LS Re: Soc. and Intellectual values
Sun, 23 Aug 1998 17:57:13 +0100

Jonathan, Platt, Squad,

Jonathan B. Marder wrote:
> 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.

The only thing that life implies is that there is experience of
aliveness. Just because something moves in a particular direction it
doesn't imply that it is being willed to do that. The wind blows, rivers
flow towards the sea, nothing is willing them to do so. In biological
entities there is consciousness of happenings but that doesn't prove
that anything is being willed to happen either. If an animal has the
ability to will itself to survive then it must also have the ablility to
will itself _not_ to survive. If it doesn't then suvival isn't a choice.

The assumption that there is a will is the same as the assumption that
there is a subject. But the whole point of the Quality theory is that
the intellectual interpretation of events as subject vs object is just
one possible way to see the world. What I am trying to argue is that in
animals, and in human digestive functions, that intellectualization
never happens.

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

Maybe the problem is that your definition of life refers only to the
mechanistic functions. Magnus says in his essay "all it took was to eat,
shit and reproduce" to fake life. But this isn't right. He's missing the
key ingredient and that is experience. There must also be tasting of the
food. It's not enough just to mechanically eat.

Obviously in order to study lifeforms you need to see them as distinct
patterns, and you wouldn't get very far as a biologist if you couldn't
tell them apart;), but that doesn't prove that you have to make such
distinctions in order to BE a lifeform.

> 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
> point?

Yes but as other humans generally behave in ways that suggest they are
experiencing the same thing as we are, we assume that they are similarly
aware. It's not provable but it's reasonable. Animals and plants,
however, behave differently, consequently it's not reasonable to assume
that their experience is the same as ours.


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