Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst (2002)

Is it possible to construct a machine that can act of its own accord? There are a number of skeptical arguments which conclude that autonomous machine agency is impossible. Yet if autonomous machine agency is impossible, then serious doubt is cast on the possibility of autonomous human action, at least on the widely held assumption that some form of materialism is true. The purpose of this dissertation is to show that autonomous machine agency is possible, thereby showing that the autonomy of human action is compatible with materialism. ;I proceed as follows. Chapter 1 casts the problem of autonomous machine agency. Chapter 2 sets out the skeptic's case against autonomous machine agency by canvassing arguments against the possibility of machine agency and arguments against the possibility of autonomous machine agency. Chapter 3 begins work on a theory of autonomous machine agency by developing and defending axioms of a theory of agency from thought experiments and examples. Chapter 4 expands the theory of agency to a theory of autonomous agency by adding axioms of autonomy. ;The axioms of autonomous agency contain the primitive terms 'belief', 'desire', and 'deliberation', which require further explication if the theory is to be of any use in arguing for the possibility of autonomous machine agency. Chapters 5 and 6 take up this challenge by developing mathematically tractable axioms of deliberation, belief, and desire. ;Chapter 7 completes the theory by developing axioms of mechanism derived from the substantial literature in the foundations of computer science. Chapter 8 employs the resulting theory of autonomous machine agency to show just how the functional prerequisites of autonomous agency can in principle be met by machines, thereby demonstrating the possibility of autonomous machine agency. ;Chapter 9 serves as a cautionary postscript. In spite of having shown that autonomous machine agency is possible, the implications are not always happy for current efforts in artificial intelligence or current philosophical theories of autonomous human agency. Nevertheless, the argument for autonomous machine agency suggests several research programs at the nexus of Philosophy of Mind and Artificial Intelligence
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,581
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Minds, Brains, and Programs.John R. Searle - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):417-57.
Intention.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1957 - Harvard University Press.
Intelligence Without Representation.Rodney A. Brooks - 1991 - Artificial Intelligence 47 (1--3):139-159.

View all 36 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Autonomy, Regress, and Manipulation.Steven Weimer - 2014 - Philosophia 42 (4):1141-1168.
Turing and the Real Girl.Yasemin J. Erden & Stephen Rainey - 2012 - The New Bioethics 18 (2):133-144.
Robots: Ethical by Design.Gordana Dodig Crnkovic & Baran Çürüklü - 2012 - Ethics and Information Technology 14 (1):61-71.
Principles of the Unification of Our Agency.Klas Roth - 2011 - Educational Philosophy and Theory 43 (3):283-297.
Autonomy and Depression.Lubomira Radoilska - 2013 - In K. W. M. Fulford, Martin Davis, George Graham, John Sadler, Giovanni Stanghellini & Tim Thornton (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry. Oxford University Press. pp. 1155-1170.
A Vindication of the Rights of Machines.David J. Gunkel - 2014 - Philosophy and Technology 27 (1):113-132.
The Morality of Autonomous Robots.Aaron M. Johnson & Sidney Axinn - 2013 - Journal of Military Ethics 12 (2):129 - 141.


Added to PP index

Total views
16 ( #650,840 of 2,461,468 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #448,382 of 2,461,468 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes