P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 123
29th December 2006
I. 'Interview with David Chalmers' by Seher Yekenkurul
II. 'Heidegger, Technology and our Future' by Martin Jenkins
III. 'A Response to Archana Baruah' by Jurgen Lawrenz
In her second interview for Philosophy Pathways, Seher Yekenkurul talks to
David Chalmers, best known for his claim that materialist or functional views
of the mind cannot solve the 'hard' problem of consciousness: how is it that
each of us has subjective experiences. This is an area of philosophy fraught
with paradox. We seem to be able to imagine a world physically identical to our
world where there is no conscious experience; yet, by hypothesis, like us the
'zombie' inhabitants of that world are engaged in arguing (or, rather,
'arguing' in scare quotes) over the 'hard problem of consciousness'.
In our other two articles, Pathways mentor Martin Jenkins has provided a
refreshingly brief and readable account of Heidegger's critique of technology
which explains the importance that Heidegger attached to poetry, while Fellow
of the ISFP and Board member Jurgen Lawrence offers his response to Archana
Baruah's article on Heidegger and artificial intelligence from the last issue.
May I wish all readers of Philosophy Pathways the best of luck for 2007!
I. 'INTERVIEW WITH DAVID CHALMERS' BY SEHER YEKENKURUL
David Chalmers is Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National
University, Director of the Centre for Consciousness, and ARC Federation
Fellow. He works predominantly in the philosophy of mind and is primarily
interested in consciousness, but also artificial intelligence and computation,
philosophical issues about meaning and possibility, and the foundations of
cognitive science and physics. He is the author of The Conscious Mind: In
Search of a Fundamental Theory, keynote writer in Explaining Consciousness: The
Hard Problem edited by Jonathan Shear, and editor of Philosophy of Mind:
Classical and Contemporary Readings. Other books include Toward a Science of
Consciousness III: The Third Tucson Discussions and Debates: Complex Adaptive
Systems, The Character of Consciousness and A Place for Consciousness: Probing
the Deep Structure of the Natural World.
Seher: It has been claimed that you are a contemporary dualist, which is that
you hold the view that human beings are made up of two radically distinct
constituents: body and an immaterial mind. Could you briefly explain the major
schools of thought that attempt to understand the nature of the mind, and why
you allege dualism as better for enhancing our understanding of Consciousness?
David: The basic question in the philosophy of mind is the mind/ body problem.
What is the relationship between the mind and the body, between the mental and
the physical? I suppose there are two or three basic schools of thought.
Perhaps traditionally, the most popular is dualism which says there is the
mental and the physical and they are separate, the mind is not physical and the
body is not mental. In more recent years, the more popular has been materialism,
the thesis that the mind is wholly physical, and mental states and properties
are all physical states and properties. To complete the set, I guess you will
also need the other natural view that everything is mental, that would be
idealism. That is the thesis associated with Berkeley, popular one hundred to
two hundred years ago, but not so popular today.
So these days, most people are materialists. They would like to think that
consciousness is reducible to physical processes, that maybe the mind is
somehow the brain. I started off this way myself coming in from the sciences,
thinking that surely we must find a theory by which consciousness is physical,
but I have come to the view that actually consciousness can't be wholly
explained in physical terms, and therefore there is something which is
non-physical about it.
Rene Descartes thought that there were two substances, there is the brain in
your head and the mental substance somewhere else made of some kind of
different stuff, and these interact with each other. I am not as radical as
that; I think there are different properties, physical properties of our brain
and mental properties of consciousness, and those properties cannot be
explained in terms of each other. They both have to be taken as irreducible.
Now you want to ask, what are the reasons for this view, why do I hold this
view? Well that is complicated. The basic intuition that gets it all going is
that there seems to be an explanatory gap between an explanation of, say, the
brain processes, and an explanation of consciousness. We like the idea that in
science we are going to get a chain of explanations that goes all the way up
from physics to chemistry to biology to whatever. But there still is this
problem of consciousness. Putting together any amount of information on, say,
neurons and the connections within the brain and so on, always leaves this gap.
Why is it that there feels like there is something in the inside, that
consciousness is a first person phenomenon whereby one may have an experience
of the world or oneself from the first person point of view. And no physical
explanation anyone has ever given to date tells one why there should be such a
thing at all, the first person point of view. What I try to argue in my work is
that there cannot be any such explanation.
Seher: The notion of hard problem of consciousness has been popularized by you.
Could you explain more about it?
David: This is the problem about explanation that I mentioned a second ago.
There has been a whole lot of work on consciousness, not just from philosophy,
but from psychology, from neuroscience, medicine, and physics, whatever. But
different people mean different things by consciousness. One person gives a
theory of consciousness, but it may not mean what the other person means by
consciousness. So here I find it useful to separate the problems.
In some sense when someone says, 'I want to talk about consciousness,' they
might be talking about, say, some aspect of our behaviour or something we can
do. I am conscious as opposed to asleep, I am standing up and I am responsive
as opposed to being completely unresponsive. Here is something I can do, I can
point to something over there and I can talk about it, those are all aspects of
my being conscious of it. Those are interesting problems of consciousness but
those are not the central thing. There doesn't seem to be such a huge problem
of how science can explain how I can point to a thing, or talk about it or
stand up as opposed to being awake, or being awake as opposed to being asleep.
So those are among the quote 'easy' problems of consciousness, tied to
behaviour and things that we do.
The 'hard' problem of consciousness is the problem of subjective experience,
what it feels like from the inside. So when I look at you, or when I look
around this room, I have visual experiences of the world and it feels like
something from the first person point of view. Sounds sound like something,
emotions feel like something from the inside, you are happy or sad, and
thinking has a certain subjective quality. The hard problem of consciousness is
to explain why we have that first person experience of the mind and of the world
and how you can get that on a physical basis.
Seher: Are you optimistic that these hard problems will ever be solved?
David: See, my view is that there is no way to solve the hard problem of
consciousness purely in physical terms. There is no way to give a purely
physical explanation of why there is subjective experience. I think with the
easy problems, we may well end up with a purely physical explanation of being
responsive and being unresponsive, pointing to things, talking and so on. I
don't think there is going to be a purely physical explanation of why we feel a
certain way inside, and that is the hard problem.
It does not mean that there will be no theory of this phenomenon at all; it
means that it will have to go purely beyond the reductive, physicalist
explanations of consciousness that many people have sought, and to bring in a
non-reductive element into the picture too. We need to add some further
elements, some extra ingredients through our theory beyond the physical, to
bring consciousness in.
Seher: What role does Neuroscience and Cognitive science play in the
philosophical study of Consciousness?
David: There is no difference between the philosophy and the science, because
we are all in this together, trying to figure out the nature of consciousness.
The science has a lot to do with experiments, going to the lab, put the brain
under the scanner. Just because I am a dualist, it does not mean that I will
reject neuroscience. Neuroscience is very important in our understanding of
The science is primarily about doing experiments, studying the brain to
discover what areas of the brain are active when you are having a certain kind
of conscious experience. Or psychologists studying your behaviour, how it is
that people sometimes respond consciously or respond unconsciously. These
experimental results tell us something about consciousness, but they leave a
lot of the harder questions somewhat untouched. What neuroscience is telling us
is neutral on the question of whether consciousness is physical or whether it is
something extra that goes along with the physical, and I think this is one place
where philosophy comes in.
I think it is very important to do philosophy in light of all the results
coming out of neuroscience and psychology and so on. So I spent a lot of time
going to those conferences, and reading those books and talking to those
people, and the experimental results can tell you a lot about consciousness. At
the same time one thing you will find in the study of consciousness is that it
can take a huge amount of theoretical work to figure out just what it is that
these results tell you, and that is something where the philosopher plays a
Seher: Panpsychism is a term that, 'applies views according to which a mental
element is present in everything that exists'. Leibniz, Schelling, A. N.
Whitehead have all agreed to this theory, and it has been claimed that you
yourself are sympathetic to it. How does panpsychism relate to the study of
David: Panpsychism is the view that basically everything has some consciousness
in it. So, humans can be conscious, but what about animals, what about monkeys,
about dogs, cats, mouse, and flies?
Panpsychism is the view that it goes all the way down. I am sympathetic to
panpsychism, but I don't know that it is true. It might be true, it might be
false. The trouble with consciousness is that you cannot measure it from the
outside, you cannot measure it in another person, you cannot measure it in a
dog, and you cannot measure it in a fly. It is an idea that goes back to all
kinds of Eastern traditions that there is some consciousness that may be
present in all matter.
I think this is an idea that philosophy ought to take seriously. You get a
certain attractively unified picture of the world from saying that there is
consciousness all the way down there in matter, and our level of consciousness
just emerges out of it. It makes for a nice metaphysical system. Philosophers
tend to be conservative and say, 'well, that seems way out. ' It is certainly a
speculative, metaphysical view, but I think we have learnt from contemporary
science that the world is a strange and interesting place.
Seher: You state in your book The Conscious Mind: 'We can say that a mental
state is conscious if it has a qualitative feel - an associated quality of
experience. ' Could you describe qualia and the p-zombie theory?
David: Qualia are what I was talking about before, the subjective qualities of
experience, what it feels like from the inside. Now, one of the ways you can
make an argument against materialism is by the philosophical idea of the
zombie. A zombie is a hypothetical creature that is physically identical to you
or to me, but lacks consciousness.
Now, I know that I am not a zombie, I can tell you that. I believe that you are
not a zombie. Probably there are no zombies out there in this world, but still,
the intrinsic idea makes sense. There is no contradiction in the idea of a
zombie, it is conceivable. I can suppose that you are sitting there talking to
me now like a complete zombie, no consciousness at all. It is probably not that
way, but the idea is not something I can rule out with certainty
As a philosopher, I put this idea by saying that maybe there are no zombies in
this world, but it would have been within God's power to create a zombie if he
had so chosen. I don't believe in God, but this is a useful metaphor. You have
the idea that God created the world, and if he had so chosen, created a purely
physical world just like this, but with no consciousness, that would have been
a world of zombies. But that is not the world we got. We got a world of
consciousness in it, we are not zombies. So that suggests that God has done
some extra work after making the world physical by adding consciousness in too.
And you can think of that as an argument against materialism.
Seher: Thomas Metzinger, Chair and Professor of Philosophy at the Johannes
Gutenberg-University of Mainz, participated in the Foerster Lectures on the
Immortality of the Soul at UC Berkeley. In his lecture, Being No One:
Consciousness, the Phenomenal Self, and the First Person Perspective, Metzinger
claimed that if it is true that the self is not a thing but a process, then it
is also true that the tragedy of the ego dissolves, because strictly speaking
nobody is ever born and nobody ever dies. What is your opinion of this?
David: This is a question related to consciousness, but it is a somewhat
different question, it is a question related to the self, the person, is there
such a thing. So, I talked about consciousness, but what about the person who
is conscious? I guess I might be inclined to think, yes I do exist, and so in
that sense we have selves.
Selves are no big deal, they are just people, but they are things that actually
have those conscious experiences which I have been talking about. Probably there
was a time I did not exist; probably will be a time where I will fail to exist
again. I guess some people, starting from the Buddhist traditions, believe that
somehow there is something illusory about the soul, and that we are not so
distinct from the world around us and others; that maybe this would makes us
more continuous with the rest of the world, which will somehow alleviate the
pain and suffering of our existence. I guess I am a conservative on this
matter. I am inclined to think that we do exist, and you are just going to have
to get used to all that pain and suffering.
Seher: Sigmund Freud composed the idea of several different levels of
consciousness, namely the preconscious, waking consciousness and the
unconscious. The unconscious mind is a reservoir of psychological repression
and whether or not it exists has been heavily disputed. When you look at the
neurological illness Conversion Disorder, you will find that the individual can
temporarily paralyse themselves, induce short-term blindness or deafness or
attacks that appear like epilepsy that are not intentionally produced and yet
without any medical explanation. What is your opinion of the psychoanalytic
David: The psychoanalytic unconscious mind, as you say, is very controversial
in contemporary science and in contemporary philosophy. Freud was a brilliant
guy, and his development of the idea of the unconscious is extremely
influential, in philosophy and science as well as in psychoanalysis.
A lot of people accept his main premise that there are extremely powerful
unconscious processes in the mind, and consciousness is just the tip of the
iceberg. I think that is orthodoxy now; Freud is widely taken to be right about
that. Still, the question is whether the unconscious works the way that Freud
thought it worked, all these extremely complicated dynamics that is highly
effective, and highly emotional subconscious goals and beliefs and desires.
A lot of people think there is the unconscious, but maybe not as rich as Freud
thought it was. For example, mainstream contemporary linguistics posits
unconscious processing of language. There is such a thing as unconscious
perception and unconscious memory, but maybe it is not quite as exciting or
smart as Freud thought. The unconscious is very complicated and there is a lot
of stuff going on, but certainly Freud's specific theory about extraordinary
dynamic nature of what is going on under the surface of the conscious has not
Seher: You studied undergraduate mathematics at the University of Adelaide
before changing to philosophy. What brought about this change? Why did the
study of consciousness appeal to you?
David: My background was in mathematics and it always seemed to me that now in
mathematics and physics and so on, we understand a lot of the basics and the
foundations, filling in the holes and filling in details, and you do get a bit
of a sense of that. In studying mathematics, I had this yearning to study
questions where we really did not understand, where we would have been five
hundred years ago in say physics. And it struck me that those questions were in
the study of the mind and consciousness.
I started becoming obsessed about these questions on consciousness. It started
in Adelaide first, and I went to Oxford to study mathematics, but I spent my
whole time there thinking about consciousness and it became an obsession for
me. So I had to give away the mathematics. I went into philosophy because that
was the best way to get the bigger picture on these questions on consciousness,
as opposed to sitting in a lab and slaving away on a little piece of the puzzle.
The nice thing about being a philosopher is that you can come up with these
things all at once, for you can pay attention to neuroscience and psychology
and the big metaphysical questions all at the same time.
Seher: And finally, who is your favourite philosopher and why?
David: I am not sure I have a favourite philosopher! I am a big admirer of
Rudolf Carnap, actually. He is a logical empiricist from the early to mid
twentieth century. There are certain standards of clarity that went into
Carnap's work, and certain things that he pursued in a technical way. I really
admire how he pulled philosophical questions down to their fundamentals, and
also his sense of optimism of philosophical progress, that philosophical
problems are here to be solved, that we can get to the end, we can get to the
bottom of things.
Seher: Thank you, David.
(c) Seher Yekenkurul 2006
II. 'HEIDEGGER, TECHNOLOGY AND OUR FUTURE' BY MARTIN JENKINS
Understanding ourselves as defined by school league tables, by vocational
qualifications, earning power and contribution to Gross Domestic Product, by
ever expanding fields of market prices and exchange, by our consuming ability
to purchase, by materialist ontologies of the mind, genetics and cybernetics,
against a background of impending Environmental crisis: the supremacy of this
perspective is what philosopher Martin Heidegger [1889-1976] called Technology
and its way of Thinking appears supreme.
Heidegger's philosophical project is guided by the question 'What is Being?'
The ancient pre-Socratic Greeks best understood this question. Subsequent
Western Philosophy has however, taken thought away from the thinking of this,
the fundamental question. This trajectory or Destining has its origins with the
post-Socratic Greeks and Thinking in this trajectory constitutes the history of
Western Philosophy and Science. Consequently we view ourselves, others and the
world ordered as en-framing or con-struct [Ge-Stell] -- this is the Essence of
Technology. Seeing the world revealed to us through the framework of
en-framing, we value it only insofar as it ordered for its potential and scope
to be used immediately by us or as ordered and stored for later use. Heidegger
terms it 'Standing-Reserve' -- potential resources on-call waiting to be used.
Human being and all that is, is mapped, ordered and valued as resource to be
stored or used.
What Heidegger literally calls 'The Danger' is that we will fail to see
en-framing as only one mode of the revelation of Being. Continuing in this one
mode of revelation, we will be closed off to the many other ways Being
discloses itself to us and so fall from our privileged position of being open
to the disclosure of Being [ek-static, Ek-sistence]. We will define
ourselves in en-framing and wrongly posit ourselves as the 'Lord of the Earth'
reigning over an en-framed world domain of both created and manipulated
'natural' resources on call for our use. Lording over all we survey and own, we
are in poverty having lost what is most fundamental.
Being is, What Is. How it reveals itself to us is 'the question' of genuine
Thinking [Sein Frage] for Heidegger. Human beings exist in the openness of the
'unconcealedness' [Aletheia] of Being; whereby its Truth appears.
Unfortunately, human beings fail to notice this and Being conceals itself. We
fail to notice both because we fail to be receptive to the unconcealment of
Being and historically, we have been saturated in the destining of a thinking
that takes us away from the unconcealing of Being as already mentioned. How did
this come about?
Destining and the Occidental History of Being
According to Heidegger the pre-Socratic Greeks had a non-appropriative,
non-conceptual and non-objectifying relation with Being. Being disclosed
[Aletheia] itself in a un-thematised, self-unfolding emergence [Phusis]. The
thoughts of Plato and Aristotle mark a departure from this as both attempted to
objectify Being in instantiated Forms and formed matter. Being or What Is, now
thematically discloses itself before us in definite and expected ways.
Primordial unconcealment of Being has been smothered and What Is, is mapped out
through theoretical categories of Philosophy, Logic and Mathematics.
Emerging here is a way of Thinking that destines subsequent Occidental Thought.
Standing ever before it, what Michael Zimmerman calls 'Productionist
Metaphysics' now holds sway. Here, owing to the metaphysical schemes of
Plato and latterly of Aristotle, the being of things is valued as product or
artefact arising out of their essence. Just as the artisan gives form [Techne]
to the material of his artefact, whatever exists has a purpose [telos] in the
totality of things.
The translation from Greek to Roman Latin further obscures Being. The
unconcealedness [Aletheia] of Being from itself is now understood as Truth
[Veritas] or the correspondence of a thing in its usefulness to its
Representation. What Is, or Being, is perceived through intellectual categories
especially in the applied Aristotelianism of Medieval Theology. The Prime Cause
[Prima Causa] of all that is, is God. God causes all things to exist in a
hierarchy of metaphysical Substances whose realities are respective to their
proximity to the Prime Cause.
This Metaphysical Philosophy/ Theology diverges into Natural Philosophy which
becomes modern Science when the realities of such substances are subject to the
mathematical charting and experimental surveying in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Substances become Objects to be mastered by the technics of human Reason and
knowledge obtained is subordinated to human use. What holds sway with Reason is
Being revealing itself only insofar as there is certainty in representation,
calculability and control over all that is known including people and nature
creating a totality of exploitable objects on hand for use. What Is, or Being
no longer reveals itself to us, it is now perceived to lie transparently before
us, defined and on call, ready for our use.
The River Rhine gathered by the hydroelectric power plant through en-framing
reveals itself only as an energy source. Whereas the Windmill worked with the
Wind to move its sails as and when, the Power Plant sets upon the Rhine to
manipulate it, re-direct it and subject it to calculation for permanent on-call
usage. Note the violence of the words 'set-upon'. How different is this
revelation of the River from its revelation to a poet like Frederich Holderlin
Through en-framing all Being including nature and human beings themselves are
revealed as resources. As written, this mode of thinking destined from the past
has hegemony standing over, against and before us. World War Two solved little
according to Heidegger, as en-framing still held and holds sway. In fact,
the militaristic technology of atomic bombs and other means of
self-annihilation now stand before human beings defined as resources
contributing to the growth of the GDP of nations immersed in globalisation.
Heidegger perceived both American capitalism and Soviet communism as
symptomatic of destining -- two sides of the same technological coin. At the
very time when Humanity defines itself as supreme Lord and Master of a World it
technologically en-frames and represents to itself, it is blind to the loss
involved and 'The Danger' of so understanding, defining and thereby limiting
itself through the ordering of En-framing -- the essence of technological
When en-framing is the only way that Being reveals itself, other ways of its
unconcealment are forgotten. Heidegger is not asking people to become luddites
and reject all technology; he is calling for people to become aware of the
essence of technology and for its monopolisation of the revealing of Being
through en-framing to be challenged. There are other ways for Being to reveal
itself. That we humans forget this and continue to see ourselves only as
resources to each other and to the economy, that we see materialist physiology
as explaining our being and cybernetics, artificial intelligence as our
progressive development; that we continue to think within the essence of
technology alone, closes us off from other ways of the revelation of Being and
from appreciating ourselves as the unique site of this revelation of Being. And
it is the revelation of Being that discloses the meaning[s] of Being, of What Is
-- of what its all about -- to human beings. In forgetting this, far from being
at home as supreme Lord and Master, we are homeless and without roots. What is
humanity to do?
The Saving Power
Heidegger quotes the German poet Holderlin:
But where the danger is, grows
The saving power also.
Where the danger of totalitarian Thinking within the essence of Technology
holds sway, there is also present a clue as to what we are to do. Man's
essential nature is that he is a 'world discloser' as Dreyfuss says. He
stands out in his ek-sistence, into the unconcealment of Being, a revealing
that can happen in many ways. En-framing forecloses this 'world disclosure'
thereby closing man off from his essence -- but not totally. Being can also
reveal itself through for instance, poetry or the poetic. Poetry brings the
true into that which shines forth most purely pervading every essential
unfolding of Being to human beings.
A sight, a landscape, an event and so on can be so profound; it moves the human
being to disclose it in poetry. Poetry can reconfigure existing language in new
ways so as to try and point towards the disclosure of Being so experienced.
Words may fail to capture or fully, adequately articulate the experience. And
that is the point. We stand amazed, astonished, moved by the unconcealment of
Being so experienced. Being is beyond full, final, complete definitive
description; it stands before us perpetually disclosing itself in infinite
ways. We human beings have the unique ability to receive the disclosure of
Being. This is the Saving Power -- as world disclosers we are receptively open
to the disclosure of Being in ways that go beyond en-framing. This awareness of
our nature sits irreconcilably with the institutionalised thinking of ourselves
simply as ordered resources on hand for use to each other as defined by
thinking within the essence of Technology.
So a return to a new un-thematised, non-appropriative Thinking of Being beyond
the limitations of destined productive metaphysical thinking is needed. It
heralds a return of humanity to its essential nature as 'world discloser' and
to the appreciation of What Is: Being.
It is about stepping out of the ordered linear, means-end thinking and activity
we have with others, the world and ourselves; to stop, stare and receive their
disclosure in ways we never usually do. With the disclosure of Being, What Is
inspires us -- for as Percy Bysshe Shelley stated, poets and philosophers are
the unacknowledged legislators of the World.
1. 'I see the essence of technology in what I call the con-struct....The
workings of the construct mean: Human beings are caught [gestellt], claimed,
and challenged by a power that is revealed in the essence of technology' P. 11.
Der Spiegel Interview with Martin Heidegger.
2. Ek-Sistence can be defined as the essence of Dasein. We are by our nature
open to the disclosure of the Being of beings. Being open as such, our
existence is standing out into the disclosure. We are not a closed Cartesian
subjectivity separated from the Objectivity of others and the World; our being
is, by being-in-the-world.
3. P. 47, Timothy Clarke. Heidegger. Routledge 2002.
4. Martin Heidegger. Time and Being. University of Chicago Press 2002.
5. P. 9. Der Siegel op cit. P. 40 Martin Heidegger. Introduction to
Metaphysics. Yale University Press 2000.
6. P. 333. Martin Heidegger The Question Concerning Technology. The Question
Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Translated and Introduction William
Lovett. Harper and Row 1977.
7. Hubert Dreyfuss. Highway Bridges and Feasts: Heidegger, Borgmann and How to
8. #342. Percy Bysshe Shelley. Defence of Poetry. 1821.
Timothy Clark Martin Heidegger. Routledge 2002.
Martin Heidegger. The Question Concerning Technology and other Essays.
Translated and Introduction William Lovett. Harper and Row 1977.
Martin Heidegger. Poetry, Language, Thought. Translation and Introduction
Albert Hofstadter. Perennial Classics 2001.
Martin Heidegger. Being and Time. Basil Blackwell 2002.
Martin Heidegger. Time and Being. University of Chicago Press 2002.
Site dedicated to the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Contains primary and
secondary material on Heidegger such as the Der Spiegel Interview with Martin
Site dedicated to Martin Heidegger containing primary and secondary sources
such as Hubert Dreyfuss Highway Bridges and Feasts op. cit. above.
(c) Martin Jenkins 2006
III. 'A RESPONSE TO ARCHANA BARUAH' BY JURGEN LAWRENZ
Archana Baruah 'Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence: a Heideggerian Approach'
Philosophy Pathways Issue 122
It so happens that I have a lot of problems with this paper. This may be
because I am basically out of sorts with the idea that a piece of metal might
have intelligence, however defined. It does not apparently occur to anyone
writing about these matters to question the presupposition behind this
assumption, i.e. that intelligence may not necessarily be a human faculty, but
a neutral or objective fact. This would entail that intelligence does not
necessarily require a self-conscious awareness as its engendering principle.
But having said this, and perhaps pointing incidentally to the fact that the
only intelligence of which we know just happens to be human, I shall leave the
issue for others to ponder.
Where this is important vis-a-vis the paper, is that in the very first line the
writer seems to drastically misunderstand the term 'Dasein'. This is not
promising. For it suggests that author is not cognisant of the fact that
'Dasein' is a most ordinary, everyday word to a German speaker; it is not by a
long shot technical nomenclature. And as such (and therefore in Heidegger) it
means 'the existence of animate beings'; and in defining it this way we
obviously exclude inanimate things. A computer cannot therefore have 'Dasein',
only 'Existenz', which is precisely the reason why Heidegger requires these two
terms. In English these are not differentiable, which is why translators seem
happy to import 'Dasein' into English, albeit at the cost of insinuating a
explicitly philosophical meaning. But as we have seen, the reason is (if you
don't mind me saying) a deficiency in the English language.
There are further problems. As we go on author personalises Dasein, she seems
to understand me and you and herself as 'Dasein' in some way. This is
troublesome, for the case is not that we are Dasein, but that we have it or are
So much for that. Author's assertion that 'from Plato to Descartes' man is
primarily a thinker might be conceded; but we did not have to wait for
Heidegger to discover the 'doer'. So this is at least a sin of omission: for it
is central to the philosophies of Leibniz, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx and surely
all the pragmatists to represent men as actors in the world.
The author seems on safer ground with 'Sorge'; although I wonder what
Kierkegaard has to do with it: it is after all a ubiquitous endowment which
Heidegger analyses and endeavours to bring to the attention of those who tend
to forget (from failure either of selfishness or else a philosophical contempt
for mere feelings) that 'Sorge' is fundamental to human cooperation. And so if
his point is that computers don't care, I heartily agree.
I find it amusing that people are still associating chess with 'intelligence'
and drawing inferences from the Kasparov debacle. One must understand here that
no computer 'plays' chess. It has millions of actual games (played by humans!)
stored in its memory banks, as well as all openings and analysable endings.
Effectively therefore a computer breaks the fundamental rule of chess: no books
and no third party interference allowed! Accordingly no intelligence whatever is
required by the computer to compete a game of chess. I'm puzzled in this
connection why people don't make the obvious connection to calculators. Can you
extract the square root of 7,587 in one second? Is the calculator therefore
'smarter' than you? Clearly this argument applied to computers is a complete
I suspect that author is basically in sympathy with this view, for eventually
she asks, What problems can a computer really solve? But the answer surely
obvious. It can solve those problems which are meaningful to a human agent, for
which a human agent has devised a problem solving routine, and for which, in
addition, a human may think of contingency algorithms permitting the computer
to branch off into terrains unknown to the agent, which is precisely what we
may wish to discover. None of this is very exciting to people who don't find it
so. But then there are many people who find it exciting to watch weightlifters.
And both groups have, I suppose, their own 'literature'.
What the author writes about technology has my consent; but let me quote one of
her sentences to refer back to what is said above: 'This is a scenario when
humans as Daseins can slowly degrade themselves to their inauthentic modes'.
This makes no sense. What it means is 'Humans degrade their Dasein [i.e. their
authentically human existence] this way'.
But in conclusion she seems to fall for the 'thermometer fallacy' again. I use
this term for all those things that computers can do, which can also be done in
some fashion by thermometers, fire alarms, guided missiles and what not. The
point is, in contradiction to author's claim, that the only intelligence
involved here is human intelligence which designed these things.
The borrowings she makes (trusting 'experts' in the field) on the future of
human design capabilities hardly amounts to a confidence that computers have
the potential for intelligence. The only way this can reasonably be discussed
is if we start by defining intelligence in such a way as to include computer
operations in the definition. But this definition will not include most of what
we call 'human intelligence'. What the latter 'is', must remain an open
question, but clearly there is increasing evidence form other sciences than AI
that intelligence is intimately connected with (e.g.) emotion, attention,
desires and all sorts of body processes. In a word, the only intelligence we
know of is an emergent property of biological processes. Thus to finish on a
Heideggerian note, I shall quote (from memory) how one educator relieved his
annoyance at the inflated claims of the AI fraternity: 'The danger is not that
computers will learn to think like us, but that we might learn to think like
(c) Jurgen Lawrenz 2006
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