Several versions of materialism seem to be compatiblewith the possibility that some artifacts, robots, for example, might have mindssimilar to human beings.
In fact some versions of functionalism are committedto this possibility. Discuss whether a sentient robot would be a person. Forexample, could it be capable of the same independence of thought and action asa human being; would it be wrong to destroy such a robot?The human brain is a complex network that has yet to beunderstood in terms of science. Though scientists understand the functionalityof the brain the cognitive level is still a mystery. Memory, behavior andconsciousness is till a mystery to science. This mystery is understood onlevels of the creative spirit which is abstract.
This creative spirit of thebrain is what differentiates man from the other species. Robots no matter howself-expressive will lack this spirit as do to an extent animals. And so if weas humans believe that killing an animal is not wrong, than the standard for arobot should not be any different. Thepairing of innovative technologies with scientific discoveries about the brainopens new ways of handling information, treating diseases, and possiblycreating robots with human characteristics. However, if humans are able tocreate sentient robots, that is, robots who have a sense of the self-will theybe treated as humans—this is the basis of a debate that few know the answerto. Yet, no matter how human like the robots become they will in essence nothave the same functional ability that man is capable off.
The emotional andcognitive level of thought will be lower and thus, destroying the robot wouldnot be wrong. Are minds and bodies distinct? If so, how do theyinteract? There are still no good answers. But spurred by recent work inneuroscience and artificial intelligence today’s philosophers are trying harderthan ever to find some. Scientists have gone far towards understanding thebrain without discovering a spirit or soul. Though the soul’s elusiveness ishardly news to a science-minded world, a more pressing redundancy looms. Neurologists can explain in impressive detail how brains control bodies.
Neverdo their findings reveal or seem to require an immaterial mind. Ifmaterialism is the answer then remember, that the outlook is rooted in aphilosophical naturalism: as part of nature, humans are objects of science andany human phenomenon, including "the phenomenal" (subjectiveexperience), has a material cause. Despite its successes elsewhere, as regardsthe mind this outlook is still a program, not a result. Unfortunately, not allmaterialists admit this. Partly from the sensible philosophical habit oftesting a good insight to breaking point and partly from sheer techno-hype,philosophers like Mr Dennett often talk as if victory were already at hand:brains are to minds, they have said in effect, as computers are to processing;the mystery of consciousness is solved.
Butit has not been solved. Must sound explanations of the mind come from hardscience? Even if computing does prove a good model for thinking, can it beright for feeling and experience? How can brain activity be all there is totwinges of pain or sensations of color? Questions like that are being put withnew sharpness as some of the snags with earlier or cruder versions ofmaterialism are re-exposed. Thebelief that matter is basic and that mind comes after or on top was a favoriteof the early Greeks. It irked Plato who insisted that people had souls thatsurvived bodily death.
Aristotle countered that separating mind and body waslike trying to apprise a coin’s imprint from its wax-a potent image,suggestively equating mind with form or structure. Yet Aristotle recoiled fromthe atomism of Democritus, who held that the soul was made of matter. To himand to the Epicureans, the universe contained just matter in differentmixtures. Epicureanism, which entailed denial of an afterlife, became notoriousto Christians and its adepts were confined to living graves in Dante’s sixthcircle of hell. Descarteswas so struck by the mind’s oddity that he dubbed mind and matter differentsubstances. Few modern dualists put it that way.
They do not believe in spiritstuff or ectoplasm. But the core image of dualism-grey matter with its materialproperties, thoughts and feelings with their peculiar mental ones-seemsinexpugnable. Materialism,with its heaven of a unified science, is a broad church. It includesfundamentalists who treat mind-talk as folklore and who try to explain awaymental phenomena by reductionism tactics. And it includes subtler folk whoaccept that mental things belong .