LS Re: Soc. and Intellectual values

Jonathan B. Marder (
Sun, 23 Aug 1998 11:36:56 +0100

Hi Platt, Diana and Squad,

>>But I'll leave it to Jonathan, our resident biologist, to
>> have the final word on if a cell 'knows' separateness or
>> anything else.

>I don't see how Jonathan can have unique insight unless he is merely a
>cell himself;-) We can't ever know, it's just speculation.

Speculation about what? About me being just a cell?;-)

>However Donny
>also can't prove that animals _are_ self-aware, so we end up in a
>stalemate. I think my example of digesting food at least casts enough
>doubt on biological self awareness to leave the question open.

I definitely do NOT have a unique insight. The whole concept of "life
force" implies that living organisms have a will to survive. That in
turn implies a concept of SELF as the survivor. Darwin's unique insight
was that this apparent will is a direct consequence of physical and
statistical laws. You don't need to distinguish between "biological" and
"inorganic" levels to explain Darwinian evolution. However, once we
attach some value to life itself, then definition of this value demands
a recognition of a cellular entity as a distinct pattern, SELF or

As to self-awareness, I think that this becomes almost impossible to
define. What it comes down to is that the only SELF awareness I know for
certain is my own. For all I know, Diana and everyone else may be
completely pre-programmed to respond in certain ways with absolutely no
free will or self-awareness of their own. Isn't that Descartes' starting


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