Saturday, May 31, 2008

Der Goes Da Judge!

"Negotiations for the state’s release of more than 460 children who were removed from a polygamist sect in April broke down Friday in a scene of chaos and bitterness in a courtroom in this West Texas city.

Lawyers for the families said the judge overseeing the release lacked authority to impose restrictions on it, and the judge, in disagreement, ended the proceedings and walked out of the courtroom."

Gretel C. Kovach & Kirk Johnson, "Deal to Return Children to Sect Breaks Down," NYTimes (May 31, 2008)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Graphic Discussion of Philosophy of Mind, the Brain, and Consciousness

For a cartoonish but non-cartoonish discussion of the nature of mind, the brain, and consciousness, see pp. 12-20 of the June 2008 issue of The Reasoner.

In the same issue Amit Pundik continues his philosophical discussion of evidence of prior convictions. See id. p. 3.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

John McCarthy's Common Sense and Artificial Intelligence about Evidence and Inference

John McCarthy, one of the four 1956 Dartmouth conference founders of artificial intelligence, has a great many things to say that have a bearing on how ordinary people (including lawyers) must reason from evidence to judgments about states of the world (i.e., about factual questions). See, e.g., John McCarthy, Making Robots Conscious of their Mental States (24 July 1995 - 15 July 2002).
  • I find it interesting that McCarthy, working from a starting point different than Lotfi Zadeh's, agrees with Zadeh that many of the concepts that we human beings use and must use to make sense of our word and to make our way through and in the world are "approximate" in a way that the standard probability calculus cannot capture. See, e.g., John McCarthy, Approximate Objects and Approximate Theories (Feb. 2, 2000)
  • But what does the construction of robots have to do with the validity of different logical theories? Answer: How the mind works and must work should ultimately be tested against "reality." The attempt -- or, in any event, thinking very, very carefully carefully about how we would would have to proceed -- to build a working robot with the intelligence of a human being, a robot that actually mimics some of the intelligences of the human animal, is a better constraint than pure armchair theorizing, don't you think?