William Lycan
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Rene Descartes
Gilbert Ryle
William Lycan
John Searle
Group Project #2


Lycan is defending a view about consciousness called FUNCTIONALISM. For a definition of functionalism, consider the following analogy developed by Jerry Fodor. Imagine two machines sitting side by side. One is a standard Coke machine -- it's made of metal and plastic, and dispenses both a Coke and the proper change. Now, suppose the second machine is identical to the first in every way except that our second machine is made of Lime Jell-o. Is IT a Coke machine? The functionalist would say it is, provided that it FUNCTIONED just like out standard metal-and-plastic Coke machine. Put differently, if given the right inputs (money), it gave the same outputs as the standard Coke machine (a Coke, and change when appropriate), then it too is a Coke machine in virtue of being functionally equivalent to the standard Coke machine. It does not matter what the machine is made of, or how it does what it does, just so long as it functions as a Coke machine is supposed to function.

For a computer to be said to be conscious, (or to possess a mind, or to have mental states), it must be functionally equivalent to those things which we know have minds...i.e., you and me. Enter Harry the robot. Lycan believes that if he can show us that Harry (while clearly made of different stuff from us, and no doubt having a wholly different internal structure from us) is functionally equivalent to us, then Harry is as conscious as you or me.

For class, write out (and bring to class) responses to the following questions:

1. Computer are information-sensitive creatures in that they store, manage, and use information. According to Lycan, this makes them intelligent in a rough sense, but they possess two important limitations. What are these limitations?



2. Do computers like Harry have any spontaneity or freedom of choice? What does Lycan think?




3. Come up with the strongest objection you can think of to Lycan's claim that Harry is conscious.