The picture of artificial intelligence and the secularization of thought

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This article offers a critical interpretation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a philosophical notion which exemplifies a secular conception of thinking. One way in which AI notably differs from the conventional understanding of “thinking” is that, according to AI, “intelligence” or “thinking” does not necessarily require “life” as a precondition: that it is possible to have “thinking without life.” Building on Charles Taylor’s critical account of secularity as well as Hubert Dreyfus’ influential critique of AI, this article offers a theological analysis of AI’s “lifeless” picture of thinking in relation to the Augustinian conception of God as “Life itself.” Following this critical theological analysis, this article argues that AI’s notion of thinking promotes a societal privilege of certain rationalistic or calculative ways of thought over more existential or spiritual ways of thinking, and thereby fosters a secularization or de-spiritualization of thinking as an ethical human practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-471
JournalPolitical Theology
Issue number6
Early online date17 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2019


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Secularization
  • Selfhood
  • Ontology
  • Philosophy of technology


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