Self-improvement was one of the aspects of AI proposed for study in the 1956 Dartmouth conference. Turing proposed a “child machine” which could be taught in the human manner to attain adult human-level intelligence. In latter days, the contention that an AI system could be built to learn and improve itself indefinitely has acquired the label of the bootstrap fallacy. Attempts in AI to implement such a system have met with consistent failure for half a century. Technological optimists, however, have (...) maintained that a such system is possible, producing, if implemented, a feedback loop that would lead to a rapid exponential increase in intelligence. We examine the arguments for both positions and draw some conclusions. (shrink)
Among the many philosophers who hold that causal facts1 are to be explained in terms of—or more ambitiously, shown to reduce to—facts about what happens, together with facts about the fundamental laws that govern what happens, the clear favorite is an approach that sees counterfactual dependence as the key to such explanation or reduction. The paradigm examples of causation, so advocates of this approach tell us, are examples in which events c and e—the cause and its effect—both occur, but: had (...) c not occurred, e would not have occurred either. From this starting point ideas proliferate in a vast profusion. But the remarkable disparity among these ideas should not obscure their common foundation. Neither should the diversity of opinion about the prospects for a philosophical analysis of causation obscure their importance. For even those philosophers who see these prospects as dim—perhaps because they suffer post-Quinean queasiness at the thought of any analysis of any concept of interest—can often be heard to say such things as that causal relations among events are somehow “a matter of” the patterns of counterfactual dependence to be found in them. It was not always so. Thirty-odd years ago, so-called “regularity” analyses (so-called, presumably, because they traced back to Hume’s well-known analysis of causation as constant conjunction) ruled the day, with Mackie’s Cement of the Universe embodying a classic statement. But they fell on hard times, both because of internal problems—which we will review in due course—and because dramatic improvements in philosophical understanding of counterfactuals made possible the emergence of a serious and potent rival: a counterfactual analysis of causation resting on foundations firm enough to be repel the kind of philosophical suspicion that had formerly warranted dismissal.. (shrink)
It is an old charge against Locke that his commitment to a common substratum for the observable qualities of particular objects and his empiricist theory about the origin of ideas are inconsistent with one another. How could we have an idea of something in which observable qualities inhere if all our ideas are constructed from ideas of observable qualities? In this paper, I propose an interpretation of the crucial passages in Locke, according to which the idea of substratum is formed (...) through an elaborate mental process which he calls “supposition.” It is the same process we use when we form the idea of infinity − another problematic idea for an empiricist. In the end, Locke was more liberal than most empiricists in subscribing to the existence of ideas far removed from experience, because he accepted supposition as a legitimate way of constructing new ideas. (shrink)
Conventionally, proposals to improve working relations between sociology and history have been interdisciplinary. The present essay advances an alternative approach-consolidation of sociohistorical inquiry as a transdisciplinary enterprise. All socio-historical inquiry depends on four elemental forms of discourse: discourse on values, narrative discourse, social theoretical discourse, and the discourse of explanation. Though inquiry is transdisciplinary in the problematics of these discourses, concrete methodology typically is oriented either toward theorization in relation to cases (historical sociology) or toward comprehensive analysis of a single (...) phenomenon (sociological history). Varying the articulated relations among the four forms of discourse once for historical sociology and again for sociological history yields eight ideal typical strategies of inquiry. The four strategies of historical sociology include universal history, theory application, macro-analytic history, and contrast-oriented comparison. The parallel strategies for sociological history are situational history, specific history, configurational history, and historicism. These ideal types offer standard reference points that help clarify the underpinnings of a diverse range of scholarly practices. (shrink)
Here, some of the most influential thinkers in theological and philosophical ethics develop new directions for research in contemporary moral thought. Taking as their starting point Ricoeur's recent work on moral anthropology, the contributors set a vital agenda for future conversations about ethics and just community.
Parsons's epistemology of "analytical realism" could be developed only by first displacing Weber's alternative epistemology within the social action perspective. Reconsideration of Parsons's epistemological moves shows that he came to conclusions unsupportable within the social action perspective. Reassertion of the postulate of Verstehen retrieves his achievements from the pure functionalism and positivism he opposed, by establishing a comprehensive action scheme centered on ideal-type analysis.
Improvements in computational hardware enabled by nanotechnology promise a dual revolution in coming decades: machines which are both more intelligent and more numerous than human beings. This possibility raises substantial concern over the moral nature of such intelligent machines. An analysis of the prospects involves at least two key philosophical issues. The first, intentionality in formal systems, turns on whether a “mere machine” can be a mind whose thoughts have true meaning and understanding. Second, what is the moral nature of (...) a machine vis-a-vis a human: can a machine be a true moral agent, capable of real responsibility, possessed of rights and duties? If so, might a machine be a better moral agent than a human? (shrink)
Popper's view of the enemies of the open society is held to rest upon psycholo gism, a view of the very great dangers of misguided intellectuals, and a cyclical view of historical process. While there is something to these claims, they are treated here skeptically. But the purpose of the article is less to attack than to reconstruct. To that end, key elements of a sociology appropriate to an open society are offered.
Changes in healthcare financing increasingly rely upon patient cost-sharing to control escalating healthcare expenditures. These changes raise new challenges for physicians that are different from those that arose either under managed care or traditional indemnity insurance. Historically, there have been two distinct bases for arguing that physicians should not consider costs in their clinical decisions?an ?aspirational ethic? that exhorts physicians to treat all patients the same regardless of their ability to pay, and an ?agency ethic? that calls on physicians to (...) be trustworthy advisors to their patients. In the setting of greater patient cost-sharing, physicians' aspiration and agency roles increasingly conflict. Satisfactorily navigating the new terrain of consumer-driven healthcare requires physicians to consider these two roles and how they can best be reconciled so as to maximize quality of care while respecting the heterogeneity of patients' financial resources and willingness to pay. (shrink)
The task of North American theology is to formulate and engage the question whether there is a gospel which, without offering unbelievable earthly answers or unacceptable heavenly ones, will nevertheless make it possible to live with open eyes in the world as it is without ultimate despair.