Voltaire and his Religious and Political Views

Voltaire: Who is he? Voltaire (21st November 1694 – 30th May 1778) was a French Enlightenment thinker and his real name was Francois-Marie Arouet. He was famous for his plays and poetry as well as Political, Religious and Philosophical writings. Voltaire worked to defend Civil Liberties. He thought that the rich were favoured by the … Read more

AI Persons: Can a Machine or AI (Artificial Intelligence) be a Person?

Artificial Intelligence are minded machines that display characteristics of personhood – AI Persons.

AI Persons – Can Machines ever be persons?

If you are studying AQA Philosophy, you might study a module on ‘Can machines be persons?’ You may agree or disagree with the fact that AI/machines can be persons.

However, in a philosophy essay, you will need to present an argument. Therefore, you will need to understand arguments for and against machines as persons.  Of course, it will depend on how you define ‘a person’, so as a philosopher, it is important that you get that straight first, before you attempt to answer such a question!

Weak and Strong AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Philosophers differentiate between Weak AI (artificial intelligence) and Strong AI (Artificial Intelligence), If a machine could be a considered a person, that would be Strong AI. If a machine could develop some charateristics of personhood, but that an independant minded machine should not be created is Weak AI.

Can Machines be persons? Optimistic approaches

Alan Turing argued that if a machine could be indistinguishable from a person in terms of language, it could be regarded as being on the scale of personhood.

He developed the ‘Turing Test’ to try to demonstrate this. A human interrogator and a human volunteer were place in separate rooms and connected by a computer. The interrogator typed questions into the computer, and both the human volunteer and the computer answered.

If the interrogator could not distinguish between the computer and the human, the computer passed the test.  Turing argued that if a machine could have a proper conversation with us, it would be sufficient to call it a person.

Kenneth Colby also devised a test by constructing a computer programme called PARRY. It was a simulation of a paranoid patient who thought that the mafia were after him. When psychiatrists questioned a real paranoid patient, and PARRY, they could not tell the difference. This implied that the machine had human characteristics, and passed Turings test.

Great to watch…

Codebreaker – re-counts the story of this maverick British genius, Alan Turing, who was crucial to founding three new fields of science as well as breaking the Nazis’ naval Enigma code during World War II.

Can Machines be persons? Pessimistic Approaches

Some people argue that machines cannot and never will demonstrate the characteristics of personhood. There are several tests or arguments can be used in support of this view.

PARRY and the Turing Test

Daniel Dennett argued that the PARRY test was not a real test because it was flawed because of the ethical limitations of the test. Questioning of the psychiatrists was restricted because they realised that they would be questioning a real paranoid person, and didn’t want to confuse or upset him or her.  PARRY was pre-programmed with stock paranoid answers which seemed to be plausible to the psychiatrists because the subject was supposed to be a paranoid person.

American philosopher John Searle questioned Turings test and tried to undermine the idea of computer systems with human-like minds. He did this through the Chinese Room Experiment.  The experiment demonstrates that computers don’t understand the meaning of Chinese symbols, and therefore they are not thinking.

AI Persons – What do you Think?

Remember that if you are asked this question as an extended essay question, you must give BOTH sides of the argument. What do you think?  Can machines be persons?  Do leave your comments on our blog!

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You might also like to read about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and The Theory of Forms.

Aristotle’s Four Causes

Following on from Plato’s Theory of Forms, we will now discuss Aristotle’s Four Causes. Who was Aristotle?  Aristotle was a student of Plato. However, he did not agree with all of Plato’s Philosophies! Aristotle was interested in the nature of things and how we explain why things exist, just as Plato was. What was Aristotle interested … Read more

The Study of Philosophy

Beginning your study of Philosophy is tough. Chances are, you’ve never studied anything like this before. So, where do you begin? How do you understand the principles of Philosophy and how to study it? Why is the Study of Philosophy different to other Subjects? The study of Philosophy is very different from other subjects such … Read more

Why Study Philosophy?

Many students ask: “Why Study Philosophy?”  As mentioned in my last blog, Philosophy students are often amongst the most rounded and employable students. There are many advantages of being a philosophy student, that are subject specific and more generic. Philosophy – Subject Specific Skills The skills gained from a philosophy qualification include… Report Writing Skills … Read more

What is Philosophy?

What is philosophy?

Some students are scared away by the idea of Philosophy A-level.  Philosophy is not often studied at GCSE, although some Schools now do P4C – philosophy for children. But it is becoming increasingly popular at A-level. Philosophy graduates are some of the most rounded and employable students. So what is philosophy? Seeking rather than Finding … Read more

Philosophy Books: What to read for Philosophy A-level 

Philosophical Texts:  With Philosophical texts, it’s useful to have a guide alongside. The one’s listed here are a great help when it comes to understanding the meaning of the text and for developing own ideas and arguments Descartes Meditations & A guide for Descartes Meditations Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil & Nietzsche Guide Plato, The Republic … Read more

Welcome to the Philosophyzer!

Welcome to the philosophyzer blog! I am here to guide you through your philosophy studies, and discuss some exciting philosophical questions. Well done to all of those fabulous philosophers who recently received their A-level results! A great first read for you coming up next on What is Philosophy? The Philosophyzer.