The Doctrine of the Four Causes in ‘AI’ Development

in thinking through the relations between the four modes of aiton (cause, but from the perspective of the thing conceived as entelechia, a self-contained unity), telos is both initial bounds and goal, as such it is requirements and their fulfillment, in this it’s intimately related to eidos, which as the outward aspects are the bounds insofar as they appear, and thus are initially drawn from those bounds. Taken as a unity, all the aspects of eidos are the idea, which guides the imaginative realization and finally actualization of telos. Thus the eidos as idea anticipates the end of its function in the fulfillment of telos. The imaginative projection is always against the ‘erotic’ horizon (eros meaning ‘what draws towards’). Analogically, technical teleology, as with erotic teleology, loses its plenitude and potency in reaching it, in entelechia.

in the process hylos, the material, the language, libraries, frameworks, concepts, pattterns, are organized such that they are raised up and transformed from just ‘lying around’ to forming a specific unity. This raising up and transforming (horribly translated as ‘sublation’ in Hegel’s dialectic) means production, manufacture, and more primarily the engineering, techne, know-how that makes both possible. Engineering is the process by which the basic gathering of logos effectively gathers the hylos, eidos and telos. Thus from the perspective of the resulting entelechy the logos is not the author(s) but their combined know-how to which it is indebted, as well as to the things it gathers. In this fourfold manner of being indebted, it simultaneously is freed from them, and as such become an independent unity, an entelechy.

the process of transformation begins with energeia, things just ‘lying around’ in no unified manner together, systema is the gestell, framework, skeleton that supports the varied aspects of eidos and allows them to guide the realization as idea, and the actualization as entelechia. The potency of technical know-how initiates and sustains the process, but is exhausted in its fulfillment, just as the idea, after guiding the realization, is exhausted in the actualization.

While the above is the case in any software project (much of it in any technical project whatsoever),, in the case of a project that involves cognitive modeling, machine ‘learning’, or ”AI’, it has to be embedded in the system itself.  The variations of cognitive modeling generally known as ‘AI’, which is reasonably accurate as long as ‘artificial’ is understood in the colloquial sense, i.e. ‘fake’ or ‘imitated’, all function in approximately the same way, though the implementations differ.  Essentially pattern matching creates a repertoire of possible courses via reflection and recursion, those that are reinforced by comparison with a human event remain, others are dropped.  Over time the pattern matching becomes more accurate.  Reflection and recursion, while among the most powerful tools a developer has at his disposal, remain a poor substitute for the reflexivity found even in lower animals and in some plants, however, and we have no idea beyond reflection and recursion of how to ‘program’ it.

For reflection and recursion to function in a way that the system does to the degree possible ‘develop’, program code has to be generated from a model, one that is initially simple in order to remove as much of the developer’s own biases as possible.  This model is constantly enriched by successfully matched patterns, functioning as both a simple context utilized by the program code, and as a basis for that code’s generation.  Thus, after a predefined interval (either by number of chunks of data processed, or some other calculation) the processing code is regenerated from the newly enriched model.  This makes recognition of known patterns faster, and therefore leaves more capacity for uncovering new patterns, which may or may not find a relevant correlation.

In the original Latin translations of the Aristotelian four causes, the last, logos, indicates a transformation of Aristotle’s meaning, one based on an assumption that while valid for the translators, wasn’t operative in Aristotle’s thinking at all.  ‘Causa efficiens’ requires that the four causes together be seen as extrinsic to the thing, rather than attributes of the thing.  Via the same assumption and a correlated one, the causa efficiens subsumed the others within it, and finally with Hume man was explicitly seen as the archetypal ‘efficient cause’.  We therefore view the notion of ’cause and effect’ as ‘Humean’ causality, though it can be seen to have been operative as early as the first Latin translations of Aristotle, and definitively so as early as their interpretation by St. Thomas Aquinas.

The irony of this is that the guiding assumption, and the correlative assumption, that allowed for this transformation is that the fundamental cause, as causa efficiens, is extrinsic to the thing since it is assumed to be the Creator Being, God.  Since God is the Creator of all things, and harbors all eidos within, as well as all telos, the other three causes could be subsumed under God as the primary causa efficiens.  That man could step in to that place is possible on the basis of the theological doctrine of Imago Dei, that man is in god’s image or likeness, and therefore has, in a finite way, the same or similar capacities.  As a result, it was the most acute atheist thinker of his time, and possibly since, who finalized the implications of there being a ‘creator of all things’ and man being ‘created in his likeness’.

More currently, the failure of one of the noisiest atheists, though far less acute than Hume, to be properly ‘objective’ in his popularizations of science, namely Richard Dawkins, arises from the same theological presumptions.  While as stated ‘being objective’ is nonsensical, if it’s taken in its basic intent of being as bias-free as possible, Aristotle’s analyses are far more bias-free than Dawkins’ Selfish Gene (we’ll ignore his attacks on religion as being merely a rare form of Tourette’s, apparently triggered by any mention of religion), which can be seen from the obviousness that a gene is only a ‘gene’ from a human perspective, to itself it precisely could not be a ‘gene’, merely a self-replicating molecule.  While there is a case to be made that this is simply an imaginative failure by someone with a not particularly powerful mind, a further look reveals that the basic posit of the book as a whole is simply the transference of the notion of frictionless capitalism into the realm of biology.  Thus man is implicitly seen as the archetypal ‘efficient cause’ in a book that explicitly claims the inverse.

Zizek is correct in that an atheist must be a theologian, in order to perceive the unthought theological assumptions that otherwise guide his thinking, as much as a theist who posits the theos differently than the tradition.  Further, this requires, as recognized if not admitted to by Nagel in ‘Mind and Cosmos’, jettisoning virtually all of modern science, since maintaining it requires the assumption that reason and consciousness, where our only evidence of either is as rational consciousness, being a priori to reality.  Any rational consciousness a priori to reality could only be posited as a god, the same god as the Creator Being that underlies the assumptions noted above.  In attempting to retain reality as rational and the  notion of rationality as a result of evolutionary processes Nagel gets caught in a double bind, but that double bind originates not in reality itself, but in the ‘natural science’ that began as ‘theology of nature’, and was unable to bring into question its most basic guiding assumptions.



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