Adler On


Of all the things in the universe, those which are most intelligible, not in themselves but to us, are the machines that we ourselves contrive and produce. We understand them better than we understand ourselves or any living organism that is besouled or animated.

In the twentieth century, the century in which the computer has had such extraordinary development, machines have taken on a new fascination for human beings, especially the artificial intelligence machines for which extravagant claims have been made claims that machines can think, claims that they can do whatever the human mind can do and do it faster and better.

There is no question that artificial intelligence or AI machines can perform all mathematical and logical operations; but the human mind does not think logically but in some other fashion that the machine cannot replicate.

The distinctively human mind, as opposed to the animal mind has intellectual power. If the intellect itself is an immaterial power, than of course, no machines can perform intellectual operations, for machines are entirely material contraptions.

It was Alan Turing who proposed a test for solving the problem of whether machines can think in the way that human beings do. If, behind a screen, there is a machine to be interrogated by a human being standing before the screen, and if the human interrogator cannot tell whether his questions are being answered by another human being, or by a machine, then the machine succeeds in passing the Turing test.

The Turing test is really the test that Rene Descartes proposed when, having declared that matter cannot think, he said that no machine can engage in conversation with a human being.

Is Intellect Immaterial?
Intellect: Mind Over Matter (1990,1993), Chapter 4
Artificial Intelligence and the Human Intellect
Intellect: Mind Over Matter (1990,1993), Chapter 5
The Modes of Difference: The Possible Answers,
The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes (1967,1993), Chapter 2
The Three Prongs of the Cartesian Challenge
The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes (1967,1993), Chapter 13
The Third Prong: From Descartes to Turing
The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes (1967,1993), Chapter 14

Adapted from
Adler's Philosophical Dictionary (1995)

Revised 17 December 2000