The Missing Links – Feb. 19, 2011

  • A list of 50 philosophy blogs that cover a variety of philosophical topics.  Among the interesting titles are “The Philosophy Smoker” and “The Ethical Werewolf.”

 

  • Speaking of philosophy, UC-Berkeley has made available online three courses taught by well-known philosopher John Searle.  The courses are Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind, and Philosophy of Society.

 

  • A number of free theology books in PDF format are available at the Online Christian Library of Virtual Theological Resources.  Titles include Charles Hodges’s Systematic theology, Creation in Old Testament Theology by Paul R. House, and The Divine Inspiration of the Bible by Arthur W. Pink.

 

  • Last Seminary has a tremendous collection of free material in the categories of New Testament studies, science and religion, and philosophy of religion, which are further broken down into articles, books, and courses.  A wealth of quality material here.

 

  • Several interesting papers from Baylor’s past Philosophy of Religion Conferences are available on the conference website.  Past presenters have included Paul Moser, John Greco, Jonathan Kvanvig, and Alexander Pruss.

 

  • Randy Alcorn’s book Why Pro-Life is free in PDF format here.  In this 144-page book he deals with questions such as Is the Unborn Really a Human Being?, Is Abortion Part of a Right to Privacy?, Does Abortion Harm a Woman’s Physical and Mental Health?, and several other related issues.

 

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Consciousness Remains an Intractable Problem for Naturalism

I mentioned a few specific reasons for this in a recent post.  However, I think many people believe these objections to a naturalistic account of mind are the creation of Christian critics.  So, here are a few corroborating statements from those on the other side.

[P]hilosopher of mind . . . Ned Block . . . confesses that we have
no idea how consciousness could have emerged from nonconscious matter: “we have nothing—zilch—worthy of being called a research programme…. Researchers are stumped.”6

Berkeley’s John Searle says this is a “leading problem in the biological sciences.”7

Jaegwon Kim notes our “inability” to understand consciousness in an “essentially physical” world.8

Colin McGinn observes that consciousness seems like “a radical novelty in the universe”; 9  he wonders how our “technicolour” awareness could “arise from soggy grey matter.”10

David Papineau wonders why consciousness emerges: “to this question physicalists’ ‘theories of consciousness’ seem to provide no answer.”11

If, however, we have been made by a supremely self-aware Being, then the existence of consciousness has a plausible context.

6. Ned Block, “Consciousness,” in A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind, ed. Samuel Guttenplan (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1994), 211.
7. John Searle, “The Mystery of Consciousness: Part II,” New York Review of Books (Nov.16, 1995): 61.
8. Jaegwon Kim, “Mind, Problems of the Philosophy of,” s.v. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, ed. Ted Honderich (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 578.
9. Colin McGinn, The Mysterious Flame (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 14.
10. Colin McGinn, The Problem of Consciousness (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 10–11.
11. David Papineau, Philosopical Naturalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 119.

From Paul Copan, Loving Wisdom: Christian Philosophy of Religion, p. 105

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Quotable – John Searle on the Overriding Question in Philosophy

“‘There is exactly one overriding question in contemporary philosophy . . . . How do we fit in? . . . How can we square this self-conception of ourselves as mindful, meaning-creating, free, rational, etc., agents with a universe that consists entirely of mindless, meaningless, unfree, nonrational, brute physical particles?’

For the scientific naturalist, the answer is, ‘Not very well.’”

– J. P. Moreland in God is Great, God is Good (p. 34), quoting John Searle, Freedom & Neurobiology (pp. 4-5).

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Chinese Room

Chinese room
Image via Wikipedia

This is the definition in a nutshell:

The Chinese Room argument comprises a thought experiment and associated arguments by John Searle (1980), which attempts to show that a symbol-processing machine like a computer can never be properly described as having a “mind” or “understanding“, regardless of how intelligently it may behave.

Here’s the more detailed explanation:

Searle’s thought experiment begins with this hypothetical premise: suppose that artificial intelligence research has succeeded in constructing a computer that behaves as if it understands Chinese. It takes Chinese characters as input and, by following the instructions of a computer program, produces other Chinese characters, which it presents as output. Suppose, says Searle, that this computer performs its task so convincingly that it comfortably passes the Turing test: it convinces a human Chinese speaker that the program is itself a human Chinese speaker. All of the questions that the human asks it receive appropriate responses, such that any Chinese speaker would be convinced that he or she is talking to another Chinese-speaking human being.

Some proponents of artificial intelligence would conclude that the computer “understands” Chinese. This conclusion, a position he refers to as “strong AI“, is the target of Searle’s argument.

Searle then asks the reader to suppose that he is in a closed room and that he has a book with an English version of the aforementioned computer program, along with sufficient paper, pencils, erasers and filing cabinets. He can receive Chinese characters (perhaps through a slot in the door), process them according to the program’s instructions, and produce Chinese characters as output. As the computer passed the Turing test this way, it is fair, says Searle, to deduce that he will be able to do so as well, simply by running the program manually.

And yet, Searle points out, he does not understand a word of Chinese. He asserts that there is no essential difference between the role the computer plays in the first case and the role he plays in the latter. Each is simply following a program, step-by-step, which simulates intelligent behavior. Since it is obvious that he does not understand Chinese, Searle argues, we must infer that computer does not understand Chinese either.

Searle argues that without “understanding” (what philosophers call “intentionality“), we can not describe what the machine is doing as “thinking”. Because it does not think, it does not have a “mind” in anything like the normal sense of the word, according to Searle. Therefore, he concludes, “strong AI” is mistaken.

(Via Wikipedia)

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