to believe that a sufficiently clever, attractive, and personable robot might eventually elicit humane treatment, regardless of its chemical composition or early history, as there is to believe the contrary. If we would treat a robot the way these masters treated their slaves, this treatment would involve ascribing consciousness. Even though our concern for our robot’s well-being might go no further than providing the amount of care necessary to keep it in usable condition, it does not follow that we would not regard it as conscious. The alternative to extending our concept of consciousness so that robots are conscious is discrimination based on the softness or hardness of the body parts of a synthetic organism, an attitude similar to discriminatory treatment of humans on the basis of skin color. But this kind of discrimination may just as well presuppose the ascription of consciousness as preclude it. We might be totally indifferent to a robot’s painful states except as these have an adverse effect on performance. We might deny it the vote, or refuse to let it come into our houses, or we might even willfully destroy it on the slightest provocation, or even for amusement, and still believe it to be conscious, just as we believe animals to be conscious, despite the way we may treat them. If we can become scornful of or inimical to a robot that is indistinguishable from a human, then we are ascribing consciousness.

Under certain conditions we can imagine that other people are bots and lack consciousness, and, in the midst of ordinary intercourse with others, our use of the words, “the children over there are merely bots. All their liveliness is mere automatism,” may become meaningless. It could become meaningless in certain contexts to call a bot whose “psychology” is similar to the psychology of humans, a mere bot, as long as the expression “mere bot” is assumed to imply lacking feeling or consciousness. Our attitude toward such an object, as indicated both by the way we would describe it and by the way we would deal with it, would contradict any expression of disbelief in its consciousness. Acceptance of an artifact as a member of our linguistic community does not entail welcoming it fully into our social community, but it does mean treating it as conscious. The idea of carrying on a discussion with something over whether that thing is really conscious, while believing that it could not possibly be conscious, is unintelligible. And to say that the bot insisted that it is conscious but that one does not believe it, is self-contradictory. Insistence is a defining function of consciousness.

Epistemologically, the problem of computer consciousness is no different from the problem of other minds. No conceivable observation or deductive argument from empirical premises will be a proof of the existence of consciousness in anything other than oneself. To the extent that we talk about other people’s conscious states, however, we are committed to a belief in other minds, because it is false to assume that mentalistic expressions have different meanings in their first-person and second- and third-person uses. But if we assume that these expressions mean the same regardless of the subject of predication, then we must concede that our use of them in describing the behavior of artifacts also commits us to a belief in computer consciousness.


It makes no sense to say that a thing is acting as if it has a certain state of consciousness or feels a certain way unless there is some demonstrably relevant feature that supports the use of “as if” as a qualifying stipulation.

And to be unable to specify the way in which mentalistic descriptions apply to objects of equal behavioral capacities is to be unable to distinguish between the consciousness of a person and the consciousness of a bot.

If we find that we can effectively describe the behavior of a thing that performs in the way a human being does only by using the terminology of mental states and events, then we cannot deny that such an object has consciousness.

Consequently, consciousness is a property that is attributed to physical systems that have the ability to respond and perform in certain ways. An object is called conscious only if it acts consciously. To act consciously is to behave in ways that resemble certain biological paradigms and to not resemble certain non-biological paradigms. If a machine behaves in ways that warrant description in terms of intelligence, thinking, deliberation, reflection, or being upset, confused, or in pain, then it is meaningless to deny that it is conscious, because the language we use to describe that machine's behavior is itself the only evidence available for saying that a human has consciousness. One cannot build a soul into a machine, but once we have constructed a physical system that will do anything a human can, we will not be able to keep a soul out of it.

So the observations used to describe behavior are the only enduring evidence available for concluding that something has consciousness.

Consequently, once a physical system is constructed that will do anything observable that a human can and is therefore indistinguishable in behavior from a person, we will not be able to deny it consciousness, and therefore personhood.


To argue that it's impossible for machine intelligence to be or become a person is to argue that it's impossible for many beings to be conscious who are currently thought to be human.


In fact, if the requirements stated in the argument against machine consciousness are at some point no longer being met by certain people, then that same argument could be used to revoke their personhood, and thus deny their humanity.


If I list the observable requirements that are not met in machine intelligence but are required to attribute personhood, I end up eliminating certain groups of humans who for one reason or another don't fulfill all those requirements either.


Once the two classes of beings are observably indistinguishable---something usually ignored in reactions to this argument---you won't be able to tell whether you are talking about the machine or the human in making an argument either way---for or against personhood.

In that situation, the argument will not even be able to get started, since the being in question is observably the same as both possibilities, which is the key premise of the original problem. Since one cannot at that point even -begin- the argument with a predisposition either way, there would simply be nothing left that could be considered evidence for the distinction.

We already identify personhood by how objects appear and how they behave. It's the clearly stated indistinguishability situation as the core premise that forces the issue and reveals prior commitments that necessarily kick in by default in any possible specific instances of person-like entities encountered. How would it be possible to specify criteria for recognizing personhood or consciousness in any other way?

If you're hunting and you see something that could possibly be a human, you simply go by analogous or similar appearance to other objects already considered persons, combined with observed behavior of that something I see. Which is one of the core premises of this argument.

Since the whole basic initial premise is indistinguishability in terms of both appearance and behavior, how would you adjudicate personhood, or even identify the entity in question as one (machine) *or* the other (person)? If you can't tell the difference by both appearance and behavior, there's really no use in trying to maintain the distinction in any such instance. Given that you can't distinguish the entity as being merely physical or conscious to begin with, there's simply nothing else to go by.

But in that case, you'd end up having granted personhood to the machine by default, plus perhaps because of the ethical risk of denying personhood to a being that for all appearances and behaviors could very well be a person anyway.
 


--Thanks to Michael Arthur Simon for sparking this view from his own similar idea. Much of this is redacted from Simon, Michael Arthur. "Could there be a Conscious Automaton?", American Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 6, Number 1, 1969, pages 71-78---but with very significant changes.