Science fiction literature often raises philosophical issues and is a great source for philosophical
speculation. This is especially true for the mind/body problem. For example, it is common in science
fiction literature to encounter androids. An android is a robot which resembles a human being in
appearance and behavior. Examples of androids in science fiction books, television programs or films are
numerous (Star Trek, Star Wars, Aliens, Terminator, A.I., I Robot, etc.). In reality many computer
scientists are currently working in the area of “artificial intelligence” or machines that can “think for
themselves.” Many computer scientists believe this is the first step in creating these androids of the
future and that in time the distinction between man and machine will be practically erased. These
scientists speculate that androids with super-computer brains will have thoughts, beliefs, feelings and
desires just like humans. Therefore, some argue, they will also have the same rights, responsibilities, and
privileges that all humans have and should be treated as thus. Do you see problems with this view of the
future? Do you think machines can ever become persons?
In order to explore this question, let us consider an episode of the popular television series, Star Trek:
The Next Generation. It would be helpful if you could view this episode (perhaps you can rent it or
download it from Netflix), but I have provided a synopsis below so that you can fulfill this assignment
without viewing the episode.
For your initial post: After reading the synopsis (or viewing the episode) write a substantive response.
The bulk of your response should be on the first question and relating the story to class lectures and
readings on the mind/body problem.
• From your reading and from the lectures given in class, and using the categories discussed in class,
what view of the mind/body problem do you think is exhibited by Picard? By Maddox? IMPORTANT:
SUPPORT YOUR ANSWER.
• Maddox lists three criteria for a being to be sentient: intelligence, self-awareness and consciousness.
Are these adequate? Can you think of other properties or characteristics a being needs to have in order
to be considered a “person?” What might they be?
• Do you think that artificial intelligence to the level as it is presented in the story will someday be
possible? Why or why not?
• Do you think Maddox is right when he claims that Picard is being “irrational and emotional” in his view
• Do you agree with the JAG officers final ruling. Why or why not?
• If A.I. does become possible, will we have obligations to treat machines “ethically?
The synopsis can be found here. (Sorry, I had my own written out but I can't find it).
▪ There are things cannot be understood from a maximally objective point of
▪ Attempts to give complete accounts of the world in objective terms leads to
false reductions or outright denials of certainly patently real phenomena exist
▪ These theories (materialism, reductionism) impoverish the intellectual pursuit
and serious expressions of certain questions
▪ Bats have a fundamentally different
experience of the world
▪ Echolocation, live upside down, poor
▪ Dissimilar to any sense we possess
▪ There is no reason to suppose that it is
subjectively like anything we can
experience or imagine
▪ Subjective character of experience
▪ Not just imagine being a bat
▪ But what is it like for a bat to be a bat?
▪ We are restricted by our own minds,
which are inadequate for the task
▪ We could ask the same for people born
blind or Martians
▪ The experiences are inaccessible to me
▪ “Reflection on what it is like to be a bat seems to lead us, therefore, to the conclusion that
there are facts that do not consist in the truth of propositions expressible in a human
language. We can be compelled to recognize the existence of such facts without being able to
state or comprehend them.”
▪ Martian scientists could find out all the facts of lightening and rainbows, but never know what
the concept really means to us because the martian would not have our capacities.
▪ These phenomenological occurrences of experience cannot be account for in a bare bones
case of facts. The phenomena of experience are not reducible to brain states
▪ The assumption of materialism, instead of eliminating the problem, only sidesteps it
Descartes and Substance Dualism
▪ For most of western history people have believed we have souls
▪ We are created in the image of God, who is spirit
▪ We have both a body and a soul, part animal, part divine
▪ Contemporary models claim we are more like a computer,
mechanisms and without, perhaps, free will
▪ Dualism: we are both mental and physical
▪ Plato, Descartes, Locke, Moreland
▪ Idealism: Only mental
▪ Berkeley, Hinduism
▪ Materialism: Only physical
▪ Hume, Russell, Taylor, Churchland
▪ Bodies are solid, extended, three dimensional, observable. The
laws of cause and effect hold sway
▪ Minds have none of the above properties. Not solid or material,
does not occupy space. Only observable by the person who owns it
▪ These two dissimilar things somehow interact
▪ There are three substances
▪ Eternal substance, God
▪ Because of the cogito, we know we are
▪ Can deduce matter from this
▪ Descartes knew that he had sensations
from his body
▪ It is certain that at least Descartes
believes he has these sensations
▪ God is good and so does not deceive
▪ So Descartes is a thinking thing that has a
▪ Besides thinking, we have other faculties
▪ The change of position
▪ The assumption of different figures
▪ We passively encounter the world
▪ Objective reality is thrust upon me against
▪ My body needs food and drink
▪ Subjective, incorrigible experience
▪ Qualia: subjective experience
▪ I am more than just the pilot of my body, I
am inextricably bound in it
▪ My body is divisible, the mind is not
▪ I can lose a hand or foot and still be me
▪ Are there even parts of a mind to be lost?
▪ I can imagine living without a body but not
without a mind
▪ So we must deduce that corporeal objects
exist because I have these sensations
passively and God is not a deceiver
▪ The mind attaches to the brain at
the pineal gland
▪ The soul moves the brain and the
brain can move the soul
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