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Consciousness, intentionality and intelligence: some foundational issues for artificial intelligence

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Three fundamental questions concerning minds are presented. These are about consciousness, intentionality and intelligence. After we present the fundamental framework that has shaped both the philosophy of mind and the Artificial Intelligence research in the last forty years or so regarding the last two questions, we turn to consciousness, whose study still seems evasive to both communities. After briefly illustrating why and how phenomenal consciousness is puzzling, a theoretical diagnosis of the problem is proposed and a framework is presented, within which further research would yield a solution. The diagnosis is that the puzzle stems from a peculiar dual epistemic access to phenomenal aspects (qualia) of our conscious experiences. An account of concept formation is presented such that both the phenomenal concepts (like the concepts RED and SWEET) and the introspective concepts (like the concepts EXPERIENCING RED and TASTING SWEET) are acquired from a firstperson perspective as opposed to the third-person one (the standard concept formation strategy about objective features). We explain the first-person perspective in information-theoretic and computational terms:

Nature (the Art whereby God hath made and governes the World) is by the Art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an Artificial Animal. For seeing life is but a motion of Limbs, the beginning whereof is in some principall part within; why may we not say, that all Automata (Engines that move themselves by springs and wheels as doth a watch) have an artificiall life? For what is the Heart, but a Spring; and the Nerves but so many Strings; and the Joynts, but so many Wheeles, giving motion to the whole Body, such as was intended by the Artificer? Art goes yet further, imitating that Rationall and most excellent worke of Nature, Man. (Hobbes 1651, p. 81)

So declared Thomas Hobbes in 1651 in the Introduction to his well-known work, Leviathan, published one year after RĂ©ne Descartes' death. Descartes was also interested in mechanical explanations of bodily processes and organic life. In fact, on the basis of his neuroanatomical and physiological studies, as well as philosophical arguments, Descartes had already argued that human and animal bodies could be mechanically understood as complicated and intricately designed machines (Descartes 1664). What differentiated Descartes from Hobbes lay in his belief that human beings, unlike non-human animals, were not merely bodies; they were unions of material bodies and immaterial souls. The immaterial soul was necessary for Descartes to explain the peculiar capacities and activities of the human mind. As such, materialist mechanical explanations could never be sufficient to account for the whole human being.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, The University of Chicago, 1010 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA 2: Department of Philosophy, Duke University, 201 West Duke Building, Box 90743, Durham, NC 27708, USA

Publication date: 2000-07-01

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