virus: Belief and Knowledge

Reed Konsler (
Sun, 14 Sep 1997 22:32:56 -0400 (EDT)

>Date: Sat, 13 Sep 1997 12:44:14 -0600
>From: David McFadzean <>

>At 06:40 PM 9/12/97 -0400, Reed Konsler wrote:
>>You can't tell the difference between a robot and and agent. Taking an
>>"Intentional Stance" with respect to something is an investment of faith.
>>You must assume the entity is willful as a precondition of the stance. In
>One usually only assumes the intentional stance with respect to something
>when there are good reasons to do so, ie. the something's behavior is
>sufficiently complex that other approaches to predicting its future
>actions or explaining its past actions fail.

Agreed, but don't waffle away from the point. You cannot adopt an
intentional stance towards a phenomena without making THE ASSUMPTION that
the phenomena is willful. You can bury that leap of faith in as many
layers of philosophical/scientistic double talk as makes you comfortable
but the assumption that other people are intentional is of the same
character as the assumption that oneself, or God (of whatever structure),
or genes, or little green demons are intentional. The "good reasons" you
are siting: "sufficiently complex behavior" are not sufficient support.
There is no stark line dividing robot from agent but instead a smear of
Will from the cosomological universe to the nanocosm. We localize this
Will in phenomena of our own scale as a matter of arbitrary convenience,
not existential truth.

>>essence, we are all successful Turing machines, even to ourselves.
>>Descartes: "I think therefore I am": we explicitly choose to see ourselves
>>as intentional. But seeking to justify the aesthetic or ethical choices
>>you make with respect to which entities you respond to as intentional will
>>not be--cannot be--fruitful.
>Perhaps, but attempting to be consistent in your choices is fruitful
>(I claim).

Perhaps. What is inconsistent about a belief in God?


Reed Konsler