Questions

Too many questions …

  1. Imagine that there was a robot, that behaved just like a normal human. It asks you to explain something – it doesn’t understand your answer. It asks for clarification. “Ah, now I understand”. What happened?
  2. Could the robot claim to believe something, then later say “I thought I believed that, but now I see I really didn’t”?
  3. In what sense can the robot believe something?
  4. Can the robot be said to think?
  5. The robot decides to buy a house – “I did the calculations. I can afford it.” Did the robot buy the house because it could afford it?
  6. Did the robot buy the house because of its programming?
  7. Can the robot do something for a reason? 
  8. Could the robot make morally dubious choices? Could the robot commit a murder and rationalise to itself that it wasn’t really murder, that “they had it coming”?
  9. Could you look at the robot and get a sense of its character? “It has kind eyes” or perhaps “Looking into its eyes was chilling, like staring into an abyss”?
  10. Can the robot reason to a conclusion but, in some way unclear to itself, engage in motivated reasoning? If a robot believed in God, would this be because it wanted to believe? (Would it make a difference if the robot was an atheist?)
  11. Could the robot want to believe something?
  12. Imagine two such robots. You argue with them. One is convinced by what you say, the other is not. What is happening here?
  13. If the robot said something racist, would you be offended? Should you be?
  14. If the robot borrowed money from you and refused to pay it back, would you be angry?
  15. If the robot became angry, would you tell it to hold its breath and count to 10?
  16. Can the robot choose? Does it have agency? Free will? 
  17. Would the robot have moral obligations?
  18. Imagine you told the robot it had no feelings and it said “It hurts my feelings being told I have no feelings.” Would you be convinced?
  19. Could the robot feel pain?
  20. What would convince you that the robot is conscious?
  21. Consider the word “cat”. Is possible to analyse the meaning of “cat” solely in terms of its physical qualities – the pixels on the screen in this case?
  22. Does a computer know what the pixels on the screen mean, when it displays the word “cat” or the picture of a cat?
  23. What is it that makes the pixels on the screen mean anything? Is it anything in the computer itself?
  24. Consider your responses to the above. Does it make sense to say that the mind is a computer? Or that people are meat robots? If so, to what extent does the analogy hold?
  25. How do you know other people are conscious? 
  26. Are animals conscious? Plants? Rocks?
  27. Why do you think that consciousness is physical? (Assuming you do.) Is it because other people and other animals act as though they are conscious like you are?
  28. Did consciousness evolve? How do you know? 
  29. Imagine two species of rabbits. Both species eat, run, reproduce and in all respects look and behave the same way. Now, imagine that one species has consciousness and the other are meat robots. Do the conscious rabbits have any advantage?
  30. Is rationality physical? (The ability to reason from premises to conclusion.) How do you know?
  31. If you answered “Yes” – is it the same way you know that consciousness is physical? (Assuming you do.)
  32. Consider a simple fact of mathematics: “3 > -3”, say. Are facts like this physical? If not, are they just useful fictions?
  33. How to define “physical” here? Does physical mean what science says physical means? If that’s the case, and science is not complete, how to decide if something is physical or not?
  34. The definition of rationality above – “the ability to reason from premises to conclusion”. Is it possible to think without abstractions? (Try it sometime.)
  35. Do we create logical truths or discover them? If we discover them, doesn’t that make them real (in some sense)?
  36. If we discover them, and rationality evolved, does that mean that the evolution of the mind was a process of better and better discovery of logical truths?
  37. If we create them, and rationality evolved, does that mean we created more useful logical truths as we evolved?
  38. Should we continue to evolve, and if while doing so get better at creating or discovering logical truths, does that mean we could arrive at an understanding of logical truths that contradicts that which we have now?
  39. Could a better-evolved humanity believe that 2+2=5?
  40. Can science give us complete knowledge of everything that exists? (If so, we should thank reality for conforming to our chosen methods.)
  41. Can science give us complete knowledge of the physical? 
  42. Could science one day tell us that abstract objects are real? (Whatever “real” means here.)
  43. Given that physics is a mathematical science expressed entirely in equations, and physics is the most fundamental science, if science gives us complete knowledge of the physical, doesn’t that imply that the physical can be described entirely using mathematics?
  44. How do we know that the physical can be described entirely using mathematics?
  45. If so, and if mathematics is abstract, does it follow that only the abstract exists? 
  46. If physics can only give us abstractions, and the concrete exists, does it follow that physics can only tell us about that part of the physical that can be abstracted, but that it can give us no knowledge of the concrete?
  47. If the abstract is not real, and physics only gives us abstractions, what does that mean for physics?
  48. If the abstract is not real, and all human thinking uses abstractions, what then is human knowledge?
  49. How many different species of animals are rational? (Compare: how many species of animals are conscious?)
  50. How many times has rationality evolved? (Compare: how many times has hearing, seeing evolved?)
  51. If you think that abstract objects are in some sense real, does it make a difference what type of abstract objects we’re talking about?
  52. Do these exist: a) “3 > -3”, b) the State Of Victoria, c) the value of money, d) human nature, e) numbers, f) redness, g) the idea of unicorns (as opposed to actual unicorns), h) chessboardness (ie. what it is to be a chess board), i) truth, j) existence itself?
  53. Now you must decide whether to keep reading these questions or not. If you’re on a smartphone, hover your finger over the Back button as you choose. Is your choice to press Back or not predetermined? If so, how long ago was it predetermined? An hour ago? At the Big Bang? How do you know?
  54. Pick up an apple and hold it in front of your face. Convince yourself that whether or not you eat that apple is entirely predetermined. Can you do it?
  55. If there is no free will, is there such a thing as choosing because of a reason? Choosing because of the evidence?
  56. Should free will be defined as choosing based on reasons or as the ability to do otherwise?
  57. If determinism is true, what does “based on reasons” mean?
  58. If God acts according to his own nature, and God’s nature can not change, does that mean God doesn’t have free will?
  59. Is there such a thing as the universe? (By this I mean: over and above the things in the universe.)
  60. When we say “did the universe have a cause” (before the Big Bang) would it be better to say “did the first thing in the universe have a cause”?
  61. Likewise, when people talk about “something coming from nothing” would it be better to say “something coming from not anything”?
  62. Imagine that the first thing in the universe had a cause, and that cause is outside of time. From the perspective of this first cause, what is the difference between the “first thing” and the second (and all the others)?
  63. Can you think of any context where people doubt truisms such as “everything that has a beginning has a cause” or “everything that could have been otherwise has a cause”, apart from God arguments?
  64. Imagine a policeman coming across a dead body with a knife its back. He says “Just because this state of affairs had a beginning, and could have been otherwise, doesn’t mean it had a cause. Explanations have to stop somewhere. It’s just there, there’s nothing to explain, and I won’t open an investigation!” – how would you respond?
  65. Imagine a Number 4 Sceptic. This sceptic is happy to accept any mathematics except when it adds up to 4. He insists that 2+2 could equal 5. When pressed on this, he says “The number 4 is a matter of faith. It is a mystery how 2+2=5, but one day science will solve this for us.” How would you respond?
  66. Assume that God is outside time. Can God act more than once? 
  67. Could God decide to do something and then do it?
  68. If we have eternal souls that can exist without bodies – why would an eternal soul that didn’t need a body have one?
  69. Imagine that someone invents a machine that can measure the strength of arguments, so if you have an argument with someone, the machine can give you a completely objective account of whose argument is stronger. Who gets to calibrate the machine?
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