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March 3, 2013


This post is a bit long but I thought giving all 25 at once would make the overall doctrine easier to grasp. So, ready? Here it go!

I gave you guys the Eight Epicurean Counsels and the Ten Epicurean Values. Many of Epicurus’ teachings have been lost, but the Principle Doctrines give the reasoning behind these Epicurean tenants. This one major difference between religion and Philosophy. In Philosophy, as put by Australian Professor Patrick Stokes at Deakin University, “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.”

That said if anything in this strikes you as particularly agreeable or disagreeable, by all means argue your point. That’s the fun of Philosophy. You learn by keeping an open mind, hearing all the arguments and synthesizing your own educated opinion.

The Doctrines:

1) If God is perfect, He is always at peace and cannot become angry or upset at anyone or anything because only an imperfect being can be disturbed in these ways. Likewise, if God is perfect, He doesn’t need or want anything from anyone since if He did need or want anything, He would not be God but an unhappy and imperfect being.

2) Death is nothing to us; once the body and brain decompose into dust and ashes, there is no feeling or thought, and what has no feeling or thought is nothing to us.

3) This is the height of pleasure: to be free of all pain and discomfort in both the body and the mind. When this pleasure is present, all pain, of both body and mind, is absent.

4) Illnesses which cause excruciating pain last only a short time and then you are free. Illnesses which cause mild pain may last long but it is possible to live in such a way that the pleasures of life far outweigh the discomforts. Either way, pain is nothing to fear.

5) It is impossible to be happy without also being wise, honorable and honest, and it is impossible to be wise, honorable and honest without also being happy. Happiness is so dependent upon the practice of wisdom, honor and honesty that being negligent in just one of these will lead to nothing but trouble and sorrow in life.

6) Absolutely anything which will keep you from being harmed by people is good and right.

7) Some men and women want to be famous and well-known because they think that this will make their lives safe and secure. If fame brings safety and security, it is good and right to want to be famous; but if a famous life brings more trouble than an obscure life, it is foolish to want what is actually bad for us.

8) There is no such thing as a pleasure that is bad in and of itself. What is bad are the unpleasant consequences that can result if you do not use your head when deciding on which pleasures to pursue and which to avoid.

9) If every pleasure lasted and affected the entire body and not just one or two parts, there would be no difference between one pleasure or another; they would all be equally desirable.

10) If the things which bring pleasure to licentious men and women freed them from troubled minds, that is, if such a life freed them from the fear of God, the fear of death and the fear of pain, and if those things further taught them how to rationally manage their desires, we would find no wrong with these men and women; they would have reached the height of pleasure and would be free of all bodily and mental pain, which is the beginning and the end of all evil.

11) If our peace of mind were not disturbed by superstitious ideas about comets, falling stars and other types of astronomical phenomenon, or by the thought of death (which is really nothing to us), and also by our lack of understanding of the limits of pain and how to rationally manage our desires, we wouldn’t have any need to acquire a thoroughly scientific understanding of nature.

12) An individual cannot be free from the most disturbing fears about the universe as long as he lacks a thoroughly scientific understanding of nature and instead believes in legends, parables and myths. So without a thoroughly scientific understanding of nature, one cannot reach the height of pleasure.

13) There is no point in working hard to achieve physical safety and security from those who can harm you if your peace of mind can be easily attacked and destroyed by fears and anxieties that result from an unscientific understanding of why nature works as it does in the sky, in the earth, or anywhere else in the universe.

14) While some safety and security from others might possibly be obtained if you were to amass great wealth and power, safety, security and tranquility would more certainly be yours if you simply lived a quiet and simple life withdrawn from the world.

15) Understand that true wealth is having what you really need for a happy life and you will find out how easy it is to be completely satisfied; mistakenly believe that wealth consists in possessing all that one could possibly imagine and dream up and there will never be an end to your toil and sweat.

16) By continuously managing the most important matters of life according to the dictates of reason, the wise man or woman constructs a lifelong defense against misfortunes and troubles and seldom suffers from them.

17) The honest individual has more peace of mind than anyone; it’s the dishonest man or woman who always has some reason to worry and feel anxious.

18) As soon as the height of physical pleasure has been reached by the satisfaction of bodily craving, there is no greater pleasure beyond that to be enjoyed; one has reached a plateau that cannot be surmounted. At that point, one can vary the type of pleasure; one cannot increase the intensity. Mental pleasure also has a natural limit which cannot be surpassed and it is this) the peace of mind that results from the rational understanding and pursuit of pleasure and a thoroughly scientific understanding of those things which used to fill the mind with fear and trembling.

19) An immortal life would not provide an opportunity for any more pleasure than this mortal life does. A rational understanding of happiness makes clear the fact that the height of pleasure is attainable here and now, in this life, and it cannot be surpassed, even if one could live forever.

20) If there were no natural limit to pleasure, it would take an eternity to satisfy the infinite number of desires and wants that one could imagine and dream up. The mind, however, is able to discover the natural limit and height of pleasure; it is also capable of freeing us from all fears of any life after death so that we do not need, want nor fear eternity. Therefore, even if the time has come for us to depart from life, we can approach our final rest with the absolute confidence that we have enjoyed all of the pleasure that it was possible to enjoy.

21) The individual who learns what the natural limits of pleasure are knows how very little is actually required to satisfy his or her needs and have a happy life and how easy it is to obtain it. Therefore, it is unnecessary to spend one’s life struggling and slaving away.

22) In all decision making, the criterion should be the ultimate goal of life which we have set before us and the no-nonsense facts of what we actually know and experience (rather than what others wildly imagine) if you stray from this rule, you will be overwhelmed with doubt and confusion.

23) If you deny or dismiss all of the no-nonsense facts of what we actually know and experience, there will be nothing left to serve as a criterion for judging anything, even those views which you state must be false.

24) Absolute confidence in determining what is true and what is delusional is only possible if you learn to clearly distinguish between those ideas which are based upon the no-nonsense facts of what we actually know and experience and those ideas which have their origin in the imagination and nothing more. In other words, if you give the same authority to the imagination and your inner feelings that you give to the no-nonsense facts of what we actually know and experience, you will never be completely sure about anything, as there will no longer be any criterion left to remove your doubt and confusion.

25) If you do not keep the ultimate goal clearly in mind whenever you must decide whether to pursue or avoid a particular pleasure or pain, but decide according to some less well thought out criterion, your behavior will not be consistent with your principles.




Ten Core Epicurean Values

February 24, 2013

Te Bearded One Himself

Who wants some more Epicurus??!!?

Ooh! Me! Me!

Built upon an attempt to scientifically understand the universe, epicureanism emphasized an ethics and way of living based in rationality. It was extremely popular for around five hundred years (approximately 300 B.C. to 200 A.D.). , it teaches that the way to happiness is simple and available to everyone. Below are the ten core tenants to be practiced in our personal and public lives.

In our Personal Lives we should practice:

1) Prudence – (the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason, wisdom in the management of affairs, skill and good judgment in the use of resources)
2) Self-management
3) Self-sufficiency
4) Serenity
5) Simplicity

In our Relationships with Others we should practice:

6) Friendliness
7) Honesty
8) Generosity
9) Cheerfulness
10) Gentleness

Next week we’ll head just below the surface. We’ll explore the Epicureanism’s Principle Doctrines. These will help explain the Counsels and Values further and give the reasoning behind the maxims.



Searle’s Chinese Room Argument

February 25, 2012

See... philosophers smile too.


“The heart of the argument is an imagined human simulation of a computer, similar to Turing’s Paper Machine. The human in the Chinese Room follows English instructions for manipulating Chinese symbols, where a computer “follows” a program written in a computing language. The human produces the appearance of understanding Chinese by following the symbol manipulating instructions, but does not thereby come to understand Chinese. Since a computer just does what the human does—manipulate symbols on the basis of their syntax alone—no computer, merely by following a program, comes to genuinely understand Chinese.” (from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Searle does not argue that a machine could not think. According to Searle, “Strong AI” is the idea that machines, given the right formal program, could BE minds that have understanding and other cognitive states. Upon producing such intelligence we could explain these processes of the human mind. Intentionality cannot be reproduced with any formal program and therefore strong AI is false as defined throughout the argument as a program that can produce intelligence. Intentionality [aboutness] and understanding are linked. To understand anything the symbols must stand for something. If a machine does not realize what a symbol is means, it can understand neither the input, the action it is performing on the input, not the output. Biological and mechanical machines can think but only minds can understand. Though not specific, Searle does point to physical-chemical processes for an explanation of the mind. Only machines, built like human brains to function like them, can have the same understanding as the human mind.

There are six replies Searle gives to his argument. In this short section I am going to explain with of them I find most powerful and why. One of Searle’s complaints was that no formal program could replicate the intentionality necessary for understanding. I agree that an immovable, perceptionless machine will never be able to fully understand the world without those perceptive senses. The perceptive senses are what is necessary for the construction of semantic meaning. How could one connect the word “hamburger” with and actual hamburger without such connection being presented. A combination of the robot reply and the systems approach is the most powerful at answering this problem.The robot reply includes some of the complexities associated with human intelligence. This argument would have the most potential for something like human understanding as long as the program (as the brain of the system) could be produced to enable the machine to understand its worldly interactions. The robot approach would allow the machine to make contact with objects outside itself and the systems approach to associate the symbols presented to it with the “real world” object.


Turing Test

February 25, 2012

“Computing and Machine Intelligence” by Alan Turing (1950) as published in Haugeland’s “Mind Design II”.


Bio Pretty Impressive and Sad…

This may be a long, boring one. If you don’t want to read the post below, at least read the Biography above. He’s concise red the father of modern computing, cracking the Nazi Enigma Code for the British in WWII effectively winning the war, or at least the security of the country. He was arrested in ’52 for homosexuality, taking his own life two years after. Maybe I’ll try to study up on him a little later on and write something of my own about the guy.

-Alan Turing describes the Turing Test as testing for intelligence and for thought. Turing’s idea of machine intelligence is simply the perfect mimicry and imitation of humans. The machine must give the answers a judge would deem appropriate of a human and in a similar amount of time. If the machine can behave like a human it must have some intelligence.

My definition of intelligence is the propensity to learn new facts, opinions, views, etc. while thought is the function of how we use that knowledge to synthesize new ideas and give more meaning to those we already have. Thought involves the combination of ideas into new ideas and ways of understanding. So, intelligence is a necessary condition of thought. Thought is what is built from our intelligence.

If the imitation game is merely to imitate human conversation, then it is not a practical means of assessing machine intelligence under my definition of intelligence. Turing’s definition is exceedingly narrow. Under his definition it would seem to be a viable means of proving machine intelligence. If my definition was held, though it may measure some degree of conversational intelligence, it would not be an adequate test of a machines true overall intelligence.

An intelligent machine might believe that were it to pass the Turing Test, people would take it apart to see how it worked. So it might intentionally fail. If a machine were to believe that, the machine would be fearing for the cessation of its own being. The possession of the knowledge of its own existence should be considered as having a personality and therefore the machine would be thinking. This reaction by the machine, though undoubtedly programmed, would be totally separate from all other human interaction and influence. Such thoughts, if able to be known by us, would be undeniable evidence of an intelligent machine.

Five of the ten judges in the First Turing Test thought that a version of Weizenbaum’s program was human. So naive humans might be said to be too gullible for Turing Test purposes. Suppose the government decided to make Weizenbaum’s ELIZA program vastly larger by adding more and more canned responses and developing hardware to get the machine to deliver the canned responses quickly. The resulting SUPERELIZA program, still a bag of tricks– that is, responses whose every detail was thought of by the programmers–might be thought to be intelligent even by judges who are wise to the ELIZA tricks.

The machine would still not be intelligent. While it could respond to any question posed to it, it would not be able to “think” as I defined it above. Processing a question and searching for an appropriate answer would be a repetitive machine that would have no use but answering question. Not that that’s completely useless, Siri for the iPhone has many uses, including answering questions, giving directions, etc.

An intelligent cave-person might be very good at telling men from women in the imitation game, but nonetheless hopeless at telling people from machines because of lack of familiarity with technology. With such a judge, unintelligent machines- -even iPhones–may consistently pass the Turing Test. Further, it will do no good to specify that the judge be selected randomly, for in a cave-society (where everyone is unfamiliar with technology) unintelligent machines may consistently pass, and thus will be intelligent, relative to that society, according to the Turing Test conception of intelligence. Of course, an unintelligent machine such as an iPhone will be incapable of the genuine thinking that the cave people manage easily, e.g., figuring out where to find food, understanding why the fire went out, and the like. So the machine won’t be genuinely intelligent, even by the standards of that society.

-The Turing Test seems to act as a sort of poll of the population to determine intelligence, which there should be a consensually agreed upon scientific definition for. If intelligence depends on the society, or the time for that matter, then we have failed at providing a true definition and test of intelligence. Something must be said about encyclopedic knowledge, however. Humans do not individually possess encyclopedic knowledge and I’m not sure if computers should be expected to possess that sort of knowledge that would be considered uniquely human. The computer should only know what is relevant at the time. If I were transported to the caveman days, I would surely be considered stupid due to my lack of practical caveman hunting and gathering knowledge and be dead in a week’s time. Conversely were I too cold or quick with my answers, I may run a risk of being determined a machine.

The last two objections depend on the possibility that the judge may lack the abilities necessary to discriminate intelligent machines from unintelligent ones. Is there some way of specifying the nature of the judge so as to avoid such problems?

The depth of human intelligence cannot be truly simulated by the Turing test or any other behavioral test. Conversational intelligence, the ability to effectively communicate with a human, seems to be the only skill exercised and proven by the Turing test. If another behavioral test was to be proposed that limited itself to a single human characteristic, instead of the full breadth of human complexity, it would be too narrow to judge machine intelligence comparative to a human. A true test if behavioral would seem to need (you may want to sit down) a replicant of some sort. Yes, like Roy or Rachael in Blade Runner. For a machine to be able to fool humans across the board it must be able to empathize with a human being and perform the functions of a human in an entirely convincing manner it would have to share the experiences of a human. Just as we can’t know what it is to be a bat, a machine cannot know what it is to be a human, no matter how complex and thorough the programming. When the time comes, the judge must be the general public. If the machine can assimilate itself in with the population it would almost certainly be said to replicate a human. The other option would be the 2001: Space Odyssey one. I will have to think about the Hal option and get back to you guys…


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

January 16, 2012

Your jolly guide to all the important stuff…

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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