[FL 3177]  Artificial intelligence and Aristotelian philosophy

Semester II
tuesday 08:30 - 10:15

Course Information

Professor: RAFFRAY, Matthieu
Email: [email protected]
Language: English

Semester II
tuesday 08:30 - 10:15


Can a machine really be “intelligent”? Can it solve any problem that a person would be able to solve
by reasoning? How can a machine learn to play Chess or Go game? How can a computer drive a car, avoid an accident, and be safer than a human driver? Is the human brain essentially a computer? Could a machine have mental states, consciousness, feelings? How does a machine make “decisions”? Can a machine be responsible for some moral acts?

This course is a very elementary introduction to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the basic philosophical problems which arise from the idea of making an intelligent machine, from the point of view of Aristotelian Philosophy. If the answers to the above questions could seem theoretically obvious for any realist philosopher, the efficiency and the recent progress of computer sciences makes the details of such problems more complicated. To take these advances seriously has become an exigency for a realist philosopher, aware of the challenges they will cause in the near future.
The course will be divided into five main parts (no specific knowledge on computers is required):
1. Introduction to AI: definitions and problems; machine learning; big data; deep learning; neural networks. The hypothesis of technological singularity.
2. Aristotelian and thomistic approach of intelligence: brain and soul; abstraction; knowledge; responsibility; consciousness; Turing test; the “Chinese room” thought experiment.
3. Introduction to Algorithmic thinking: computer programs; mathematical logic; problems of sorting; source code and programming languages.
4. Introduction to computer sciences: building a Turing Machine.
5. Responsibility and machine ethics: robot rights; machine decision making; finalism and mechanism; Aristotelian eudaimonism; morality of a human act.


Every material can be found on internet. The students will be encouraged to use online learning in order to complete their studies. S. J. Russell & P. Norvig, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 2e éd, 2003 ; A. M. Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, in Mind, New Series, Vol. 59, No. 236 (Oct. 1950), pp. 433-460 ; R. Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, New York, Viking Press, 2005 ; J. Searle, "Minds, Brains and Programs", in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3 /3, 1980, pp. 417–457