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Discussing Technology — Breaking the Ground

  • Allan Janik
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 114)

Abstract

Strong claims have been made on behalf of the digital computer’s capacity to surpass human beings as thinkers. It has been claimed that computers can eventually replace human thinking completely. The overwhelming philosophical difficulties involved in this claim have been acutely analyzed by Hubert Dreyfus in his book, What Computers Can’t Do.1 More recently, Joseph Weizenbaum, a distinguished authority on artificial intelligence, has carried the critique of computer simulation of human intelligence beyond Dreyfus. In his book, Computer Power and Human Reason,2 Weizenbaum argues passionately and persuasively that there are potential catastrophes in the attitudes that the artificial intelligence community are fostering towards the digital computer in society at large. While I do not find all of their arguments equally convincing or well-formulated, I do not think that I am able to add significantly to them. This debate has raised nearly all of the significant questions facing intellectuals today. I would like to focus on some of the less discussed but none-the-less important issues before us: when should we abandon beliefs? and what are our obligations to convince our adversaries?

Keywords

Digital Computer Chapter VIII Instrumental Reason Copernican Revolution Modem Society 
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.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Hubert Dreyfus, What Computers Can’t Do (New York, 1972).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Joseph Weizenbaum, Computer Power and Human Reason (San Franciso, 1976).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    On Der Brenner see Walter Methlagl, “Der Brenner 1910–1954: Leben und Fortleben einer Zeitschrift”, Nachrichten aus dem Kösel Verlag (München, 1965) andGoogle Scholar
  4. 3a.
    Gerald Stieg, Der Brenner und die Fackel: Ein Beitrag zur Wirkungsgeschichte von Karl Kraus (“Brenner Studien” Bd. III; Salzburg, 1976).Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    On the concept of “sophisticated methodological falsification” see Imre Lakatos, “Falsification and the Methodology of Reasearch Programs”, Critcism and the Growth of Knowledge, ed. Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 91–196.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Dreyfus, p. xxix-xxx.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    The notion of an “essentially contested concept” was originally developed in his article “Essentially Contested Concepts”, The Importance of Language, ed. Max Black (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, n.d.) pp. 121–46. For a penetrating analysis of the role such concepts play in human affairs see William Connolly. The Terms of Political Discourse (Lexington, MA, Toronto and London, 1974).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Thomas S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution (Cambridge, MA, 1957).Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Phillipe Aries, Centuries of Childhood, trans. Robert Baldick (New York, 1962).Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    George Thomson, Aeschylus and Athens (New York, 1968).Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    Loren Eisley, Darwin’s Century (Garden City, NY, 1961).Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    The essays in Stanley Cohen’s anthology Images of Deviance (Harmondsworth, 1971) bear this out. Jock Young’s “The Role of the Police as Amplifiers of Deviance, Negotiators of Reality and Translators of Fantasy” pp. 27–61 is an especially noteworthy illustration of my point.Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    The essays in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge present several of the most widely accepted views of the issue. See also Stephen Toulmin, Human Understanding, Vol. I (Princeton, NJ, 1973).Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    Josef Bernhardt, “Das technische Zeitalter”, Der Brenner XVI (1946) pp. 73–101.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    On Carl Dallago see my article “Carl Dallago and the Early Brenner”, Modern Austrian Literature 11 (1978), pp. 1–17.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    On monism see Daniel Gasman, The Scientific Origins of National Socialism (London, 1971).Google Scholar
  17. 16.
    After completing this essay I found the article by N. R. Holt, “Monists and Nazis: A Question of scientific Responsibility”, Hastings Center Report 5 (1975), pp. 37–43 which seemed to contradict the account of the matter in Gasman. Holt asserts, finally in 1933, when many German organizations were ideologically “co-ordinated” with the new ruling National Socialism, the membership of this major popular scientific organization chose to disband. However, Holt neglects to state that a singificant element within the membership of the defunct Monist League then banded together under the aegis of the Nazi Gauleiter of Thuringia to form the Ernst Haeckel Gesellschaft. See Gasman, p. 173.Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    On Theodor Haecker see Eugen Blessing, Theodor Haecker (Nürnberg, 1959).Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    Some of the aspects and implications of the polarization of society in the First Austrian Republic are discussed in Alfred Diamant, Austrian Catholics and the First Republic (Princeton, NJ, 1960) and in Klemens von Klemperer’s penetrating study, Ignaz Seipel: Christian Statesman in a Time of Crisis (Princeton, N J, 1972).Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    See my article “Wittgenstein, Ficker and the Brenner”, Wittgenstein: Sources and Perspectives, ed. C. Grant Luckhardt (Ithaca, NY, 1978), pp. 161–89.Google Scholar
  21. 20.
    “Wie wenig damit getan ist, dass die Probleme gelöst sind”, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Frankfurt/Main, 1976), Vorwart.Google Scholar
  22. 21.
    On Ebner see Theodor Steinbüchel, Der Umbruch des Denkens (Regensburg, 1936) and Stieg, pp. 203–34.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allan Janik
    • 1
  1. 1.Brenner ArchiveInnsbruck UniversityAustria

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