Philosophy Through Video Games Glossary
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AI- Artificial Intelligence.

Affective- Usually having to do with one’s emotional responses, but sometimes denoting raw feel of sensation.

Affordances- Facets of the environment that provide the relevant opportunities for action. 

Assembler- Translates macro-assembly language program into machine language programs.

Assembly language- Allows the expression of machine code sentences in an easier to grasp way and also allow definition of macros.

Avatars- The entities in the diegetic realms that represent the players, usually by carrying out actions dictated by the players’ manipulation of the game controllers.

Benign homuncularism- When mental phenomena is explained in terms of other “dumber” mental phenomena, which are then explained in terms of even “dumber” mental phenomena, until at some point the final posited objects are only performing clearly mechanical tasks.

<>Cartesian- When a position is relevantly similar to those defended by René Descartes.

Computational Representational Understanding of Mind.

Categorical Imperative- Kant’s exceptionless, non-conditional moral commands, which he argued to be in some sense equivalent. The two most famous of these are “Act only according to that maxim [i.e. rule] about which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law,” (Foundations, 39) and “[R]ational nature exists as an end in itself…Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.” (Foundations, 47)

Church-Turing Thesis- The idea that Church, Gödel, and Turing must have correctly analyzed the notion of computability. If in such different ways they ended up surprisingly characterizing the same sets of numbers, then it is plausible to think that each was correct. Given that Turing machine computability is equivalent to the Von Neuman computability of contemporary computers, the Church-Turing Thesis is entails that if a function is intuitively computable at all, then it can be computed by a modern digital computer (given enough space, time, and energy resources).

Cognitive interface- The facets of the computing machine that users categorize in order to accomplish their tasks.           

Combinatorial syntax- The system by which words can be combined into grammatical units. For example, “George W. Bush is a mammal,” is a grammatical string of words in English, while “is mammal George W. Bush a” is not.

Compiler- Just as the assembler translates all of the macros down to a language of dumb machine level commands concerning numbers in registers, higher level programs and applications have compilers, which translates these languages into assembly language or machine code. 

Compositional semantics- The principles by which grammatical stringing together of such units creates new meanings from previous ones. With “George W. Bush is a mammal,” the meanings of the two representational units “George W. Bush” and “mammal” are connected with the non-representational (or syncategorematic) units “is” and “a” to express a complex thought.

Computational paradox-  the fact that while digital computers can do many things extremely difficult for humans (e.g. adding humungous sums) with panache, many of the things extraordinarily easy to humans (e.g. running away when someone has jumped up on a parapet and begun to shoot arrows) have been nearly impossible to get machines to do. 

Criterion of identity- a reliable way of telling: (1) when something still counts as the same object or person after having undergone changes over a period of time, and (2) what makes two different things or people (existing at the same time) different from one another.

Deontological ethics- Ethical approaches that give rules determining whether individual acts are right or wrong. Unlike, utilitarians these rules concern the acts themselves, and not consequences of the acts.

Diegetic realm- The fictitious world represented on the computer’s monitor.

Divine command theory- An act X is morally obligatory because God (an all powerful, all knowing, all good entity) commands, or would command, X.

Easter egg- Hidden features in games that must be unlocked with some special code or pattern of behavior that would not occur to a player in the normal course of game-play.

Empirical (or scientific) problem of the external world- The task of deriving a scientifically adequate account of why people come to have the experiences they have and believe the things that they do about the world.

Empiricism- The position that all of our beliefs must be based directly upon the evidence of the senses.

Enactivism- The view that we directly perceive the world and that this direct perception is a function of the way we physically manipulate ourselves and our environment.

Essential property- Features that objects continue to possess regardless of however else they may change, unless said changes lead to the destruction of the object.

Extended mind hypothesis- The mind is not contained within the body, but actually expands to include one’s environment.

Factual dimension- According to Alva Noë, the aspect of perception according to which the way things are change, for example a leaf blowing in the wind.

Final girl- The heroine of Hollywood horror movies, often the only person left alive when she vanquishes the enemy.

Flexible adaptive richness- the property of being able quickly and rationally change one’s behavior in response to incoming stimuli.

Frame problem- The severe difficulty in getting artificial intelligence to exhibit flexible adaptive richness.

Generativity- When a theory is formed by a set of rules that can be finitely stated and such that the mechanisms for generating the truths of the theory are maximally perspicuous. In Chomsky’s earlier writings this perspicuity was taken to be such that a digital computer could generate the truths of the theory.

Greatest Happiness Principle- “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness pain and the privation of pleasure.” (Utilitarianism, 7)

Halting problem- In 1936 Turing showed that it is impossible to write a computer program that will output a “yes” whenever it is fed another program and input on which that other program “halts” (i.e. doesn’t just keep running forever) and a “no” when the other program would not halt on that input.

Homunculus fallacy- Committed when an explanation of intelligence in terms of equally intelligent subsystems residing in the mind or brain.

Human-Computer Interface- All of the ways in which humans manipulate computers to complete their tasks, as well as to the ways in which computers present task-relevant information to people. These factors can be subdivided into the sensory, cognitive, and kinesthetic. 

Idealism- The view that all that exists are mental entities such as thoughts, feelings, sensations, desires, emotions, and minds. 

Kinesthetic interface- Those parts of it that the user physically manipulates to accomplish tasks.

Knowledge by acquaintance- First-hand experience of something.

Knowledge by description- Knowledge that certain sentences that serve to distinguish an object from other objects are true.  

Language of thought- When we speak we subconsciously translate this language to our natural language. For that matter, when we think in (for example) English, our minds are still translating the language of thought into English.  If the language of thought is the same for all people, no matter what language they speak, then sentences of different languages that have the same meaning (such as “Snow is white” and “Schnee ist weiss”) both correspond to the same sentence of the language of thought.

Law of non-contradiction- The law that states that a proposition and its negation cannot both be true, so as a result nothing can ever have logically incompatible properties.

Lexical semantics- Aspects of word meaning that do not reliably change as a result of syntactic or morphological composition.

Linear- When the order of events in a game is tightly circumscribed by the game’s design.

Linguaform- When a system is at least in principle translatable into a natural language such as English and also has combinatorial syntax and compositional, representational semantics.

Machine language- At the lowest level, a computing machine is purely mechanical, and just consists in registers having certain numerical values in them (this is handled by charges in places in the central processing unit). The machine language programs at this level simply tell the machine whether to add or remove numerical values to a given register.

Macros- Allow expression of complicated programs in terms of simple functions.

Metameric pairs- “Objects that look to be (and so, pretheoretically speaking, are) the same color relative to a range of conditions of illumination, but that differ in surface spectral reflectance” (Action, 151).

Moral cultural relativism- The view that the truth and falsity of moral claims are dependent upon the beliefs of a majority of people in a given culture.

NPC- Non-Player Character.

Naïve fictionalism- The construal of a given discourse as being such that every proposition in that discourse is false.

Naïve realism- The view that things are what they seem, i.e. that grass really is green.

Normative- Concerning what ought to be the case as opposed to what is the case.

Omnibenevolence- The property of being entirely good.

Omnipotence- The property of being all-powerful.

Omniscience- The property of knowing everything.

P properties- Perceived aspects of objects that constitute the way they appear given one’s spatial relation to things.

Perceptual dimension- According to Alva Noë, the aspect of perception according to which the way things appear change as a function of the perceiver changing, for example a leaf looking bigger as the perceiver gets closer to it.

Phenomenalism- The view that people do not directly perceive the actual world, and instead experience a realm that is a function of their own private sensory manifold.

Philosophical problem of the external world- The task of explaining how we can have knowledge of anything other than sense data if we only perceive sense data.

Practical knowledge- A skill manifest in one’s behavior.

Pragmatics- The study of the way context affects linguistic meaning.

Prima facie- Literally, “at first look” or “on its face.” In philosophy contexts, if a position is prima facie reasonable, then the burden of argumentative proof lay with the position’s opponent.

Propositional knowledge- Knowledge that some set of propositions is true.

Psychological underdetermination- When one’s speech and behaviors do not uniquely determine one’s set of beliefs.

Push-pull effect- When context radically affects the way we perceive color, such that objects with the same Surface Spectral Reflectancies are perceived as radically different colors depending upon context.

RPGs- Role Playing Games.

Reductio ad absurdum­- An argument form that “reduces to absurdity” a set of premises, showing that as a matter of logic all of them cannot be true. Typically such arguments conclude with the negation of one of the premises.

Real-time- Games where, instead of taking turns, all of the different players’ actions are undertaken simultaneously. As soon as one directs a unit to undergo some task, or a building to train a unit or to be improved in some manner, the game begins to do it.

Relativism- The view that truth is relative to a person or group of people.

Representational semantics- The system by which entities in a combinatorial syntax stand for other objects, in the sense that “George W. Bush” and “Forty-Third President of the United States” stand for the same object.

Saccades- Simultaneous, very fast eye movements that allow the fovea to resolve images for the brain. Micro-saccades occur at a rate of around sixty per second. These create change in presented luminescence so that the eyes’ rods and cones can detect non-moving objects.

Scriptural ethics- An act X is commanded by God if, and only if, X is endorsed by a prophet or X is commanded in a sacred text.

Scientific realism- The Russellian view that unobservable theoretical entities of science exist.

Semantic underdetermination- The phenomena where most words that represent facets of the world there are objects that are capable of being considered either as paradigm instances to which the word correctly applies or as paradigm instances to which the word does not apply.

Sense data- “The things that are immediately known in sensation: such things as colors, sounds, smells, hardness, roughness, and so on.” (Problems, 12)

Sensory interface- The visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory aspects of the computing machine that are relevant to the user’s performance of her tasks.

Snapshot conception of vision- The view that looking at the world is like looking at a picture.

Translation Thesis- The neo-Russellian view that every sentence is translatable into a sentence whose referring words denote only things with which we are acquainted.

Truthiness- The property of being such that people would desire it to be true, even if there is evidence against the proposition in question.

Turing-computable function- Functions that can be computed by a Turing machine.

Turing-computable sets- Those where there exists a Turing machine program that computes the characteristic function (again, the function that halts on “1” for members of the set, and halts on a blank tape, and hence “0,” otherwise).

Turing-enumerable- Holds when there exists a function that halts on “1” for members of the set, but may halt on anything else or not halt at all for non-members of the set. 

Turing’s Thesis- The set of sets of machine checkable numbers just is the set of Turing-computable sets of numbers.

Turn-based- All of a player’s commands are executed at the end of her turn.

Uncanny valley effect- Where objects’ portrayals become more and more photo-realistic yet paradoxically as a result look more disturbingly unreal.

Utilitarianism- The ethical theory that the moral worth of an action is entirely a function of its utility. In Mill’s formulation, utility is understood in terms of the act’s increasing or decreasing of overall happiness.

Veridical- True, Accurate.

Walkthrough- Strategy guide that gives players detailed instructions for wining video games.