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Can Machines Be Persons?

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There are various philosophical issues that can be derived from the stimilus image. The robot is playing a trumpet so a possible issue could be the characteristics of person hood and if musical abilities is part of them. The issue I will specifically look at is the one relating to the differences between humans and machines and can therefore a robot be a person? This is because the artificial robot playing the trumpet denotes some sort of capability to understand how to play the instrument correctly. It is important to discuss because of the long debate there has been as to whether machines will ever be able to take over our lives and do everything for us, and also because of the increasing development of artificial intelligence. The two approaches I will look at are Descartes' view and functionalism. In this essay, I will argue that machines cannot be considered persons because they do not own the same amount of reason we do.

Rene Descartes, argues that machines could not be person on the grounds that are similar for the argument that animals could not be persons. Being a substance dualist, Descartes argued that persons have a mind and a body whereas machines (just like animals) only have a body (automata). A mind is the synonym for personhood. Descartes argues that machines can be programmed to answer and utter some words however they will never be able to give an "appropriately meaningful answer" based on what has been previously said. Conversely, however, he says even the "dullest men" can. Also, another reason as to why machines could not be persons is that, similarly to animals, there will be certain actions in which they will perform better than humans although that is because it is what they have been programmed to do based on certain organs. It is impossible, however, for a machine to have enough organs to perform every single action of a human being in order for it to prove it has reason. In the particular case of the stimulus, Descartes would say that the robot can play the trumpet only because it has been programmed to do so, yet that does not prove he is a person. Basically, it boils down to the fact Descartes argue machines cannot and will never own reason. In his opinion, reason is a feature which is absolutely required for something to be classified as a person: a necessary condition.

One implication with Descartes argument however is this idea that reason is the only thing that makes us persons and that only a mind can be proof of personhood. An objection would be presented by an empricist. Empiricist believe that knowledge (which is often considered a sufficient condition to personhood, as it ensures something being counted as person) comes from sense experience. Humans gain knowledge and understanding of the world primarily from sensory input. Therefore it is the senses that play a big part in human understanding. An empiricist would argue that if machines would ever to possess the sensory apparatus of humans then they could be perfectly seen as persons as they wouldn't lack the fundamental understanding humans have of the world.

Descartes would argue that these machines could be programmed to gain the knowledge of the world yet they wouldn't have the capacities to use this knowledge in a wise way, as to react to what is being said and what is happening around them. This experience still wouldn't prove they have any sort of reason.

Another view on the matter is functionalism. Functionalists see the mind as a function therefore they see mental states in terms of functionals states. For example, they would see the mind like a clock: it is seen as something that tells the time, it is not seen as a face with wheels and pointers. They saw every brain function in terms of sensory inputs that flow into observable sensory outputs. They start with perceptual input, go into complex connections (that would be mental states) and end in behavioural outputs. Functionalists believe, therefore, that anything that can prove it is able



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