In their joint paper entitled The Replication of the Hard Problem of Consciousness in AI and BIO-AI (Boltuc et al. Replication of the hard problem of conscious in AI and Bio- AI: An early conceptual framework 2008), Nicholas and Piotr Boltuc suggest that machines could be equipped with phenomenal consciousness, which is subjective consciousness that satisfies Chalmer’s hard problem (We will abbreviate the hard problem of consciousness as H-consciousness ). The claim is that if we knew the inner workings of (...) phenomenal consciousness and could understand its’ precise operation, we could instantiate such consciousness in a machine. This claim, called the extra-strong AI thesis, is an important claim because if true it would demystify the privileged access problem of first-person consciousness and cast it as an empirical problem of science and not a fundamental question of philosophy. A core assumption of the extra-strong AI thesis is that there is no logical argument that precludes the implementation of H-consciousness in an organic or in-organic machine provided we understand its algorithm. Another way of framing this conclusion is that there is nothing special about H-consciousness as compared to any other process. That is, in the same way that we do not preclude a machine from implementing photosynthesis, we also do not preclude a machine from implementing H-consciousness. While one may be more difficult in practice, it is a problem of science and engineering, and no longer a philosophical question. I propose that Boltuc’s conclusion, while plausible and convincing, comes at a very high price; the argument given for his conclusion does not exclude any conceivable process from machine implementation. In short, if we make some assumptions about the equivalence of a rough notion of algorithm and then tie this to human understanding, all logical preconditions vanish and the argument grants that any process can be implemented in a machine. The purpose of this paper is to comment on the argument for his conclusion and offer additional properties of H-consciousness that can be used to make the conclusion falsifiable through scientific investigation rather than relying on the limits of human understanding. (shrink)
The Protein Ontology (PRO) provides a formal, logically-based classification of specific protein classes including structured representations of protein isoforms, variants and modified forms. Initially focused on proteins found in human, mouse and Escherichia coli, PRO now includes representations of protein complexes. The PRO Consortium works in concert with the developers of other biomedical ontologies and protein knowledge bases to provide the ability to formally organize and integrate representations of precise protein forms so as to enhance accessibility to results of protein (...) research. PRO (http://pir.georgetown.edu/pro) is part of the Open Biomedical Ontologies (OBO) Foundry. (shrink)
Connecting people across the digital divide is as much a social effort as a technological one. We are developing a community-centred approach to learn how interaction techniques can compensate for poor communication across the digital divide. We have incorporated the lessons learned regarding social intelligence design in an abstraction and in a device called the SoftBridge. The SoftBridge allows communication to flow from endpoints through adapters, getting converted if necessary, and out to destination endpoints. Field trials are underway with two (...) communities in South Africa: disadvantaged Deaf users and an isolated rural community. Initial lessons learned show that we have to design user interfaces that allow users to understand and cope with delay. We also learned that social concerns are often more important than the technical issues in designing such systems. (shrink)
Biomedical ontologies are emerging as critical tools in genomic and proteomic research where complex data in disparate resources need to be integrated. A number of ontologies exist that describe the properties that can be attributed to proteins; for example, protein functions are described by Gene Ontology, while human diseases are described by Disease Ontology. There is, however, a gap in the current set of ontologies—one that describes the protein entities themselves and their relationships. We have designed a PRotein Ontology (PRO) (...) to facilitate protein annotation and to guide new experiments. The components of PRO extend from the classification of proteins on the basis of evolutionary relationships to the representation of the multiple protein forms of a gene (products generated by genetic variation, alternative splicing, proteolytic cleavage, and other post-translational modification). PRO will allow the specification of relationships between PRO, GO and other OBO Foundry ontologies. Here we describe the initial development of PRO, illustrated using human proteins from the TGF-beta signaling pathway (http://pir.georgetown.edu/pro). (shrink)
Le propos est précédé par une illustration, la seule de l’ouvrage, extraite d’une Histoire de l’industrie du coton en Grande-Bretagne parue en 1835. Il s’agit de la reproduction d’un dessin représentant le processus d’impression de motifs sur du calicot. On y voit deux hommes travailler, de façon semble-t-il minutieuse, sur deux grandes machines installées dans un atelier spacieux. L’illustration est égayée par les motifs imprimés sur les pans de tissu, qui occupent une grande partie de l’esp..
The post-Civil War American natural history craze spawned a new institution -- the natural history dealer -- that has failed to receive the historical attention it deserves. The individuals who created these enterprises simultaneously helped to promote and hoped to profit from the burgeoning interest in both scientific and popular specimen collecting. At a time when other employment and educational prospects in natural history were severely limited, hundreds of dealers across the nation provided encouragement, specimens, publication outlets, training opportunities, and (...) jobs for naturalists of all motivations and levels of expertise. This paper explores the crucial role that specimen dealers played in the larger natural history community. After briefly examining the development of local taxidermy shops in the mid-nineteenth century, it then traces the history of four large natural history dealerships established in the United States during the latter half of the century: Ward's Natural History Establishment, Frank Blake Webster's Naturalists' Supply Depot, Southwick & Jencks' Natural History Store, and Frank H. Lattin & Co. By the early twentieth century, changing tastes in interior design, the growth of the Audubon movement, and the dramatic expansion of alternate training and job opportunities for naturalists led many specimen dealers either to shift their emphasis or to shut their doors. (shrink)
The millennial interest in the fable told by Apuleius in The Golden Ass has produced periods of intense preoccupation. Of these uses of the legend none is more interesting, varied, and profound—none possesses greater implications for contemporary life and manners—than the obsessive concern of pre-Romantic and Romantic writers and artists. Hellenistic, Roman, and early Christian culture had produced at least twenty surviving statues of Psyche alone, some seven Christian sarcophagi that used the legend, and a set of mosaics on a (...) Christian ceiling in Rome from the early fourth century;1 and of course to late antiquity belongs the distinction of having produced the seminal telling of the tale by Apuleius in about A. D. 125. But what we possess from that remote time is thin and lacks the power to engage the modern spirit. The allegorizing and erotic responses made in the Renaissance, Mannerist, and Baroque culture produced monuments of painting that the later period cannot rival; but the impregnation of literature by the legend was slight, and the intellectual or moral content was often only a perfunctory and dutiful addendum. The revival of the story in the aesthetic movement of the late Victorians and early moderns has its examples of beauty, particularly in Rodin and in the lush harmonies and occasionally piercing melodies of César Franck's Psyché, a tone poem for chorus and orchestra; but the long retellings by Morris, Bridges, and John Jay Chapman oppress with luxuriant sweetness and remain of interest only as period pieces. · 1. See Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, Apuleius and His Influence , p. 164, and Maxime Collignon, "Essai sur les monuments grecs et romains . . . ," in Bibliothèque des écoles françaises d'Athène et de Rome , fasc. 2, pp. 285-446, esp. pp. 364, 436-38. Jean H. Hagstrum, John C. Shaffer Professor of English and Humanities at Northwestern University, is currently preparing a book on the theme of love in European literature and art from the mid-seventeenth century through the Romantic period. He is the author of books and articles on Blake and Samuel Johnson, and of The Sister Arts, a study of the relations of poetry and painting from antiquity through the eighteenth century. (shrink)
An intricate, long, and occasionally heated debate surrounds Boltzmann’s H-theorem (1872) and his combinatorial interpretation of the second law (1877). After almost a century of devoted and knowledgeable scholarship, there is still no agreement as to whether Boltzmann changed his view of the second law after Loschmidt’s 1876 reversibility argument or whether he had already been holding a probabilistic conception for some years at that point. In this paper, I argue that there was no abrupt statistical turn. In the first (...) part, I discuss the development of Boltzmann’s research from 1868 to the formulation of the H-theorem. This reconstruction shows that Boltzmann adopted a pluralistic strategy based on the interplay between a kinetic and a combinatorial approach. Moreover, it shows that the extensive use of asymptotic conditions allowed Boltzmann to bracket the problem of exceptions. In the second part I suggest that both Loschmidt’s challenge and Boltzmann’s response to it did not concern the H-theorem. The close relation between the theorem and the reversibility argument is a consequence of later investigations on the subject. (shrink)
George H. Mead and Alfred Schutz proposed foundations for an interpretative sociology from opposite standpoints. Mead accepted the objective meaning structure a priori. His problem became therefore the explanation of the individuality and creativity of human actors in his social behavioristic approach. In contrast, Schutz started from the subjective consciousness of an isolated actor as a result of a phenomenological reduction. He was concerned with the problem of explaining the possibility of this isolated actor’s perceiving other actors in their existence, (...) their concreteness, and the motives for their behavior. I treat these two approaches and their associated problems as equally relevant. My evaluation is based on their success in solving their specific problems. The aim is to decide which of the two approaches provides the more adequate foundation for an interpretative sociology. (shrink)
It was William Blake's insight that the Christian churches, by inverting the Incarnation and the dialectical vision of Paul, have repressed the body, divided God from creation, substituted judgment for grace, and repudiated imagination, compassion, and the original apocalyptic faith of early Christianity. Blake's prophetic poetry thus contributes to the renewal of Christian ethics by a process of subversion and negation of Christian moral, ecclesiastical, and theological traditions, which are recognized precisely as inversions of Jesus, and therefore as (...) instances of the forms of evil that God-in-Christ overcomes through Incarnation, reversing the Fall. Blake's great epic poems, particularly Milton (1804–08) and Jerusalem (1804–20), embody his heterodox representation of the final coincidence of Christ and Satan through which, at last, all things are made new. (shrink)
Cross-cultural scholarship in ritual studies on women's laments provides us with a fresh vantage point from which to consider the function of women and women's complaining voices in the epic poems of William Blake. In this essay, I interpret Thel, Oothoon, and Enitharmon as strong voices of experience that unleash some of Blake's most profound meditations on social, sexual, individual, and institutional forms of violence and injustice, offering what might aptly be called an ethics of witness. Tracing the (...) performative function of Enion, Jerusalem, Vala, and Erin in Blake's later epics, The Four Zoas and Jerusalem , I argue for the close connection between the female laments and the possibility of redemption, though in Blake such "redemption" comes at the cost of the very voices of witness themselves. (shrink)
An analysis of Geoffrey Hill's lyric poem about William Blake illuminates the relations between art, prophecy, and imperial politics across more than two centuries. Hill's poem responds to David V. Erdman's argument that Blake was resolutely, if ineffectually and sometimes secretly, opposed to war. It also establishes Hill's own cryptic but definite resistance to contemporary war and warmongers, while it mourns poetry's public powerlessness to halt the violent competition for material resources. Ignored by the majority, poetry fails to (...) bring about the ethical social change that poets often envision. The layering of perspectives (Hill the poet and scholar writing about Erdman the scholar, who is explicating Blake the poet and artist) allows for a multidimensional interpretation of the role of poets and prophetic poetry. Despite their fury at society's deafness and greed, and frustration at their own incapacities, poets—because if they are great poets, they are prophets, too—continue to speak to their audiences about the problems of this world and about the better worlds that can be imagined. Hill's text obliquely teaches how the small success of a great poem can provide a minor note of consolation as it objects to terror and tyranny. (shrink)
This article is an investigation of parallel themes in Heinrich Hertz's philosophy science and Kant's theory of schemata, symbols and regulative ideas. It is argued that Hertz's "pictures" bears close similarities to Kantian "schemata", that is, they are rules linking concepts to intuitions and provide them with their meaning. Kant's distinction between symbols and schemata is discussed and related to Hertz's three pictures of mechanics. It is argued that Hertz considered his own picture of mechanics (the "hidden mass" picture) as (...) symbolic in a different way than the force and energy pictures. In the final part of the article it is described how Harald Høffding soon after the publication of Hertz's Principles of Mechanics developed a general theory of analogical reasoning, relying on the ideas of Hertz and Kant. (shrink)
Ernst H. Gombrich criticized abstract painting with several remarks scattered around his wide oeuvre. I argue that his view of abstract paintings is coherent with the account of pictorial representation he put forward in Art and Illusion, show some limits of such view, and maintain that, although several of Gombrich’s criticisms of abstract painting should be rejected, some of his remarks are insightful and worth of consideration.
Why focus on the work of William Blake in a journal dedicated to religious ethics? The question is neither trivial nor rhetorical. Blake 's work is certainly not in anyone's canon of significant texts for the study of Christian or, more broadly, religious ethics. Yet Blake, however subversive his views, sought to lay out a Christian vision of the good, alternated between prophetic denunciations of the world's folly and harrowing laments over the wreck of the world's promise, (...) and wrote poetry as if poetry might mend the world. Setting imagination against the calculations of reason and the comfort of custom, Blake 's poems inspire questions about the relationship of ethics to prophecy, and open the possibility that ethics itself would be markedly enriched could it find a place for what Thomas J. J. Altizer has called Christian epic poetry. (shrink)
From 2012 to 2015 I was the first Eugene H. Fram Chair in Applied Critical Thinking at Rochester Institute of Technology, in Rochester, NY. To the best of my knowledge it is the only such endowed position devoted solely to this at a major North American university. It was made possible by a generous 3 million dollar gift from an anonymous alumnus who wished to honor a retired faculty member who had taught for 51 years. The honoree was revered for (...) his devotion to Bloom’s taxonomy and his academic rigor, which infused case studies and the Socratic method. A primary motivation for the chair was a belief that an alarming number of college graduates lack the necessary critical thinking skills in order to advance successfully in their careers. My responsibilities included collaborative leadership, advocacy and oversight for critical thinking across the entire campus. It provided a unique opportunity to reflect on the current state of critical thinking instruction–very broadly construed, as well as to examine its specific role at RIT, an institution with its own unique history, mission, and character. (shrink)