What is a Sentient Being?.
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.
1. Dualism: What exactly would Tron (Character Disney movie “Tron”) need according to Descartes’ theory of Substance Dualism? From the film do you think Tron meets Descartes’ criteria? Explain.
2. Identity Theory: In spite of some criticisms of it, Searle is an advocate of the Identity theory. Is Tron (Character Disney movie “Tron”) a “person” according to Searle? Why or why not?
3. Functionalism: What would a functionalist say about Tron’s (Character from Disney movie “Tron”) personhood?
4. Eliminative Materialism: Does Churchland allow for Tron (Character from Disney movie “Tron”) to have “mental states”? Is Tron “one of us” according to Churchland’s theory? Explain.
5. You: Which view most closely corresponds to yours? Is Tron (Character from Disney movie “Tron”) 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
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