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PHILOSOPHY BEFORE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

François Laruelle

This modus operandi covers a tripartite program:

1) The inventory of philosophy’s traditional critiques of Artificial Intelligence (AI);


2) The description of spontaneous philosophies that defend AI;
3) The problematical extension of AI towards philosophy, the idea of an “artificial
philosophy” (A Phi).
What grounds this program that inscribes itself in the broader program of a
science of philosophy?

Instead of describing the codified practices of AI, one sought its intimate goal, its
télos, in order to extend to philosophy what is by itself only all too ambiguous [ce qui
n’est encore en elle qu’en pointillé]. This télos seemed to be the latter, for AI
corresponds to a “break” [“coupure”] or a scientific “revolution” in the problem of a
science of thought, science in this case being experimental and rooted in technology.
It is quite another matter, consequently, for formulas to simulate thought. This break
[coupure] has historical and mathematically precise conditions, particularly the
invention of logical methods, mathematics, and new technologies, which enable the
reduction of thought to reasoning and that of reasoning to calculation.

This break specifies a hyperopia and a retrospection, an upstream and a


downstream [Cette coupure définit un amont et un aval].
Upstream [En amont]: the old philosophical and fantastical project of a simulation
(or mirror image) of thought by machine. AI brings about a schism in this tradition
and seeks to situate the problem upon a controllable terrain that is both experimental
and scientific. The long-term ambition of AI is to found a science of “general” reason
or thought, which will extract from philosophy its last object. Hence the philosopher’s
necessity to compare himself to philosophy and to consider the future.
Downstream [En aval]: the project of AI can be radicalized and transformed or
augmented. We can regard it as the top of a cone the base of which would be
philosophy itself, no longer as cognition, which is only a limited concept of
philosophizing reason; the opening angle would undoubtedly be science, but liberated
from its reduction to logic and the sciences, which, as in cybernetics and the
neurosciences, are combined with it. Under the nay [le non] of A Phi, which acts as
our main thread, we try accordingly to plot the course that runs from AI, such as it
exists, to a true Science of the most exhibited thought, that is, of philosophy: a science
of philosophy that is obviously no longer a philosophy of philosophy like we find
realized in the History of philosophy. Put another way, we are entirely wary of
unilaterally critiquing AI as philosophers (especially those of the continental variety)
often do. On the contrary, we treat it as a symptom to diagnose and remedy—rather
than, for that matter, as a ready-made model to “transfer”—or dogmatically and
predispositionally [induement] extend—to the philosophical Decision.
The method: we twice juxtapose the auto-comprehension AI has of itself, which is
“restrictive,” with its essence:
1. The exhibited essence of philosophical Decisions, which form its
presuppositions; the latter give rise to empiricist and rationalist auto-interpretations,
to philosophies which are oblivious to themselves and sometimes deny themselves as
such. We make the complete exigencies of philosophy appear inside and outside AI.
2. The essence of science: against its auto-interpretations as science, where it is
thought in mixtures of empirico-rationalist philosophies and empirical sciences (logic,
the neurosciences, theory of information), we set a radical concept of science, one not
constructed on philosophical and epistemological foundations.

In sum we must ask: under what conditions can AI in its ultimate possibilities
become a rigorous science of Reason or Intelligence? Hence the inventory of the
conditions of theoretical production of a science of philosophy from the limited model
of AI. The fundamental condition is that of restoring to science its autonomy in
relation to every epistemological retrieval, thus of most likely carrying out something
other than a “break” [“coupure”] or “revolution.” The development of AI suffers
from overly limited and encysted theoretical foundations, as much from the scientific
as the philosophical. The passage to an A Phi is predicated first on overturning the
internal economy (the sciences, philosophies, and technologies) of AI.

This project distinguishes itself in this manner from the computing usages that
philosophy has developed in pursuit of “textual” ends, that is, in objects at once both
too general and too restricted in relation to the philosophical Decision. Instead of
confronting this Decision, it is left to the traditional foundations of information
technology (the speculative context of performance and machine-thought
competition). We must first suspend this position of the problem (what purpose does
an A Phi serve, what assistance does it give—i.e. a demonstration of arguments, the
creation of systems—to the philosophical Decision?). The only point of view that
authorizes this suspension and at the same time respects the autonomy of the
philosophical Decision, without imposing an empirical reduction upon it, is that of a
transcendental science, a science acquired through non-philosophical voices and thus
capable of being the science of philosophy; we have elsewhere posited the principles
and conditions of reality (Une biographie de l’homme ordinaire, Aubier-Montaigne,
1985) with respect to this science.
The idea of an A Phi is a landmark on the path that leads to this science.

Original Translation © Christopher Eby