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Jessica B's picture

Perspective and assumptions

While I agree in general, I think you're forgetting that the scenario in class involved taking an outside perspective.

We know (hopefully) that we have purpose because we can see it in ourselves. I eat because I'm hungry. I do my homework because I want a good grade in the class and, in general, because I want to graduate.

However, how do we know that other people also have purpose to their actions? Ultimately, we don't. However, we can assume that they do, based on their actions. Sarah is in college, so I can assume she wants to graduate college. She is going her homework which, from my experience, helps your grade. Getting good grades means you can graduate. Therefore, I can assume that Sarah does her homework for the same reason I do. She has purpose.

There is slightly less assumption looking at another person, because we can relatively safely assume that since people are ultimately the same, they must all act with purpose. It's a little trickier when we look at something that is not human. I take the dog's food away so he snaps at me. Did he do this for a reason or is it just a reflexive reaction to having his food taken away? Scientific neutrality aside, most people would opt for the former explanation. If somebody took my food away while I was eating it, I would say something sharp to them or grab at them. My purpose in doing this is to get my food back (and to express my displeasure in having it taken away in the first place). I would assume that the dog had generally the same purpose.

That's the point of the ant, I think. An alien watching this thing moving around can't know if it has a purpose or not. But assuming an intelligent alien, when it moves in a certain pattern, it's doing it for a reason. So it would very likely assume that the ant also has a purpose. Obviously, since this thing is a program, we know there is know true purpose, but it appears to have one. I think that's the point.


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