Sponsored By: Infinity Foundation

Abrahim H. Khan Full

Paper and event sponsored by the Infinity Foundation, NJ, USA

Person and Boundedness in Wittgenstein and Tagore: Positioning Artificial Intelligence
By Abrahim H. Khan, Trinity College, Centre for the Graduate Study of Religion, Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto

At times of development in civilization, whether in culture or technology, there are prevailing concepts that influence our understandings. Descartes’ concept of the mind and its contents became a starting point for classical psychology, Locke gave us the idea of sensory immediacy as a criterion for the real, and Hobbes’ suggestion of building complex ideas from simple ones resulted in the genetic method.1 The 20th century is certainly no different, with respect to philosophy, science, and technology. For example, many classical problems in philosophy and psychology were transformed by a new notion of mechanism due largely to the work of Alonzo Church and of Allan Turing. A different level of analysis emerged from the Church-Turning thesis, independent of research directions in physics, but still mechanistic in spirit. It led to the formation of the field of computer science and more specifically Artificial Intelligence (AI). One of the concepts gaining ascendancy in this field is that of person or personhood.

The concept person has central to its understanding and contours a particular feature that must be considered in any adequate account of it. To focus on that feature I attend to the semantic field of the term “person” and then to writings by Wittgenstein and Tagore to sharpen our understanding of it. In their wrestling with language these two individuals sought to convey through language its boundary and that which is on the other side of the boundary. The logic of language is partly bound up with the concept person and has implications for research developments relating to biogenetic engineering, organ transplants, and AI. Since a research line in the latter area is tending to entertain claims relating to the person, it is all the more pressing that cognizance be taken of the feature so that AI might position itself properly in its attempt to translate or re-interpret the concept. Some concepts are like individuals in that they do not withstand the ravages of times yet retain a homesickness for scenes of their childhood.2 Personhood is one such concept.

Among some researchers in AI and cognitive psychology is a growing feeling that human intellection cannot be understood along traditional lines of sensation, perception, memory, comprehension, reasoning and so on. The boundaries of these categories will have to be redrawn to properly account for the integration of cognitive activity.3 While there is no agreed common understanding of the notion of intelligence among the federation of disciplines known as cognitive science, intelligence seems to have at least four components4: 1) systematically structuring elements of knowledge and performing logical operations in complex systems, 2) intuition and creativity, 3) social empathy, and 4) the integration of the rational and the emotional with the sensory and motoric actions.

Human intelligence is also inextricably linked to self-consciousness or the capacity to reflect on one’s own thinking or to be aware of one’s mental acts. Computational machines do not as yet possess this capacity which is a necessary prerequisite for controlling creatively one’s own line of thinking, or mental acts such as choosing alternatives. However, for some computer science advocates, intelligence and the capacity to reflect are aspects of the human person which is a conceptual idea best understood as a physical object. In 1981, John Haugeland, explained that the idea that is basic to cognitive science is that intelligent beings are semantic machines, that people and intelligent computers turn out to be merely different manifestations of the same underlying phenomenon5. Eight years later, John L. Pollock contended in his book, How To Build A Person, that people are physical objects which supervene on their bodies but are not identical to their bodies, in the manner of a statue consisting of or supervening on a lump of clay.6 Pollock goes on to say that there is no such thing as the concept of a person, that what we mean by that idea is vague, and that it is our task to construct a more precise concept. My proposal is that a more precise concept would have at the least some minimal understanding of what is meant by the idea of person in the humanities, and would reflect some aspects of its childhood scene.

The concept person is at the heart of my presentation. I take this concept as one of the dominant ones to constitute a challenge for AI. Headway in the field of computer science would require also taking this concept seriously, by thinking about and with it. Here, I draw attention to an aspect of it that is overlooked and would constitute a hard problem (to use a terminology from David J. Chalmers7 who distinguishes between easy and hard problem in consciousness studies). Especially if machines are to be truly intelligent or to be considered as persons, it is important that researchers and theoreticians in the field understand the scope and limits of this particular concept. This is all the more important to ensure that the concept is not made subservient to technology, that its employment is in a fruitful rather than retrogressive way.

Recent literature on the nature and enterprise of cognitive science seems to be suggesting a direction which is dubbed strong psychological AI in contrast to one dubbed weak AI. Accordingly, the computer is understood as a mind, a perspective that anticipates a vision of it having civil rights, carrying on romances with humans, and so on. There is already talk of affective computing,8 which Hollywood makes good through its Star Trek creations of Data on the Enterprise and of the holographic Doc on Voyager. Even bolder is the research direction dubbed supra psychological AI. Its proponents exploit “the generality of the term “intelligence” and suggest that there are principled reasons for extending its meaning to new domains.”9 In this accounting there is nothing logically incoherent in the idea of an artificial intelligence that duplicates human intelligence or about conceiving the brain as having synthetic neurons, and thereby being prosthetic brains to the same extent as prosthetic lungs and hearts. The similarity in the mental life of artificial intelligence and that of human intelligence is in functional organization. This form of functionalism as a solution to the mind-brain problem has for its critic John Searle whose objection to the Turing test is that it is a reverse discrimination against humans.10 That is, humans behave as if they have not only intentionality, consciousness and free will, but also the right sort of private experience and bodies as well. The point to the objection is that mental types are not necessarily reducible to physical types.

Properly understood, the concept person illustrates further the difficulty in reducing a mental type to a physical type, and hence the challenge that AI has to address in order to apply the term person coherently to thinking machines or prosthetic brains. Merely imputing intelligence to computing machines does not make a machine-being into a person, for the criteria used in the imputation are ones that are based on biological, behaviourial, and phenomenological evidence. The concept person has also a dimension or framework that is metaphysical, and to which we are constantly striving to give expression. That striving has partly to do with the experience of boundedness. Becoming a person is tied up with our experience of a limit or boundary in our thinking and with our striving to express that which is on both sides of the limit. This striving may in a way represent the Frame Problem confronting strong AI.

Personness has more than a material and social context. Its definition includes the idea of boundedness. Human beings are distinguished from other life forms by virtue of encountering a limit in their thinking and having a longing to express not just that which is on one side of the boundary/limit but also that which is beyond it. This longing may express itself in terms of a silence (as with Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, and the Buddha) that has a survival value, and hence a crucial factor in the workings of mind and consciousness. My contention is that our notion of being fully human or truly a person, carries with it the idea of boundedness, or the potential for experiencing it. To understand this feature it is important to distinguish between the individual human and the person. While every individual is a human to whom respect and dignity is due from a liberalism of rights perspective, not every individual is necessarily a full person as yet. The reason is that person is not a status concept but a self-involving or actualizing one. It is connected with the phenomenon of boundedness or longing to transcend that which limits or restricts, to get behind the limit or boundedness that is experienced.

To examine closer this feature, let us look at the meaning complex for the term “person.” The term is derived from the Latin persona, from which semantically subtends two ideas that form its core meaning. One of the ideas is suggested by personare, meaning to sound thru, as in the case of the voice of an actor resounding (sonare) through (per) a mask. Philologists think that the word for mask might be phersu, which is perhaps of Etruscan origin or borrowed from the Greek proposon that signifies primarily mask, and secondarily role. Either way, whether it be mask or role, persona came to suggest the notion of a role (personage) or type or character superimposed on an individual. Among Greek and Latin moralists the meaning of persona came to take on a moral tone, a sense of being conscious, free, and responsible. From this extended sense it was a short step to the juridical meaning of personaas an individual with legal and moral rights. This is one of the meaning components that is entrenched in daily speech when person is used. What is important to observe in this aspect of the meaning complex derived from personais the phenomenon of limit. The mask or role limits its wearer/actor who as surplus longs to express more than the part or role assigned. It limits also what is seen by the audience and creates in the audience a longing to transcend or get behind the mask, to reach out as it were to the real individual – the one acting or wearing the mask.

The other idea that the Latin persona subtends is that of personnalite/substance that is human and even divine. It is characterized by the idea of tearing away superimposed layers, to lay bear the nature of the role player, or that what is one in and of itself (per se una). Its ambiguity in reference ( human or divine substance) yields the idea of human substance as being open to the possibility of divinity, as going beyond its limits. This idea gained prominence in the fourth and fifth century theological controversies in Christendom over persons in the Trinity. Boethius was to later add on the idea of rationality to the formation of an indivisible and whole substance to yield our classical definition of person. He was rendering in Latin terms that which is expressed in Greek by Neo-Platonism. He provided a metaphysical foundation for the notion of person. On that foundation Christianity developed a philosophy of personality. It was then borrowed and altered by modern philosophy. Peter Strawson, for example designated person as a primitive concept associated with predicates, some of which are attributable to material bodies11, and seem to dominate in our quotidian conception of person.

In fact, one of the accomplishments of modern philosophy is that it defined the concept of personality in accordance with psychological knowledge. Its reason for doing this was to preserve humanity’s distinctive position in the face of tendencies to speak of a general uniform order in the world. Descartes, for example, emphasized human consciousness, Leibnitz placed the true essence of human personality in self-consciousness, and Kant deepened the ethical view of personality by defining it in terms of freedom and independence from the mechanism of the whole of nature. In Fichte the notion underwent further transformation to become the category of self (moi), which is already a primordial category in the Pietist tradition, but becomes a central category in contemporary philosophy.

The social sciences followed the lead of modern philosophy by redefining personality in terms of observable behaviour and emotional tendencies. That is, personality came to have for its reference a socially perceived individual, or the organized stimulus and response characteristics of an individual dynamically involved in social situations. Hence, the concept personality came to imply an inference from behaviour. It is this sense of the concept that has gained ascendancy in ordinary language,12 and is predominant in cognitive science discourse. Such limited meaning does not tally with, is far removed from, the idea of personhood understood as the opening up of oneself to transcendence in order to become fully a self. It misses the phenomenon of boundedness that is resonant in the root meaning of person, and associated with reaching beyond our limits to become intimately related. The use of the adjectival form “personal,” in daily speech underscores the intimacy that is integral to the concept person.

Indian thought mirrors this phenomenon of person by a different set of concepts: purusaprakrti, and jivapurusa. The first two form the starting point in Sankhya philosophical school and its emphasis on evolution. The name of this school or system of thought is etymologically associated with the idea of exact knowledge or number, 13 and hence discrimination or observing boundary. Integral to understanding of evolution are notions of boundednesss and of the reaching over boundary. Purusa, designating the primordial person and a male principle, corresponds to pure consciousness. It provides the initiative through the medium of consciousness for the evolving of the physical world of prakrti. By itself prakrti is formless, undifferentiated, even though it is dynamic matter – the female principle. The interaction between the two, which is only a semblance of contact, occasions creation, including the jivapurusa or phenomonological self.

According to the Sankhaya interpretation of reality, both prakrti and its product jivapurusa are bounded, and must reach over their boundedness to become free. In the case of the jivapurusa, its reaches over by desisting to identify itself with prakrti, by realizing itself as purely purusa through the discrimination (viveka) of purusa from prakrti. Sankhaya proceeds from these foundational ideas to its analysis of the question “Who I am?,” observing distinctions among reason (buddhi), ego (ahamkara), mind (manas), and consciousness (cit), all of which are necessary in its explanation of the stuff of the universe. The exposition of each of these attributes are not required here to draw attention to a theme they sustain and that characterizes much of Indian thought: boundedness and the reaching over the boundary to become related simultaneously to what is on the other side of it. This theme is reflected also in the thought of some modern Indian thinkers such as Aurobindo and Rabindranath Tagore.

Contemporary western thought counts Kierkegaard as one of its resources for thinking about the theme. He presents the self as striving to become itself by a relationship in which it is related finitely to the finite, and at the same time infinitely to the infinite. His analysis of becoming a true self has an impact on reflections by later thinkers such as Heidegger and Levinas. Wittgenstein is another who drew insights from Kierkegaard as well as from Tagore,14each of whom is concerned also with the working of language in depicting what it means to be a genuine human person. Kierkegaard distinguished between words used ordinarily by a sensate-psychical individual, by one who knows himself according to the conditionals of knowledge governing the mundane world, and those very words used by an individual conscious of human life as more than another item corresponding to the order of things in the world. Though the two are connected by the use of the same words or phrase, there is a world of difference between them. The latter, conscious of himself as having an existence that is more than mundane and speaking about that existence, uses the language metaphorically. That is, he has for Kierkegaard “made a transition or has let himself be led over to the other side; whereas the other has remained on this side.”15

Tagore, in his reflections on the problem of self, noted that “man’s word are not a language at all, but merely a vocal gesture of the dumb…. The more vital his thoughts the more have his words to be explained by the context of his life,” and that those seeking the meaning get only to the house and “are stopped by the outside wall and find no entrance to the hall.”16 Language clearly is intricately connected in representing person, and is made more evident in both Wittgenstein and Tagore. I turn to these two thinkers in limning the feature of person which constitutes a challenge that AI must address in properly appropriating the concept person.

While Wittgenstein offers no positive account of the nature of the self, his writings contain a few sparse but insightful remarks regarding the notions of the limits, the ethical and the self in relation to the logic of language. In fact the remarks of the Tractatus do not readily make a connection between the ethical dimension and logical form. But as he himself noted the aim of that book is to set a limit to thought. Language is for him the locus for setting that limit with respect to what can and cannot be said. He noted too in a letter to Ludwig von Ficker, that the book’s point is an ethical one, drawing limits to the ethical from the inside, thus producing two parts to the work. Or, as he puts it “my work consists of two parts: the one presented here plus all that I have not written.”17 The point to these notations is that Wittgenstein expected in his reader capacities of understanding that are a token of a rich and variegated life, one finely textured, thick with content, and developed to the point that the ethical will be immediately apparent even if it is not overtly expressed.

This is because in his view becoming a person is resident not on any philosophical doctrine or on activities, but on a quality of deed, feeling, talking, willing. What it entails then is the conversion of activities into capacities. That is, we look because we possess eyes, – looking is an activity which can be described in non-personal terms. But we all do not necessarily see details or subtle changes in texture, etc., since seeing is a capacity that has to be exercised.18 As with looking, the same would be true for a number of other activities which are designated by psychologically purposive verbs. The self or “I” is tied up with actions, beliefs and feelings or in short with capacities and not mere activities. Language is a powerful means of becoming a person. In fact personness shows itself through our use of language – judgments, responsible feelings –, but the logic of the language will not give to person substance which it has already acquired.

So the remark in the Tractatus that the limits of my language means the limit of my world would signify that the self is not part of my world but is a presupposition of its existence. Without limits there will be no language or world for me. Logic sets limits to language and to the world, determining what is sensible to say and what is not but must instead be shown. A fact about the world, about what is happening in it, would be statable as a proposition that makes sense. However, expressions of value may be mistaken for propositions, when in fact they do not tell or explain anything about how things are in the world, or what happens to be the case. Instead, value expressions are about the other side of the boundary drawn by logic. They treat the world as a whole, transcending the facts of the world, not even mirroring the facts.19 This is what Wittgenstein meant by Tractatus proposition 6.421, that ethics is transcendental. Ethics, as with aesthetics and religion, is concerned with the sense of the world. Value is outside the world and cannot be pictured or expressed in a proposition as something possible. The use of value or aesthetic expressions is to get the reader to see the world (an action, or an object) aright, to see that its sense is conveyed.20 In endeavouring to do so, value expressions go beyond the boundaries of significant language.

Wittgenstein made this point also, in a lecture on ethics, specifically with respect to the miraculous. One of the features of a miracle is that it is inexpressible in the absolute sense and thus is on the other side of the limits of language. To try to say something about the absolute value, or the world as a whole, is to attempt to say the unsayable, to go beyond the boundary or logic of language. The point to all of this is that to run into the boundary, to experience boundedness by language regarding what can and cannot be said, does not diminish the tendency or longing to write or talk about religion and ethics.21 In particular Wittgenstein spoke of ethics as a document of the tendency in the human mind, to run against the boundaries of language in trying to say which cannot be said in the manner in which we try to say it.22 He referred to the boundary in that context as the walls of our cage, and elsewhere as the limits of language, and the net (Tractatus, proposition 6.35).

What is important to note, however, is that in speaking about a boundary he was also referring to the phenomenon or experiencing of boundedness. Each of his metaphors for the boundary indicate that the boundary is more that a logical matter, that it is also experiential and existential as well. Wittgenstein described the longing which is constitutive of person as a tendency to reach out beyond the restrictiveness. One of his conversations relating to Kierkegaard and Heidegger makes this clear. Wittgenstein remarked as recounted by the philosopher Waismann:

“I can well understand what Heidegger means by Being and Angst. Human Beings have a drive to run up against the boundaries of language. Think for example of the astonishment that anything exists. This astonishment can be expressed in the form of a question and also there is no answer at all. Nevertheless, we dash ourselves against the boundaries of language. Kierkegaard has also seen this throwing of oneself and even described it in very similar way (as throwing oneself against a paradox).”23

The Tractatus, on the whole, is also a throwing of oneself, of Wittgenstein wanting to go beyond boundednes which he metaphorically describes as the limits of language. He reaches over to the ethical in the dramatic closure with self-referential propositions that direct attention to the text itself and away from him. He creatively directs his longing to go over the boundedness that language imposes on him by the very use of language to declare that the propositions are elucidatory in this way: 1) whoever understands them would recognize them as nonsense when he has used them to climb up and over them. And 2) the propositions must be transcended in order to see the world aright. The Tractatus, more than being a solution to the central problems of philosophy, is overlaid with significance. For it is itself a type of speech that shows what it cannot say, and in this sense it has a mythic dimension – providing a context for universal human meanings, purporting to tell how the world is, symbolizing itself through inversion, and standing in a complex relation to reality. It is the archetypal cave from which one cannot get out unless one has first entered. It is picturing of what is on the other side of the limits to my world.

For Rabindranath Tagore, boundary/sema is an important term in his universe of discourse. Boundedness and longing are picture through his dramatic play Raja or King of the Dark Chamber. As with the Tractatus, the play is attempting to treat the limits of language through the use of language to depict the longing or capacities that are constitutive of person. The play alludes to the capacities through the depiction of actions, beliefs and feelings by which we become person or genuine self. In brief, Queen Sudarshana longs to see the face of the King. His devotees know him to be incomparable to other mortals, except for the Queen in the early part of the drama who is longing to see him but never does because they meets him only in a dark chamber. Innumerable doubts, difficulties, and misunderstandings bring her to despair and to discuss with her maid who has mastered her own doubts and rage, and who knows the way in and out of the chamber, including the King’s movement without ever having actually seen him. By the end of the drama Sudarshana too succeeds in reaching over her boundedness and realizes her longing.

The King symbolizes the other side of the boundary, or more accurately the everywhere and nowhere in particular which is not expressed by factual statements. In his prose works, Tagore employs as pointers to what is symbolized expressions such as Universal or Supreme Man, consciousness of the Real, Supreme Unity, or Pursua (Being who is Person). He references it further as “the negative idea of the infinite is merely and indefinite enlargement of the limits of things; in fact a perpetual postponement of finitude.”24 Positively described, this aspect of the infinite is the advaitam, or absolute unity whose birthing is beyond the revolving finitude of space and time and only “to be realized in one’s own inner spirit.”25

Further, each individual is able to sense it through the faculty of imagination. He describes this faculty as that which “makes us intensely conscious of a life that we must live and that contradicts the biological meaning of the instinct of self-preservation.”26 And in another place he alludes to this capacity in the following way: “man has a feeling that the apparent facts of existence are not final… that his supreme welfare depends upon his being able to remain in perfect relationship with some great mystery behind the veil.”27 This feeling or longing to go beyond the facts of our physical existence is the urge to realize completion by a bonding with the advaitam and not by denial of our physical reality.

The Queen, however, symbolizes the longing and realization by her becoming the second self of the King. By the end of the drama, the King says to her “that which can be comparable with me lies within yourself.”28 That is, in the mirroring of one by the other, the King tells her that she is his second self. The jivapurusa becomes the second self not by merging with purusa, but by a relation of itself to itself as part of a seeming interaction of prakrti and purusa. Tagore reminds us of this fact about proper relation when, in his essay on the artist, he notes that living efficiently requires knowing facts and the laws, but living happily requires one to “establish harmonious relationships with all things,” and with whatever we have dealings, for “our creation is the modification of relationships.”29 This is in effect becoming a person through the conversion of activities to capacities.

Boundedness is another aspect that the Queen as jivapurusa represents. Pride and misunderstandings, though they may define the phenomenal self, are impediments to the jivapurusa properly relating itself to itself. Out of longing, the Queen falls in love with another king whom she mistakes as her husband King. And in conversation with her maid, she asks: “Why does one make such mistakes?” The maid replies “Mistakes are but preludes to their own destruction.”30 Brought to despair and humiliation, the Queen is ready to become as her maid. That is, she learns to exercise capacities and qualities correlative with right discrimination required for finding the way in and out of the dark chamber, the archetypal cave.

Person from this Indian perspective is constituted by harmonizing within oneself a dual set of desires which through right discrimination are no longer confused. While one set is associated with our finiteness, the other is with an “element of the superfluous in our heart’s relationship with the world.”31 This surplus in us shows itself in art which, for Tagore, has for its principal object “the expression of personality, and not of that which is abstract and analytical,” and which “necessarily uses the language of picture and music,”32 While the eye is for the vision of the physical, the faculty of imagination is for the vision of wholeness of personality.33 And again put differently, he reminded readers that the “world of our knowledge is enlarged for us through the extension of our information: the world of our personality grows in its area with a large and deeper experience of our personal self in our universe through sympathy and imagination.”34

Through this latter faculty the impulse to touch the other side of the boundary finds its expression in the production of art, literature and whatever is recognized universally as culture.

The concept person retains in Tagore’s universe of discourse its etymological mooring by his returning often to the scene of its childhood. That childhood scene is marked by the longing for intimacy with what lies beyond the limit created by our physiology and biology. He calls on the testimony of India’s medieval poet-saints and village poets as proof of a direct perception of a longing to actualize what is potential in each individual and thus what defines our humanity. This is the transcendent aspect of ourselves, the formless in the individual forms of humanity, the nara-narayana or God-man of the poet saint Rajjab.35 By God becoming human in each individual, humanity’s art and literature are the mask or boundary through which the inwardly real in each individual is manifest or made objectively real. Hunger for reputation, inscribing one’s name on walls of majestic monuments or associating one’s name with works of art universally recognized through the ages is, for Tagore,36 a longing to actualize personhood.

That the human body is more than a physiological mechanism, that it is also divine, comes through Tagore’s distinction between creation and construction. He associated science with construction or utility and poetry with creation and self expression, stating that poetry has “to use words … which do not merely talk but conjure up pictures and sing. For pictures and songs are not merely facts- they are personal facts. They are not only themselves but ourselves also.37 ” He reminded readers too that “the world as a creation is not a construction; it is more than its syntax. It is a poem which we are apt to forget, when by exclusive attention, grammar takes complete possession of our mind.”38 What striking family resemblance to Wittgenstein on language!

Thus far, our referencing here of Wittgenstein and Tagore is to lay out an aspect of the person which has to be considered for the term to be coherently applied to thinking machines or even prosthetic brains. For AI to annex the concept of person, a machine would have to develop a persistence to go beyond what it recognizes to be logically contradictory but finds existentially significant to itself. In Tagore’s language, this is the mirroring of the second self of the King, of that which is infinite, and not the self of a finite designer/creator. Bertrand Russell too may have sense this aspect of individuality when he exhorted us to free from within ourselves the artist imprisoned in order that he/she would spread joy everywhere.39

If, however, some semblance of self-actualizing is reached by a thinking machine, through a closing of the gap between processing powers of machine and the human brain, there would remain the question as to whether a machine with the skills of humans is in fact a person or merely a sentient life form that is useful, and for which Tagore employs the term shudra metaphorically.40 Would it cease to be considered as machine? Aeroplanes soar through the air, fly in formation, and have wings. But they neither flap their wings, nor are considered birds. Does the complex information processing involving feedback loops, pattern recognition, stimulus responses, image projections, redundancy, and show of human skills, amount to a mirroring of a second self or spreading joy to others? Alternatively put, passing the Turing test is simply not enough.

To conclude, from a methodological point of view, Sankhaya thought may prove to be an interdisciplinary resource for meeting the challenge posed, in enriching our understanding of the idea of person, of what it means to be humanly conscious. It has room to accommodate the line of thinking about personness in terms of boundedness and going beyond it as referenced by Wittgenstein and by Tagore and reflected in the meaning complex of the term person. At the same time it accommodates the contention that the absolutes, prakrti and purusa, have no real contact (samayoga) with each other, but only the semblance of one (samyogabhasa). The Queen as second self of the King is not in direct contact with the latter, but is in a reflexive relation of herself to herself mediated through another (the King). Alternatively put, the potentialities with which purusa creates the world belong to prakrti,41 and the realization of self or person is not a separation from the latter.

That being the case, machine life forms need not be in direct contact with transcendence or the sacred or absolute. The convergence of artificial neural networking with the physical symbol-manipulating systems opens up possibilities of computers gaining more flexible self-control, by utilizing principles of associative memory, image recognition, and recursivity. In systems taking advantage of that convergence, the recognition of natural symbols, for example, would be enough to create a semblance of contact with that which is apparently absolute, and hence the becoming person. This semblance then approximates personhood and thus holds out a possibility for addressing the challenge that AI faces with respect to ascribing personhood for its thinking machines. Personhood implies striving to reach over an existential boundedness as the discourses of Wittgenstein and Tagore show. For AI to speak coherently about artificial life forms as persons it must work on the hard problem, making the life forms reflexive of themselves as being bounded yet striving to reach over their boundedness. And, Sankhaya thought may have some insights to offer on that score.


1. Susanne K. Langer, Philosophical Sketches (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1962), p. 54, draws attention to the phenomenon of exploiting concepts to solve problems conceived in terms of the concepts, and so does Zenon Pylyshyn “Complexity and Study of Artificial and Human Intelligence,” in Mind Design, edited by John Haugeland (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1981), p. 67.

2. Søren Kierkegaard described concepts this way, having in mind those that are pertinent to human existence and had become distorted and transformed beyond recognition. See his dissertation The Concept of Irony (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968), p. 68.

3. Zenon Pylyshyn articulates the growing feeling about the inadequacy of traditional categories and examines in the work mentioned above some ways of redrawing the boundaries.

4. The four are identified by Ulrich Ratsch and Ion-Olimpiu Stamatescu in their introduction to Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence: An Interdisciplinary Debate, edited by U. Ratsch, M. M..Richter, I.-O. Stamatescu (Berlin: Springer, 1998), pp. 3-7. The two authors offer a general description of intelligence as the “ability of human beings to react to ever new challenges posed to them by the environment (natural or social) and to solve the problems involved.” p. 3.

5. John Haugeland. “Semantic Engines,” in Mind Design (op.cit.), p. 31.

6. John L. Pollock, How To Build A Person (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989), pp. 32ff.
His claim rests on a distinction between beliefs/representations that are de se and de re. He holds to the latter, which is to think “of an object under a description, from that acquire a de re representation of the object, and then eventually forget the original description and be able to think of the object under the de re representation,” p. 23. In the case of de se belief (following Roderick Chisholm, David Lewis, and John Perry ) the object is a property or concept. The “belief does not take on a propositional object,” as in the case of perceptual beliefs, pp. 24f. Pollock then goes on to considerations which seem “to indicate that a person cannot be identical with his body. He only supervenes on his body in the same sense that virtually all physical objects supervene on simpler physical objects.” p. 37. In other words, “the concept of a person must simply be the concept of a thing having states that can be mapped onto our own…. Obviously on this criterion a machine can be a person.” p. 111.

7. David J. Chalmers, “The Puzzle of Consciousness,” in Scientific American (December 1995) and reprinted in a special issue: Mysteries of the Mind, pp. 30-37.

8. Rosalind W. Picard, Affective Computing (Cambridge: MIT press, 1997).

9. Owen Flanagan, The Science Of The Mind (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), p. 228

10. Ibid., p. 241.

11. Peter Strawson, Individuals (London: Methune, 1977), p. 103.

12. In cultures outside the West, “personality” as understood from a linguistic point of view does not exist, or exists in such a radically different way that it is senseless to claim any meaningful comparison. See the discussion in Gerald M. Erchak, The Anthropology of Self and Behavior (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1992), pp. 8ff. Erchak notes in social sciences overlapping and competing definitions of “personality” and “self,” and a shift in the use of “personality,” Generally, it now comes to refer to “a more ‘inner’ theoretical concept, inaccessible to direct observation, whereas the ‘self’ is conceptualized as something ‘presented’ to the community at large and thus accessible … through behavior observations, autobiographical accounts and so on,” and that psycho-cultural studies is now replacing it with “self.” or talk of a egocentric and socio-centric selves. pp. 9, 11. For the account of person given here see also my “Identity, Personhood and Religion in Caribbean Context,” in Nation Dance, edited by Patrick Taylor (Bloomington: Indian University Press, 2001), pp. 138-152.

13. Khasya means to know, and sam means exact. Interestingly, sankhaya also means number since this school counts the number of categories (25 in all). It is non-theistic in its narrow philosophical reference, and yet it founder Kapila is a theist. The categories it mentions are found also in the Vedanta schools, thus leaving the impression that there is theistic Sankhya as well. For more on this, see for example, the discussion by P. T. Raju, Structural Depths of Indian Thought (Albany: SUNY press, 1985), 304f.

14. According to his friend Maurice Drury, Wittgenstein considered Kierkegaard to be the greatest 19th century philosopher, and in a conversation recounted by Waismann, he linked his own ideas to Heidegger and Kierkegaard. See M.O’C. Drury, “A Symposium:..” in Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Man And His Philosophy, edited by K. T. Fann (NY: Delta Book, 1967), p. 70, and is mentioned also by Allan Janick and Stephen Toulmin, Wittgenstein’s Vienna (NY: Touchstone Books, 1973), pp. 25f. For the conversation see F. Waismann, Ludwig Wittgenstein and The Vienna Circle, edited by B. F. McGuinness (Oxford: Blackwell, 1979), p. 68, which is cited by Cyril Barrett, Wittgenstein and Religious Belief (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), p. 22 who identifies it as a scandal to British Wittgensteinians. In a letter to his friend Paul Englemann written in 1921, Wittgenstein recommend Tagore’s King of the Dark Chamber. Englemann noted that Wittgenstein gave a copy to his sister, that the book was listed as one of his favourites, and that in 1927 and 1928 meetings of the Vienna Circle would read out poetry from Tagore rather than discuss philosophy. See Paul Englemann, Letters from Wittgenstein (Oxford: Blackwell, 1967), pp. 44-47. Interestingly, the influence of Tagore on Wittgensetin remains unexplored, notwithstanding the publication of the letter (1967), mention of it by Janick and Toulmin (1973), and discussion by Ray Monk of Wittgenstein’s translation of Act II of the play in Ray Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius ( NY: Free Press, 1990), pp. 408-410.

15. Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1962), p 199.

16. Rabindranth Tagore, Sadhana (Tuscon: Omen Communications, 1972), pp. 71f.

17. Paul Englemann, pp. 143f.

18. The point about a richly textured life and the exercising of capacities is one that Paul Holmer at Yale (my teacher) emphasizes. See Paul Holmer, “Wittgenstein and the Self,” Essays on Kierkegaard & Wittgenstein, edited by Richard H. Bell and Ronald E. Hustwitt (Wooster: The College of Wooster, 1978), pp. 27f.

19. Barrett, pp. 30, 17f.

20. Barrett, pp. 20, 25.

21. Ibid., p. 21.

22. Ludwig Wittgenstein, “A lecture on Ethics,” in Philosophical Occasions 1912-15, edited by James C. Klagge and Alfred Nordmann (Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 1993), pp. 43f.

23. Waismann, p. 68, also Barrett, p. 22.

24. Rabindranath Tagore, The Religion of Man (London: Unwin, 1931), p 40.

25. Ibid., p. 41.

26. Ibid., p. 33.

27. Ibid., p. 91.

28. Rabindranath Tagore, King of the Dark Chamber (Madras: Macmillan Pocket Ed, 1980), p. 199.

29. Religion of Man, p. 83.

30. Ibid., p. 154.

31. Rabindranath Tagore, Lectures And Addresses, edited by Anthony X. Soraes (Delhi: Macmillan Pocket Ed, 1995), p. 93.

32. Ibid., p. 87.

33. Religion of Man, p. 11.

34. Ibid, p. 82.

35. Ibid., pp.70f.

36. Ibid., p. 85.

37. Lectures and Addresses, pp.84f.

38. Ibid., p. 73.

39. “The last Testament of Bertrand Russell,” The Independent,(London), 2,215 (November 1993), p. 24, and excerpted by Peter Caws, “Identity: Cultural, Transcultural, and Multicultural,” in Multiculturalism: A Critical Reader, edited by David Theo Goldberg (Oxford; Blackwell, 1994), p. 385

40. Lectures and Addresses, p. 74.

41. For an explanation see P.T. Raju, p. 324.