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Behaviorism

  • 1. Why does Watson leave mind and consciousness out of psychology? In his view, what is the proper domain of psychology?
  • 2. How does Watson regard the brain in his account of psychology? How important is it that we understand brain biology from a psychological point of view?
  • 3. In what sense does Watson aim for a universal science of psychology? Do you think it could be possible to achieve the universality he is after? Is modern psychology a universal science?
  • 4. How does Watson regard mental concepts in psychology? Why does he regard them in this way? What is he trying to achieve?
  • 5. How does Watson attempt to explain the workings of our language abilities? How was he refuted?
  • 6. How is Tolman’s version of behaviorism different from Watson’s? How does he disagree with Watson? Tolman called himself a behaviorist. How might one argue that he wasn’t one?

The Cognitive Revolution and Artificial Intelligence

  • 1. How is Chomsky’s view of language different from Watson’s? How does he argue against Watson’s position?
  • 2. What was the cognitive revolution? How was the computer central to it? What did the computer provide? Would the cognitive revolution have occurred without the computer? Why, or why not?
  • 3. How is Shannon’s understanding of information different from our common- sense understanding? Why does he redefine information? What is his aim?
  • 4. How does Boole regard the mind? What kind of thing is it? How should it be understood?
  • 5. How do we reason, according to Boole? What are his laws of thought? How does his account of the mind compare with that given by strong AI?
  • 6. What connection did Shannon see between Boolean algebra and logical circuitry? How did his insight impact computer science and AI?
  • 7. How did McCulloch and Pitts see the brain as computational? How did they think logic was implemented in the brain?
  • 8. How did McCulloch and Pitts try to solve the mind-body problem? What is the brain, according to their account?
  • 9. What is a Turing machine? How did such machines help Turing to understand computing technology? How did they shape his thoughts about mind and intelligence?
  • 10. What is a universal Turing machine? Are our minds such machines? Why, or why not?
  • 11. Turing pioneered neural network research. What was his aim? Why did he abandon this research?
  • 12. What is strong AI? What role did Turing play in its development? How did he contribute to making the field appear scientific?
  • 13. According to strong AI, minds are computer programs operable on different hardware, including silicon-based computers and brains. A mind can be thought of as nonmaterial, since it lacks a specific physical nature. Does this mean there are two types of entities in the universe—physical things and abstract programmed minds? Is strong AI a form of dualism? How might someone in favor of strong AI respond?
  • 14. What is the Turing test? How does it work? Is it a good test? Why, or why not?
  • 15. What is the Chinese room thought experiment? What is it designed to illustrate? How does Searle use it in his critique against strong AI? Is his criticism convincing? Why, or why not?
  • 16. There are many replies to the Chinese room argument. What do you think of the following?
  • The systems reply: When Searle is in the Chinese room, receiving input questions, following rules, and returning output answers, he is no computer, he is only the central processing unit (CPU). So, although he doesn’t understand Chinese, the whole room understands. A possible response: suppose Searle memorizes all of the rules and symbols and performs all tasks in his head; he would still not understand Chinese.
  • The speed reply: Searle is so slow, he could never apply rules fast enough. It would take him too long to produce an output, so the thought experiment is untenable. A possible response: Thought experiments are often unrealistic. Einstein tells us that if we travel on a rocket ship at the speed of light and return to earth, we would discover that people on earth have aged more than we have. It may be practically impossible to travel at, or very near, the speed of light, but what matters for Einstein is that he can show theoretically that we would age less than people on earth. The Chinese room argument reveals a qualitative problem with computer functionalism. It illustrates that the effort to create a computer system that understands, by virtue of syntax, is misguided. The problem is not one of quantity such as the speed of rule following.
  • 17. What is Searle’s thesis of the background? Why does he think we need it to explain the mind? In what sense is the background prerepresentational?
  • 18. Searle argues that what counts as computation is observer relative. Why does he think that this poses a challenge for computational accounts of the mind? Do you agree with him? Why, or why not?
  • 19. How does Marr view information processing? In what sense does he have a broad view of the concept?
  • 20. What is Marr’s approach to computational neuroscience? How does he think this approach can be more insightful than purely biological research? Is this a convincing approach?
  • 21. According to Marr’s model of vision, there is a three-dimensional representation built up inside our brains when we see the world. But if so, who watches it? Is there a homunculus inside our head? If so, how does it see?
 
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