AP/PHIL3750 3.0 M: Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence

Offered by: PHIL

(Cross-listed to: AP/COGS3750 3.0M )


Winter 2020






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

An introduction to philosophical issues in Artificial Intelligence (AI). The goal is for students to be able to gain basic understanding of the cognitive architectures used by Al programmers, and reflect critically on research in Al from a philosophical perspective. Prerequisites: One of AP/PHIL 2160 3.00 or AP/PHIL 2240 3.00.

Course Website

Many courses utilize Moodle, York University's course website system. If your course is using Moodle, refer to the image below to access it.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Oisin Deery


Office Location: S442 Ross

Phone Number: (416) 736-2100 Ext: #77593

Office Hours:  Monday 3:00 – 4:00 and by appointment

    Expanded Course Description

This course will address two sets of philosophical issues raised by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The first set has to do with the nature of intelligence and the very possibility of creating a machine that is intelligent. What would it take to design an intelligent computer? Is this even a feasible goal, or are there principled obstacles to creating artificial intelligence? If it is possible in principle, what kind of features would such a machine have? The second set has to do with the ethical, social, and political implications of artificial intelligence. On the assumption that it is possible to create artificial intelligence systems, what is the likelihood of developing AI systems that are superior to humans in intelligence, and can we ensure that such systems do not cause harm to the human race? Can such systems be programmed in such a way as to avoid any adverse moral consequences? And what would the future look like if many, if not most, current human occupations are taken over by AI systems?

    Required Course Text / Readings

All readings will be posted on the Moodle site for the course.

    Weighting of Course

10% participation & attendance

20% in-class quiz 1

20% in-class quiz 2

20% small-group project/presentation (details to be discussed in class)

30% take-home exam

    Organization of the Course

One weekly lecture meeting, which will be partly lecture based and partly discussion based.

    Course Learning Objectives
  1. To introduce students to central issues in philosophical debates about Artificial Intelligence.
  2. To enable students to:
  • draw connections between emerging technology and concepts from the philosophy of mind and cognitive science;
  • recognize emerging social challenges due to AI and be able to connect these to central concepts from moral philosophy; and
  • develop the ability to analyze conceptual and ethical issues arising from AI technology.
    Relevant Links / Resources