Marina Brown and Joseph O'Rourke (1995) Agnosticism Revisited. Psycoloquy: 6(21) Robot Consciousness (14)

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PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 6(21): Agnosticism Revisited

Reply to Bringsjord on Robot-Consciousness

Marina Brown and Joseph O'Rourke
Dept. of Computer Science
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063


Bringsjord (1995) formalizes our argument (Brown & O'Rourke 1994) inaccurately and then shows that his formalized version is fallacious. We offer a succinct restatement of our argument to clarify its logical structure.


behaviorism, Chinese Room Argument, cognition, consciousness, finite automata, free will, functionalism, introspection, mind, story generation, Turing machines, Turing Test.
1. Using Bringsjord's (1995) notation, let LLF be "low-level functionalism" and let 1VI be the claim that a system constituted by workers in boxcars could not have mental states. Bringsjord claims to be agnostic about LLF but to accept 1VI, an attitude we find incongruous. We argued (Brown & O'Rourke 1994) that LLF implies not-1VI: If low-level functionalism is true, then one could implement that functional organization even in a system of boxcars and thus produce a mind. If one is agnostic about LLF, one should accordingly fail to find 1VI compelling.

2. Bringsjord lists a number of "rules of inference" on which we might be relying, and finds them all fallacious. But none of them plays a role in our argument. The only rule of inference used is: if s is agnostic about p, and s knows that p implies not-q, then s should not accept q. Presumably Bringsjord does not agree that LLF implies not-1VI. If so, he should address our argument for this implication.

Acknowledgement: We thank David Chalmers for clarifying discussions.


Bringsjord, S. (1994) Precis of: What Robots Can and Can't Be. PSYCOLOQUY 5(59) robot-consciousness.1.bringsjord.

Bringsjord, S. (1992) What Robots Can and Can't Be. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Bringsjord, S. (1995) Agnosticism About Neuron-Level Functionalism. PSYCOLOQUY 6(20) robot-consciousness.13.bringsjord

Brown, M. & O'Rourke, J. (1994) Agosticism About the Arbitrary Realization Argument. PSYCOLOQUY 5(83) robot-consciousness.3.brown

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