Artificial life for philosophers

Philosophical Psychology 11 (2):251 – 260 (1998)
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Artificial life (ALife) is the attempt to create artificial instances of life in a variety of media, but primarily within the digital computer. As such, the field brings together computationally-minded biologists and biologically-minded computer scientists. I argue that this new field is filled with interesting philosophical issues. However, there is a dearth of philosophers actively conducting research in this area. I discuss two books on the new field: Margaret A. Boden's The philosophy of artificial life and Christopher G. Langton's Artificial life: an overview. They cover three areas of philosophical interest: the definition of life, the relationship between life and mind, and the possibility of creating life within a computational environment. This discussion allows me to critique past work in the philosophy of ALife that tends to see the field as a proving ground for traditional arguments from the philosophy of artificial intelligence. Instead, I suggest, what is interesting about ALife is how it differs from artificial intelligence and that the most interesting philosophical issues in the area are those derived from biology, not psychology. I recommend that these two books taken together constitute an interesting introduction to ALife and the wealth of philosophical issues found therein.



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Brian L. Keeley
Pitzer College

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References found in this work

Minds, brains, and programs.John Searle - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):417-57.
Artificial Life: An Overview.C. Langton & M. Boden - 1997 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48 (4):587-601.
Life, "artificial life," and scientific explanation.Marc Lange - 1996 - Philosophy of Science 63 (2):225-244.

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