Tuesday 12/10

Examination V

As per the syllabus, please note that today's examination is worth 400 points. So it is important that you carefully review all of the notes, handouts, texts, and, crucially, the synopses for each of the lecture days. I'll again allow a single, handwritten, 4"x6" notecard for reminders, explanations, or whatever you think might help. Also note that this exam is at a weird time, 1:45-4:15, but in the same room, CI-109. I don't expect this examination will be appreciably longer than previous exams, but it is worth so much more missteps will be costly.

Exam V is organized as follows:

  1. The Apology, Truth-tropic Language, and Truth-phobic Language
  2. Arguments For and Against the Existence of God
  3. The Turing Test and the Chinese Room Thought Experiment
  4. The Mind-Body Problem and the Puzzle of Subjective Experience
  5. The Problem of Induction

Finally, the essay questions for Exam V will be selected from the following ten questions. It would be a good idea to study in groups to mull over these questions.


In a justly famous passage in Apology Socrates points out to his prosecutors that,

Perhaps someone might say: But Socrates, if you leave us will you not be able to live quietly, without talking? Now this is the most difficult point on which to convince some of you. If I say that it is impossible for me to keep quiet because that means disobeying the god, you will not believe me and will think I am being ironical. On the other hand, if I say that it is the greatest good for a man to discuss virtue every day and those other things about which you hear me conversing and testing myself and others, for the unexamined life is not worth living for men, you will believe me even less.

Notice that his claim that the unexamined life is not worth living is made here almost as an aside. There is no attempt at this point in the dialogue to defend the proposition, although it is worth noting that the concept of virtue (areté, or ἀρετή) employed here is much broader than our rather narrow conception. For the ancient Greek, at least, areté refers to any human excellence whatsoever. So the concept includes moral excellence (what we usually take 'virtue' to mean), but it also encompasses intellectual, athletic, martial, and even artistic excellence besides.

Given a very broad reading of 'virtue', then, let us consider the rather extraordinary claim that it would be better to be dead, all things considered, than to forgo inquiry into virtue and "those other things". What reasons can Plato give to justify such an extreme position? What reasons can you give? What reasons can you give to the contrary—that is, in favor of the unexamined life over the examined life? Given what he says in his Commencement Address, what would David Foster Wallace say is distinctive about the examined life over the unexamined life?


What is the general definition of validity? How does the Method of Truth Tables define validity for the Propositional Calculus? How does the Method of Analytic Tableaux define validity for the Propositional Calculus? Explain your answers using specific examples to illustrate your definitions. Finally, how could the availability of logic have helped Socrates in his defense? Explain your answer.


What is the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God? Were the reasons we gave in class for rejecting the Cosmological Argument decisive in your view, or do you think there is a way to rescue the argument? Explain your answers.


What is the Problem of Evil, and how may it be understood as an argument against the existence of God? Were the reasons we gave in class for rejecting the Problem of Evil decisive in your view, or do you think there is a way to rescue the argument? Explain your answers.


Explain Searle's Chinese Room Thought Experiment, making sure to explain what it is supposed to show. What is the Robot Reply we discussed in class, and what is Searle's response to it? Does Searle's response provide any insight on the 'chess challenge' raised in Ex Machina?


In light of the movie Ex Machina, what capacities might an Artificial Intelligence which otherwise successfully passes the Turing Test lack to make it a false positive, thus refuting the proposition that the perfect imitation of intelligence is intelligence? That is, what could one argue is necessarily distinctive about a human being's intelligence versus an android's, even if we cannot otherwise tell them apart? Does the possibility of false positives on the Turing Test pose special problems for the coming robotics revolution? Why or why not?


Assuming you are having to explain it to someone who is not in the class, what is the Case of Fred, and what is it supposed to show? Does it follow from the Case of Fred that knowing all the physical facts about Ava from the movie Ex Machina would determine one way or another whether she or it enjoys subjective experience? Why or why not?


A philosophical zombie is an exact, molecule-for-molecule, atom-for-atom, microphysical duplicate of you. (Imagine the teletransporter we constructed as part of our investigations into the Problem of Personal Identity failing to dissolve the original: There's you on Earth and an exact duplicate on Mars.) This microphysical duplicate of you is indistinguishable from you. It looks exactly like you. It acts exactly like you. It responds to questions the same way as you, it seems to feel pain when poked just as you do, it seems to be happy or sad just as you do, etc. It is, in otherwords, both physically (being a microphysical duplicate) and behaviorally indistinguishable from you.

There is, however, one extremely important difference between you and your philosophical zombie. Where you have a rich inner mental life, full of pleasures, pains, sights, sounds, and so forth, there is nothing it is like to be your philosophical zombie. It entirely lacks the subjective experience you so richly enjoy--no consciousness, no awareness, no feelings, no thoughts--despite its behavior.

It seems trite to say, but either the philosophical zombie is possible, or it is not. Trite though it may be, the stakes are high. For if the philosophical zombie is impossible, then a microphysical duplicate would necessarily have subjective experience, and thus subjective experience would be a physical (perhaps neurological) property. If, however, the philosophical zombie is possible, then it would follow that subjective experience is not a physical property since something physically identical to you might not have it.

Is the philosophical zombie possible, or not? What arguments can you marshall from those we've considered in class to support your position?


Explain and illustrate by a well-chosen example the inductive argument form, Induction to a Particular (IP). Why is IP unjustifiable, and why is it profoundly problematic that we cannot rely on IP?


Consider the scene: MacCruiskeen, a scientist, is watching the sunrise. She's accompanied by her close friend Pluck, a student of philosophy.

Pluck: Beautiful sunrise.

MacCruiskeen: Yes. And right on time, too.

Pluck: Yet there was no good reason to expect it to rise this morning.

MacCruiskeen: But the sun has risen every morning for millions of years. Of course it was going to rise this morning as well.

Pluck: There's no reason to suppose it will rise tomorrow, either. In fact, it's just as sensible to expect that a huge million-mile-wide bowl of tulips will appear on the horizon instead.

MacCruiskeen: I agree we can't be certain the sun will rise tomorrow. Some cataclysmic event might destroy the earth before then. But it's very unlikely that anything like that will happen. The probability is that the sun will rise, surely?

Pluck: You misunderstand me. I'm not just saying we can't be certain that the sun will rise tomorrow. I'm saying we have no more reason to suppose that it will rise than we have to suppose that it won't.

MacCruiskeen: That's absurd. The evidence—such as the fact that the sun has risen every morning for millions of years—overwhelmingly supports my belief that the sun will rise tomorrow, too.

Pluck: You're mistaken.

--Adapted from Law, S. 2003. "The Philosophy Gym: 25 Short Adventures in Thinking." New York: St. Martin's Press.

Now consider two positions:

Advocatus Diaboli: Pluck is correct--we have no more reason to suppose the sun will rise tomorrow than we have to suppose that it won't.

Advocatus Dei: MacCruiskeen is correct—we have more reason to suppose the sun will rise tomorrow than we have to suppose it won't.

Assume the role of Advocatus Diaboli or Advocatus Dei as you see fit and defend the position as best you can. Note that any adequate defense requires understanding how the opposing side will argue so as to meet those arguments in the course of constructing your defense!