Philosophy Analysis paper
Philosophy Analysis paper
Directions: You may write your paper on Agent Smith in The Matrix or any other android or robot from a film (Cyborgs and others may qualify) . If not Agent Smith, I would approve any of the following: “David” from A.I., “Tron” or “Master Control” from Tron, “Sonny” from I, Robot, “Data” from Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Hal” from 2001, any replicant from Blade Runner, or “The Terminator” from Terminator 2. (Contact me if some other character or film interests you.)
Discuss the claim that even though Agent Smith is a program, he is a Sentient Being with mental states*. You will need to address the views of Paul Churchland, John Searle, functionalism, and Rene Descartes as well as answer for yourself. Begin with a brief introduction but number and address the five parts separately.
Dualism: What exactly would Smith need according to Descartes’ theory of Substance Dualism? From the film do you think Smith meets Descartes’ criteria? Explain.
Identity Theory: In spite of some criticisms of it, Searle is an advocate of the Identity theory. Is Smith a “person” according to Searle? Why or why not?
Functionalism: What would a functionalist say about Smith’s personhood?
Eliminative Materialism: Does Churchland allow for Smith to have “mental states”? Is Smith “one of us” according to Churchland’s theory? Explain.
You: Which view most closely corresponds to yours? Is Smith a person according to you?
*Note: The Philosophers in Part may have different definitions in mind for the word “mental state”. Being clear on their respective definitions may go a long ways toward answering these questions. Some terms you may want to discuss (but are not required to): personhood, sentience, artificial, consciousness, intelligence, mentality, “one of us”.
Some Philosophical Questions about Robots in general and Smith’s program in particular:
Philosophy of Mind: Do Robots have qualia? (see Ultimate Questions for a definition) Do they have minds? Are they sentient beings?
Ethics and Freedom: Are they persons? Do they have rights? Are they morally responsible for what they do? Do they have free will?
Our Analysis Paper is primarily concerned with questions pertaining to the Philosophy of mind. Ethics will overlap with our issue but you need not consider the moral questions in this paper. You will be attempting to interpret whether 4 philosophical theorists (Churchland, Searle, a functionalist and Descartes) have room for Smith as a person. You should also include your view.
What is a Sentient Being? What is a Person? There are no universally agreed answers to these questions. But there are several philosophical theories that attempt to answer these questions. In one Star Trek (The Next Generation) episode, the Android Data is put on trial to see if he has intelligence, self-awareness, and consciousness. In effect, this is their definition of a “sentient being”. This is not a bad attempt for a television program but should we accept this? How do we test for our criteria?
All four of the philosophical positions we are considering have different criteria and it is up to us to discover what the criteria are as well as to apply the criteria to the case of Smith. We, of course, have opinions about personhood as well. For instance, it is typically considered permissible to step on an insect but it is not permissible to injure a cocker spaniel. If we agree with this, then we are advocating a position about ethical status and perhaps even personhood. Of course, attitudes vary greatly in regards to eating or experimenting on other animals. Ethical issues permeate this metaphysical issue but, again, you need not focus on this aspect.
Background Synopsis or Quotations from the film:
The Matrix: Computer hacker Thomas Anderson has lived a relatively ordinary life–in what he thinks is the year 1999–until he is contacted by the enigmatic Morpheus who leads him into the real world. In reality, it is 200 years later, and the world has been laid waste and taken over by advanced artificial intelligence machines. The computers have created a false version of 20th-century life–the “Matrix”–to keep the human slaves satisfied, while the AI machines draw power from the humans. Anderson, pursued constantly by “Agents” (computers who take on human form and infiltrate the Matrix), is hailed as “The One” who will lead the humans to overthrow the machines and reclaim the Earth. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0133093/plotsummary (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
More Philosophical Matrix Quotes: http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/courses/epist/notes/matrix.html (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
The Matrix screenplay: http://dc-mrg.english.ucsb.edu/WarnerTeach/E192/matrix/Matrix.script.html (Links to an external site.)
– Specifications: Analysis Papers must be typed or word-processed (double-space, 1” margins). This is not an “English” paper, but you must write carefully (proof-read and use a spell-checker!). Recommended length: Total: about 3 pages long or 700-1000 words. Since the paper is submitted by copying into an email, I do not count words or pages. Consider this just a general guideline.
Submit to me by emailing me your paper by the deadline listed in the syllabus. You are not submitting anything to Blackboard. Just copy and paste your paper into an email to me. I do not open attachments.
The questions are not meant to exhaust relevant details. Essays should explain the central ideas as clearly as possible. The assignment calls for a judicious mixture of economy, clarity, and precision in your thought. Avoid vague generalities, spun off the top of one’s head.
Do not try to write everything you know about these topics. Rather, aim to answer the specific questions asked above. 1000 words is not much space, so you will have to ask yourself: What are the most important things to say? What can you leave out? You may go over 1000 words but I provide an approximate number range so that you will know what is minimally expected.
You may, but need not, bring in outside supporting or critical literature. However, it is absolutely essential to completely cite all secondary sources with each quotation in “quotation marks” as well as each paraphrase appropriately cited (if you quote an author, the quote should not exceed 3 lines). If you quote from our text or others give a footnote to a bibliography. Feel free to consult with a classmate concerning topics; however copying of any kind (without citation) will be considered cheating.
Recommended: Read Jim Pryor’s Guidelines on “Writing a Philosophy Paper”, before you begin. http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
I am not asking you to write a grand introduction or conclusion to the entire paper. Focus on addressing the five questions that are asked in the Analysis Paper Assignment guide.
Papers are due by email (copy and paste but not attached). Late papers will be penalized. If you need assistance, feel free to contact me or stop by office hours. Good Luck!