Artificial Intelligence and Christian Anthropology

On March 29th 2019 the Faculty of Theology and OPTIC will co-organize a one day seminar on the topic "Artificial Intelligence and Christian Anthropology" at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome.
Philosophers and theologians from Italy, France, Belgium, Austria and the United Kingdom will discuss the themes of epistemology, transhumanism and ethics in the presence of Mons. Duffé, Secretary of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

This event is public, do not hesitate to attend the discussion, as well as share it with anyone who would be interested in the topics discussed.

29/2/19, 8h30/16h30
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Aula Minor
Largo Angelicum 1
00184 Rome RM, Italy

Program, Workshop “Artificial Intelligence and Christian Anthropology”

Faculty of Philosophy, Angelicum / OPTIC

Rome, March 29, 2019

8h30 : Welcome

8h45 : Introduction

8h50 - P. Michał Paluch, op, Recteur de l’Angelicum : welcome speech

9h00 - P. Eric Salobir, op, président OPTIC : presentation of meeting

9h10 - P. Serge-Thomas Bonino, op, Dean of Faculty, interests of the workshop

9h30 - Morning session: Epistemology

Chairman : P. Serge-Thomas Bonino, op.

Topic 1: Can a machine think? What distinguishes human intelligence from artificial intelligence (AI)?


“The question of knowing whether a computer can think is not more interesting than that of knowing whether a submarine can swim,” replied Edsger W. Dijkstra, one of the pioneers of computer science, to those worrying about “intelligent machines.” Indeed, rather than thinking in terms of an opposition between human intelligence and artificial intelligence, it seems more fruitful to ask what AI can teach us about our own intelligence, our own mental faculties; in what sense the first imitates the second. Wherein lies the source of human originality over and against the machine? Since machines are henceforth capable of calculating, evaluating, situating themselves in an environment, recognizing and even learning, what remains special about human intelligence?

One could for instance approach this topic by way of thinking about intuition, improvisation, creativity, or even more philosophical notions such as abstraction or the knowledge of universals.

Mgr Paul Tighe (Vatican) “Framing ethical issues relating to artificial intelligence”

Matthieu Raffray (Angelicum), “Vita, intenzionalità, astrazione: san Tommaso d’Aquino e la nozione di macchina intelligente”
Discutant : Sr Marina Novina (Zagreb)

10h45 : Break

11h15 : Topic 2: Can a machine have states of consciousness, emotions, regrets or remorse?


In the neurosciences, two theories currently confront each other: reductionism or materialism, according to which mental states can be reductively explained in terms of physical configurations – and for which accordingly there is no theoretical obstacle for building robots who could be self-conscious; and anti-reductionism, according to which consciousness is a wholly singular phenomenon in nature (for spiritual or purely biological motifs) and hence could not possibly realized in a machine.

Nevertheless, the tests that were considered revelatory of self-consciousness (e.g. the “mirror test” developed by the American psychologist Gordon Gallup in 1970) or revelatory of a human personality (e.g. the famous Turing Test) have been successfully passed by robots. Is this because they were too primitive, or too dependent upon materialist conceptions of the mind? In any event, one could ask what method, if any, could resolve the question of whether a machine could be conscious.

Ezra Sullivan, op (Angelicum), "Human intuition and Artificial Intelligence: Comparisons and Contrasts."

Benedikt Grube, op, Ph.D. in Philosophy (University of Texas at Austin), “Computer consciousness? Some reflections on current debates”

12h30 : Lunch for speakers

14h30 - Afternoon Session: Ethics

Chairman : P. Eric Salobir, op.

Topic 3: Can a robot be responsible? How do we envision a future society in a world populated by intelligent robots?


Technical progress presents us with new questions on a social and political level. Several industrial and practical tasks already are or will be accomplished by robots. It may seem as if we will be faced with a new globalized and technological world in which humans will occupy a second place, or at least not always the first place. This is sometimes meant by the term “digital age.” What does this imply for our ethical and social concepts and systems?

Are our classical ethical categories still appropriate within this new age? For instance, how do we have to rethink the question of justice in a context where certain machines can autonomously act without being subject to the law, without being able to assume responsibility for their acts? For example, what does responsibility amount to when an accident is caused by a vehicle without driver?

On the social level, how will our questions about work, conflict management, democracy, collective life, or even questions about family and friendship evolve when, in the near future, we will have to take the proliferation of humanoid robots into account? What do love, art or friendship mean when machines are capable to write love letters, to produce original pieces of music or play in our societal games?

Dominique Lambert (Professeur de Philosophie des sciences, Université catholique de Namur) : Autonomous Weapons and Cyberconflicts: How Christian Ethics Deals with the War's New Face?

Adrian Pabst (Kent University, Head of Politics and International relations)

Human intelligence and moral feelings in the face of transhumanism

Discutant : Francesco Giordano (Angelicum)

16h15 : Conclusion