Minds and Machines

, Volume 15, Issue 3–4, pp 415–444 | Cite as

Consciousness, Agents and the Knowledge Game

  • Luciano Floridi


This paper has three goals. The first is to introduce the “knowledge game”, a new, simple and yet powerful tool for analysing some intriguing philosophical questions. The second is to apply the knowledge game as an informative test to discriminate between conscious (human) and conscious-less agents (zombies and robots), depending on which version of the game they can win. And the third is to use a version of the knowledge game to provide an answer to Dretske’s question “how do you know you are not a zombie?”.


artificial agents consciousness inferentialism knowledge game “muddy children” theorem “the three wise men” theorem zombies 


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I discussed several drafts of this paper at many meetings. It was the topic of a series of lectures on the philosophy of information at the University of Lisbon and I am grateful to Olga Pombo for that opportunity. A shorter version was then given as the Alan Turing Lecture in Computing and Philosophy at the European Computing and Philosophy Conference ECAP 2003 (University of Glasgow) and I wish to thank Susan Stuart for the invitation. A further revised version was then the topic of an invited lecture to the Oxford Society for Artificial Intelligence, of a graduate seminar in the history and philosophy of science organised by the Philosophy Department of the University of Bari, and of a graduate Seminario di Logica e Filosofia Analitica organised by Daniele Giaretta at the Philosophy Department of Padua University, and to whom I owe a most fruitful discussion. I am grateful to the participants in these meetings for their helpful discussions. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the help, useful comments and criticisms by Andrea Bianchi, Selmer Bringsjord, Massimiliano Carrara, Daniele Giaretta, Gian Maria Greco, Patrick Grim, Uriah Kriegel, Paul Oldfield, Gianluca Paronitti, Claudio Pizzi, Jeff Sanders, Susan Stuart and Matteo Turilli. Fabrizio Floridi provided the specific example of the three fezzes. Kia Nobre read the final version of this paper and made me aware of several crucial implications. If there are still obvious mistakes after so much feedback, I am the only person that should be embarrassed by them.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Computing Laboratory, Department of Philosophy and IEGOxford UniversityOxfordUK

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