Failure is Not the Spur

  • Margaret A. Boden
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 16)


The concept of “ill-defined system” collapses into triviality if it is used to refer to any system that has not yet been well defined. One might take it rather to mean one that can never be understood in a well-defined way. This interpretation, however, invites troublesome disputes over what is to count as “well-defined”, and also prejudges the question of whether human knowledge will ever be adequate to the system concerned. For instance, Schrodinger’s wave-equations are mathematically well-defined, but they concern quantum phenomena which many would regard as a paradigm case of ill-definedness; and though the Copenhagen School believed this ill-definedness to be grounded at the ontological level, Einstein cited his conviction that “God does not play at dice” in interpreting quantum indeterminacy as a merely epistemological matter.


Adaptive Control Autonomous Motive General Heuristic Creative Exploration Artificial Intelligence Program 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arbib, M., 1969, Self-Producing Automata — Some implications for Theoretical Biology, in “Towards a Theoretical Biology, Vol. 2,” C. H. Waddington, ed., Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.Google Scholar
  2. Boden, M. A., 1972, “Purposive Explanation in Psychology,” Harvard University Press, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  3. Boden, M. A., 1977, “Artificial Intelligence and Natural Man,” chap, xiv., Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  4. Boden, M. A., 1981, “Minds and Mechanisms: Philosophical Psychology and Computational Models”, in “The Case for a Cognitive Biology,” chap. 4, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Boden, M. A., 1982, “Is Equilibration Important?,” Brit. J. Psychol., 73: 165–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hanna, F. K., and Ritchie, G. D., 1981, “AM: A Case Study in A. I. Methodology,” Dept Computer Science Memo, University Kent at Canterbury.Google Scholar
  7. Helson, H. 1959, Adaptation-Level Theory, in “Psychology, A Study of a Science, Vol I: Sensory, Perceptual, and Physiological Formulations, S. Koch,” ed., McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Inhelder, B., and Karmiloff-Smith, A., 1975, If You Want to Get Ahead, Get a Theory, Cognition, 3:195–212.Google Scholar
  9. Karmiloff-Smith, A., 1979, Micro- and Macro-Developmental Changes in Language Acquisition and Other Representational Systems, Cognitive Science, 3:81–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kuhn, T. S., “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” University Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  11. Lenat, D. B., 1977, Automated Theory Formation in Mathematics, Proc. Fifth Int. Joint Conf. Art. Int., Cambridge, Mass., 833–842.Google Scholar
  12. Lenat, D. B., 1980,“The Heuristics of Nature: The Plausible Mutation of DNA,” Stanford University Computer Science Dept., Report HPP-80–27.Google Scholar
  13. Perry, R. B., 1921, The Independent Variability of Purpose and Belief, J. Philos., 18:169–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Rissland, E., 1978, Understanding Understanding Mathematics, Cognitive Science, 2:361–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Rosen, C., 1978, “Schoenberg,” Fontana, London.Google Scholar
  16. Samuel, A. L., 1970, Some Studies in Machine Learning Using the Game of Checkers, II:- Recent Progress, in “Human and Artificial Intelligence,” F. J. Crosson, ed., Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, pp. 81–116.Google Scholar
  17. Selfridge, O. G., in press. Track and Trail in Adaptation, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  18. Sussman, G. J., 1975, “A Computer Model of Skill Acquisition,” American Elsevier, New York.Google Scholar
  19. Taylor, C., 1971, Interpretation and the Sciences of Man, Rev. Metaphysics, 25:3–51.Google Scholar
  20. Weir, R., 1962, “Language in the Crib,” Mouton, The Hague.Google Scholar
  21. White, R. W., 1959, Motivation Reconsidered: The Concept of Competence, Psychol. Rev., 66:297–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Winston, P. H., 1975, Learning Structural Descriptions from Examples, in “The Psychology of Computer Vision,” P. H. Winston, ed., MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret A. Boden
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SussexBrightonEngland

Personalised recommendations