The Soul and Plato

What is the soul and how does it work? Is your soul exploited by the State through the Noble Lie?

Plato (429—327 BCE) serves as the backbone of Western civilization and philosophy–recounting and preserving the theories of his contemporaries, as well as his own. Socrates (469—399 BCE), having never written a surviving word himself, is captured by Plato and acts as his mouthpiece. Though the duo seem inseparable, Plato credits Socrates as the original source of thought and almost all the philosophical work is presented by or through him.

Socrates is a proponent of ante rem dualism; presuming a prior existence of the soul [i.e., spirit / mind / psyche] and its separation from the body. The soul is a non-composite substance that is indescribable and existed among the Forms (partaking and understanding of their true / necessary perfections) prior to becoming, or existing through its encapsulation of the sensible body; the soul creating a bridge between the reasonable and empirical.

The Challenge of AI

The greatest challenge to General Artificial Intelligence (GAI) is human intelligence.

We as humans would be the GAI’s creator and its dependency lies in our ability to first understand our own intelligence—a field of study that is improving, but has yet provided answers to the most glaring questions. Once, and if, the questions of thinking, consciousness, and intelligence are answered, we’d then need the technical skill of developing that through duplication or imitation.

With that said, I believe human-compatible GAI is one day possible but it’s a long time coming. This isn’t so much of an issue of hardware or processing power, but due to how little we know about the human brain and how that lump of gray translates into a personality (“I” or consciousness) and intelligence.

The Soul and Parmenides

Things are One and Being is truth.

The pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides, who is thought to have been born between 540 and 515 BCE (dates are contested between Plato and Diogenes) is often dubbed “the father of metaphysics” and the first noted dualist. As the first a priori philosopher, Parmenides developed the modality of necessity, positing that true knowledge is obtained by reason alone, and largely rejecting a posteriori knowledge, or sense experience, due to the senses being misleading or causing false judgement.

In Parmenides’ poem, On Nature, he states that all knowledge should begin with “it is” and proceeds with reasonable deductions to explain being. This mental exercise yields certainty of truth (way of truth), and therefore is superior to empirical knowledge that can only offer a high probability of truth (way of seeming).

AI and the replicant mind

Is our understanding of intelligence anthropomorphic? How can we simulate the human mind when we can't even define it?

The Turing Test, as currently understood, is simply this: if a computer can perform in such a way that an expert cannot distinguish its performance from that of a human, then it is said that the computer also has that ability. So, the goal for programmers seeking to design intelligent computers is to design programs that will simulate human cognition in such a way as to pass the Turing Test.

However, Searle counters that a computer passing the Turning Test isn’t an actual intelligence and that the computer wouldn’t truly “understand” what it is doing, rather the computer would only be imitating / simulating believable human behavior. Under Turing’s test, even if the computer mirrored human behavior flawlessly, Searle posits that the computer still wouldn’t “really know” what, why, or how it came to the conclusions or responses that it did, or attribute any meaning to them—he demonstrates this in his famous example of The Chinese Room.

Heraclitus world fire

Embrace change wholeheartedly, and accept contradiction. Knowing these words–and understanding them–are two entirely different things.

Heraclitus preceded Parmenides, living from 535—475 BCE, and like Parmenides, none of his writing have survived in their complete form. Heraclitus’s philosophy on the surface is in direct contrast with Parmenides by positing a natural argument (I say “on the surface” as their ultimate conclusions, Parmenides’ “All Is One” and Heraclitus’ “World-Fire”, seem to be saying the same thing, but the two taking two drastically different approaches to arrive at the same place).

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