Re: The Mind/Body Problem

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Fri Feb 23 1996 - 18:31:27 GMT

> From: Dawson Jon <>
> Date: Fri, 23 Feb 1996 15:08:55 GMT
> to add to this problem we can say Do we (humans,or maybe
> sentients) have a soul. In our main belief we do but as to
> do machines the only way to assume that they do not have a
> soul is to say that they cannot because they are only a
> creation, even if they may be advanced, technologically.
> After all machines were created by us as were abacuses or
> axes but to view these as having cognitive ability seems
> unquestionably wrong

The "soul" is a red herring in this discussion. Substitute "mind" and
the problem's just as tough. Yes, each of us knows in one's own case that
one has a mind -- by which all that is meant is that when one is
pinched, one really feels something.

Do machines feel anything when pinched, or ever feel anything at all? How
would one know?

People were "created" by us too, so that can't be what decides whether
or not something has a mind. Perhaps you mean "designed" by us: But why
should that have anything to do with it? Everyone says this, but no one
gives a reason why being designed by someone with a mind should
disqualify a machine from having a mind. It's almost as if you were
saying that if someone knew how WE were designed (i.e., could build
us) then WE wouldn't have a mind either...

Besides, what IS a machine? We ended the lecture with that question.
It was suggested that a machine is something built by a person. But
isn't it rather that it so HAPPENS that the things we can build we call
"machines," and that the things we cannot yet build (or at least some of
them) we assume are not machines? But what if we discover how they work,
once we do the reverse engineering? Are all bets off then? But THEN what
are machines? Could they just be any system that operates according to
the ordinary laws of cause and effect? And then could we then not turn
out to be "machines" (very smart, special ones, with minds, of course)

See next week's reading on reverse engineering (by the philosopher who
said that the only way to understand his chess-playing computer was to
infer that "it thinks it should get its queen out early", Dan Dennett):

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