Discovering the Principle of Finality in Computational Machines Articles uri icon

publication date

  • December 2018

start page

  • 779

end page

  • 794

issue

  • 4

volume

  • 23

international standard serial number (ISSN)

  • 1233-1821

abstract

  • In this essay we argue that the notion of machine necessarily includes its being designed for a purpose. Therefore, being a mechanical system is not enough for being a machine. Since the experimental scientific method excludes any consideration of finality on methodological grounds, it is then also insufficient to fully understand what machines are. Instead in order to understand a machine it is first required to understand its purpose, along with its structure, in clear parallel with Aristotle's final and formal causes. Obviously, purpose and structure are not machine components that can physically interact with other components; nonetheless they are essential to understanding their operation. This casts an interesting light on the relationship between mind and body: for just as an artifact's finality and structure explain its operation, so also consciousness is the explanationnot the efficient causeof specifically human behavior. What machines and human beings have in common is that, in order to understand them, it is necessary to appeal to the principle of finality. Yet while finality is given and extrinsic in the case of machines, we human beings are characterized by the ability to self-propose our own ends. Since the principle of finality is essential to understanding the production of machines, the traditional view in modern Western philosophy that finality lies beyond the scope of objective/scientific knowledge should be rectified to allow for a genuine science of the artificial. We think a correct understanding of final causality will overcome current resistance to this principle.

keywords

  • finality; mechanism; consciousness; theory of the four causes; science of the artificial; technical artifacts; science; design