Wittgenstein: Intelligence is Never Artificial

Why Extravagant Claims About AI Cheapen Our Humanity

Steven Gambardella
Dec 7, 2019 · 11 min read
Marcel Duchamp, A Game of Chess (Public Domain, source: Wikimedia)
Ludwig Wittgenstein playing as a child. (Public Domain. Source: Wikipedia)

The Protégé

Wittgenstein was born in Vienna in April 1889 when the Austian city was the cultural and financial centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father Karl Wittgenstein was an industrialist and one of the richest men in Europe, controlling a monopoly on steel production in the Empire.

Ludwig Wittgenstein in 1930. He had come to reassess his beliefs about language. (Public Domain. Source: Wikimedia)

Language Games

But Wittgenstein soon realised that human language is not a system of reference. When an angry cyclist gave him the finger in the street, he realised the mistake he had made in his theory. What’s the “fact” behind giving somebody the finger, or offering a high-five? Or winking?

In 1917 Marcel Duchamp signed a urinal and exhibited it as a work of art (which it remains today). Would AI recognise a urinal as a work of art, or is “art” part of a network of language games that AI simply could not keep up with? Image: Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917. (photograph by Alfred Stieglitz. Public Domain. Source: Wikimedia)

Forms of Life

Language has this game-like fluidity because it is embedded in the human “form of life”.

Language and Inner Sensations

This is the ground-breaking appeal of Wittgenstein. Before Wittgenstein, it was widely understood in philosophy that intelligence was internal to the human mind. In the seventeenth century, Rene Descartes came up with a formula that has stuck: “I think therefore I am” (often rendered in Latin as “Cogito, ergo sum”).

The Deconstructor

Wittgenstein’s later philosophy is less a doctrine than a tool kit of concepts and strategies for clear thinking. His body of work is arguably a deconstructive “anti-philosophy” rather than a constructive philosophy.

The Sophist

A Collection of Posts by Steven Gambardella

Steven Gambardella

Written by

The lessons of philosophy and history, their practical benefits for your life and work. Feel free to get in touch: stevengambardella@gmail.com

The Sophist

Lessons from philosophy, history and culture

Steven Gambardella

Written by

The lessons of philosophy and history, their practical benefits for your life and work. Feel free to get in touch: stevengambardella@gmail.com

The Sophist

Lessons from philosophy, history and culture

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