Sometimes we like to steal intellectual credibility from the professionals. Here’s the who, what, and where. No one knows the why.
Asimov, Isaac (1920-1992)
The Three Laws of Robotics
Topics: Robotics, robot ethics
The three laws of robotics are designed to promote positive interactions between humans and robots. They apply primarily to sentient robots (which do not yet exist, in case you were wondering), but have some modern applications. The basic laws are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Throughout Asimov’s prolific writing career, a number of different iterations of the laws appeared in his works. Critics suggest that the laws are too simplistic, and cannot account for the depth of social and moral interaction that will occur with robots when they attain artificial intelligence (AI).
Habermas, Jürgen (1929-present)
Struggles For Recognition
Topics: multiculturalism, procedural liberalism
This paper is Habermas’ response to Charles Taylor’s Multiculturalism. He basically spends most of his time pointing out why Taylor is wrong. He agrees with Taylor’s claim that identity is dialogical (formed both by an individual or group and those with whom they are in a discourse). However, where Taylor thinks that procedural liberalism alienates group rights, Habermas thinks that Taylor is misinterpreting liberalism. Habermas also thinks that the idea of indefinite cultural survival is just silly, and ignores how cultures actually develop and evolve.
Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804)
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
Topics: ethics, deontology, morality, metaphysics
Kant’s main point is this, and I quote:
“I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law.”
He then spends quite a bit of time tediously justifying this by exploring why people tend not to do this, why they should do this (creating a utopia he terms the ‘kingdom of ends’), and how the goodness of an action lies in its intention rather than its consequences. For Kant, morality is something that is not based in the empirical worldof experience, but is derived from the use of reason.
Plato (~424-347 B.C.E.)
The Republic: Book VIII: Allegory of the Cave
Topics: Metaphysics, education, truth
Plato’s Socrates introduces us to the cave, a phenomenal world of the senses. In the cave, humans are shackled their entire lives and watch flickering and shadows projected onto the wall by guards moving back and forth in front of a fire behind them. The people in the cave believe what they are watching is, in fact, reality.
One prisoner is released from her shackles and forcefully dragged up and out of the cave. The newly unchained individual goes past the fire, and realizes the falsity of her previous ‘reality’ only to be pulled up and out into the sunlit world above ground. At first, the light of the sun is so bright that she can only look at it reflected in a nearby pond but slowly, as her eyes adjust, she is able to gaze directly at the sun and see it for what it is. Overjoyed with her discovery, the freed prisoner returns to the cave to tell those still chained of what she has seen and encourage them to share her experience. She is promptly and violently killed.
Philosophers tend to interpret this story as it relates to Plato’s Theory of the Forms: the cave is the realm of sensible experience while Reality is found above ground in the realm of the Forms.
Rorty, Richard (1931-2007)
Human Rights, Rationality, and Sentimentality
Topics: multiculturalism, cultural relativism, sentimental manipulation
It’s short, and interesting, so I’m not bothering with a summary for you.
Ryle, Gilbert (1900-1976)
The Concept of Mind
Topics: logic, mind-body problem
Ryle takes issue with Cartesian dualism as evident in the mind-body problem, and coins the term ‘category mistake’. He also coined ‘the ghost in the machine’. He then engages in some rather engaging philosophical psychology (or psychological philosophy?).