Human Beings and Robots: A Matter of Teleology?

  • Andrea Lavazza Centro Universitario Internazionale, Arezzo, Italy.
Keywords: human being, artificial intelligence, teleology


In this paper, I use the comparison between human beings and intelligent machines to shed light on the concept of teleology. What characterizes human beings and distinguishes them from a robot capable of achieving complex objectives? In the first place, by stipulating that what characterizes human beings are mental states, I consider the mark of the mental. A smart robot probably has no consciousness but we might have reason for doubt while interacting with it. And a smart robot shows intentionality. I focus on the type of naturalized intentionality that is at stake here. Then I go back to the traditional idea of teleology, and to the scientific criticism of it, through the question of the kind of purposes that artificial intelligence (AI) may set itself. Husserl's basic idea of teleology therefore serves to have an authoritative term of comparison and to introduce the intuitive difference between human beings and intelligent machines based on the homo pictor thought experiment proposed by Jonas. My conclusion is that a specific finalism, understood in a non-criterial sense, is what qualifies the human being and differentiates the latter (for now) from smart robots.

How to Cite
Lavazza, A. (2018). Human Beings and Robots: A Matter of Teleology?. HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies, 11(34), 17-39. Retrieved from