Minds and Computers – An Introduction to the Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence

Nicholas Everitt reviews the book by Matt Carter in Philosophy Now:

BrainvatThere is now a very wide range of sound introductory texts in the philosophy of mind. Matt Carter’s new book offers something rather different. His opening six chapters include material which will be very familiar to any student of the philosophy of mind: dualism, behaviourism, materialism, functionalism. But his main concern is to outline and defend the possibility of a computational theory of mind. Three chapters outline in a formal, rigorous way a variety of concepts necessary for understanding what computation is, and the remainder of the book aims to show how this formal machinery might be invoked in an explanation of what the mind is and how it works. Carter’s cautious conclusion is that on the one hand there is no objection in principle to the programme of strong artificial intelligence – ie, that there can be systems which display (and so have) mentality simply in virtue of instantiating certain computer programs – but that on the other hand, our best available programs are ‘woefully inadequate’ to that task.

Carter succeeds admirably in explaining why this might be so. The opening chapters will be fairly simple for philosophy students, but the material thereafter will be almost wholly new, and not available elsewhere in such a user-friendly form. For students of artificial intelligence (AI), the book explains very clearly why the whole artificial intelligence project presupposes substantive and controversial answers to some traditional philosophical questions. The book is a model exercise in interdisciplinarity. It’s also written lucidly, with regular summaries of important points. An Appendix supplies a useful glossary of technical terms.

More here.