thick and murky undergrowth of uncertainty and the fear that AI will one-day replace humanity’s role in the hierarchy of being.
In other words, in face of the purported collapse of Enlightenment Reason and its impotency over against the developments of AI, one can either join the dirge celebrating the death of reason for its being an arrogant human triumphalism or one can question whether what today is taken to be Enlightenment Reason is an adequate grasp of the discussion of reason at the end of the 18th century. Succinctly, what “is” is not necessarily what “ought to be,” and the very exercise of investigating why “what is” is not necessarily what “ought to be” demonstrates the power of language both to confound and confuse as well as to illuminate and inform – even empower humanity individually and corporately.
“Artificial” intelligence is able to “look” (although it doesn’t know that it is “looking”) at accumulated data to establish “logical” patterns that it then applies to “new” data.
Thesis 1: Human intelligence experiences the world not as a mere collection of things to be calculated, predicted, manipulated, and controlled but as an incessant projecting out of “the given” ever new possibilities for actualization. This is a remarkable capacity that involves not merely engagement of the actual but an anticipatory grasp of the possible in self-awareness of one’s own sense of possibilities – a capacity one can legitimately question for AI. In other words, human intelligence is “grounded” not exclusively in material phenomena but far more in concealed possibilities that connect all phenomena by means of a common (imperceptible) horizon. Furthermore, the concealed possibilities of any one object are not isolated from the whole but, rather, inseparable from a shared totality. This horizon of possibilities consists of what “might be,” “could be,” “is,” and “ought” to be so that at least in part, the possibilities that are now “present” have always been there in the “past” and constitute the call of the “future” as they are experienced in the “present.” In other words, this transcendental view of time allows one to view time not merely as a progressive sequence moving from the “past,” through the “present,” to the “future” in the sense of mere linearity. Rather, time consists more of a “future,” “past,” “present” structure of ambiguous possibilities calling out for actualization and clarity.1
Thesis 2: although the computer’s “intelligence” is not natural, the computer is also not (!!!) the origin of its “intelligence.” It is able to identify logical patterns because a human being has constructed the hardware in ways that nature cannot accomplish on its own and because a programmer has provided it with a sequencing tool on the basis of a humanly constructed, computer language.
Thesis 3: although artificial “intelligence” makes a kind of “judgment” (surely, a metaphor), to make a “judgment” in the full sense of the term requires a consciousness that is different (to a degree that it is for all pragmatic purposes a difference in kind) from the phenomena about which it judges. This is not because we’re talking about two kinds of substances (physical and mental) but because judgment requires the addition of things to the phenomena that can’t be given by the phenomena themselves: for example, 1) awareness on the part of a “self” that perceives the phenomena;2 2) a desire (not just fulfilling a logical command) to “make sense” of the phenomena;3 3) which requires a conscious conviction (not a mere automatic recognition) that phenomena capable of being understood conform to a “law-like” order; 4) ability consciously to apply what must be believed to be a system of universal concepts (not just a single concept)4 to the particular phenomena given in perception according to two strategies: determining and
- One might be tempted to attribute this theme to Martin Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1979), originally published in 1926. However, it was already developed by Paul Natorp in his Philosophische Systematic (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 2000) that originated as lectures in 1922/1923 but not published until 1958 (see for example, 276 ff.). Natorp and Heidegger had long conversations on walks while Heidegger taught in Marburg from 1923-1928. Nonetheless, even Natorp is not the origin because the theme can be taken as the claim by Plato that the good is “above being” (ἐπέκεινα τῆς οὐσίας) as the culmination of his similes of the sun and line in the Republic (509b). The theme is also found in Aristotle. See Heinz Happ, Hyle. Studien zum Aristotelischen Materie Begriff (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1971): 687: “Alle Einzelfälle von ἐνέργεια gründen im Actus purus, von δύναμις in der ‘reinen Möglichkeit’, die als ‘Urgegensatz’ Dynamis/Energeia einander gegenüberstehen.“ Important in the present context is that it appears to have already been engaged by Kant in Metaphysik Mrongovius (AA XXIX: 960 ff.). A case can be at least proposed that this theme provides a coherent framework form what otherwise.is taken to be “wild ramblings” in Kant’s Opus Postumum (AA XVIII). In Immanuel Kant. Vernunft und Leben (Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam, 2007), Volker Gerhardt proposes that the Opus Postumum confirms that Kant’s project failed (scheitert) (342) because only in humanity did Kant (342) overcome the famous “gap” (Kluft) announced in the Critique of Judgment (AA V: 195) between reason and the perceptible, material world (288-289). According to Gerhardt, Kant believed that humanity alone constitutes the “middle concept” (Mittelbegriff) between God and the world (342-343) as the being capable of grasping the “living activity” (lebendige Tätigkeit) to establish the “unity” an otherwise fragmented totality (342). Gerhardt appropriately says that, with the notion of “Being” (Sein), Kant never sought a connecting link between reason and the perceptible world (341-342). However, Gerhardt appears to overlook that the “gap” remains only so long as “Being” is taken to be same kind of substance that connects two ontologically distinct dimensions of experience, However, once one makes the critical turn to conditions of possibility, as Kant appears to do in both the Metaphysik Mrongovius and Opus Postumum, rather than objective, substance claims, the “living activity” (lebendige Tätigkeit) that constitutes the condition for any and all experience of totality is no longer just a necessary assumption (Critique of Judgment AA V: 183) of humanity’s reflecting judgment but applicable to all phenomena, not just humanity, as the horizon of possibility that is the condition for all dynamism both perceptible and imperceptible.
- See Critique of Pure Reason A 361 f./B 40 f.
- This desire consists of both attraction and repulsion (Lust und Unlust) to pursue the “lawful” orders of the physical and moral dimensions of experience. See Birgit Recki, Ästhetik der Sitten. Die Affinität von ästhetischem Gefühl und praktischer Vernunft bei Kant (Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 2001).
- See Kant’s discussion of the “Table of Categories” in the Critique of Pure Reason B 105 f.