Actual Possibilities

Sloman, A. (1996) Actual Possibilities. [Conference Paper]

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This is a philosophical `position paper', starting from the observation that we have an intuitive grasp of a family of related concepts of ``possibility'', ``causation'' and ``constraint'' which we often use in thinking about complex mechanisms, and perhaps also in perceptual processes, which according to Gibson are primarily concerned with detecting positive and negative affordances, such as support, obstruction, graspability, etc. We are able to talk about, think about, and perceive possibilities, such as possible shapes, possible pressures, possible motions, and also risks, opportunities and dangers. We can also think about constraints linking such possibilities. If such abilities are useful to us (and perhaps other animals) they may be equally useful to intelligent artefacts. All this bears on a collection of different more technical topics, including modal logic, constraint analysis, qualitative reasoning, naive physics, the analysis of functionality, and the modelling design processes. The paper suggests that our ability to use knowledge about ``de-re'' modality is more primitive than the ability to use ``de-dicto'' modalities, in which modal operators are applied to sentences. The paper explores these ideas, links them to notions of ``causation'' and ``machine'', suggests that they are applicable to virtual or abstract machines as well as physical machines. Some conclusions are drawn regarding the nature of mind and consciousness.

Item Type:Conference Paper
Subjects:Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
Computer Science > Artificial Intelligence
Computer Science > Machine Vision
Computer Science > Robotics
Psychology > Developmental Psychology
Linguistics > Semantics
Philosophy > Epistemology
Philosophy > Philosophy of Language
Philosophy > Logic
Philosophy > Metaphysics
Philosophy > Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy > Philosophy of Science
ID Code:718
Deposited By: Sloman, Aaron
Deposited On:18 Jul 1998
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54


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