The philosopher and the thermostat

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Daniel Dennett profile in today’s Guardian

“He’s famous among philosophers as an extreme proponent of robot consciousness, who will argue that even thermostats have beliefs about the world. This argument turns out to be more about what constitutes our own beliefs than about the inner life of a thermostat. Part of this is because he uses the term “opinions” for the kind of conscious and considered ideas about the world that many people would mean by beliefs. He doesn’t think a thermostat is conscious. But he thinks its behaviour embodies assumptions about the world, and these can’t be distinguished, in their effects on the world, from beliefs: “Intentional systems have beliefs, or as-good-as beliefs. I use the word beliefs for the intentional states of all of them, including the notorious thermostat. But we have opinions as well as beliefs.”

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