We return from Thanksgiving break to lower the curtain on this Fall semester. Our closing questions: Can machines think? What is thinking for?
Alan Turing thought they could, in theory, and eventually would in fact. John Searle thinks there’s more to thinking than processing and reporting information.
And Peter Singer, asking if we’re programmed to think and act precisely as we do or if “reason plays a crucial role in how we live,” thinks thinking is ultimately for “doing the most good we can.”
Can they all be right? I think so.
Nigel Warburton says Singer is Socratic, in his eagerness to pose difficult challenges to our most comfortable ways of thinking and living, to apply ethics and not just talk about it. He presents the possibility of altering our consumerist ethos and embracing a way of life far less self-interested.
Bertrand Russell said the value of philosophy resides in bringing neglected possibilities to the fore, for our reflective and active consideration. He also said, we’ve noted in Happiness, that the happiest people think more about the world than themselves.
What a joy to the world it might be, as shopping season escalates, if we all thought a little more about that and acted accordingly. “Our best hope for the future is not to get people to think of all humanity as family—that’s impossible. It lies, instead, in an appreciation of the fact that, even if we don’t empathize with distant strangers, their lives have the same value as the lives of those we love.” All lives matter.
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