On the Matter of Robot Minds

Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Abstract

The view that phenomenally conscious robots are on the horizon often rests on a certain philosophical view about consciousness, one we call “nomological behaviorism.” The view entails that, as a matter of nomological necessity, if a robot had exactly the same patterns of dispositions to peripheral behavior as a phenomenally conscious being, then the robot would be phenomenally conscious; indeed it would have all and only the states of phenomenal consciousness that the phenomenally conscious being in question has. We experimentally investigate whether the folk think that certain (hypothetical) robots made of silicon and steel would have the same conscious states as certain familiar biological beings with the same patterns of dispositions to peripheral behavior as the robots. Our findings provide evidence that the folk largely reject the view that silicon-based robots would have the sensations that they, the folk, attribute to the biological beings in question.

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