LS Re: Soc. and Intellectual values

Jonathan B. Marder (
Tue, 25 Aug 1998 17:45:43 +0100

Platt, Diana, Bo, Squad, (Maggie too),

>Jonathan (the CELL -:) may correct me, but it's my understanding
>that one-celled organisms such as bacteria, algae and fungi, who
>live in close proximity, nevertheless never merge across species.

I wish I could give you a simple answer on that. If "merge" means
transfer of genetic information, then I am afraid that there are cases
interspecific transfer. That's probably how genes for antibiotic
resistance get passed around. Furthermore, we should take into account
pathogenic bacteria which seek out a host (sometimes a plant or mammal!)
and in some cases inject bits of their DNA.

>If so, these life forms must have some way of deciding what
>constitutes a species.

"Species" is not a concept intrinsic to the cell. It is a classification
attribute WE paste on. In another newsgroup, someone once claimed how
there is no documented case of one species mutating into another. In my
answer I stated how sometime a species can "change" during the course of
a scientific conference!

>They must have some kind of recognition
>system which makes it possible to distinguish one from another, self
>from other, me from not-me. Even among cells there must be a
>rudiment of identity.

What cells do have are molecular recognition mechanisms by which they
can IDENTIFY other cells of the same species (e.g. for mating) or
different species (e.g. for pathogenicity). But I don't think you can
say that identification ever takes the form "you are like me, I am what
you are". There is no identification of SELF in a molecular sense. SELF
is an concept which arises when we regard the species as a
self-sustaining entity. This is might be the closest I can get to
identifying the
difference between inorganic and biological patterns.

>This contradicts Diana's statement that life forms do not need to see
>other life forms as distinct patterns (like biologists do). In fact it
>suggests that for any life form to survive it's essential for it to
>patterns in its environment and to be able to tell that those patterns
>are something different from itself. I would call this basic
>characteristic "self-awareness."

A resounding MU to that! We can agree on what cells actually DO. The
hypothetical presence of "self-awareness" doesn't change that, and isn't
verifiable/falsifiable. As Karl Popper would put it, it is
scientifically a non-question. In this sense cellular "self awareness"
is meaningless. On the other hand, even cells are sensitive to the
products of their own activities. You might call that self-awareness.

>This whole business of consciousness, sentience, awareness,
>experience, etc. goes to the heart of the MOQ. Pirsig's major thesis
>and central assumption is that reality is Quality and that Quality is
>"direct experience." So even though we may call experience
>"subjective," I don't think we can put it aside.
>Until we reach some agreement of just what constitutes "experience"
>as Pirisig means it and how it applies to and affects the four levels,
>we may be missing a key understanding of the MOQ.

You may notice that I used the term "molecular recognition" again above.
Last time I did that, Horse have me a hard time for giving human
attributes to a molecule. Expressions like react, identify, know,
recognise are all synonymous at the molecular level. So are expressions
like "consciousness, sentience, awareness, experience". At the human
level, they imply different levels of involvement of emotions and
intellect - which is why those words are so important in MAGGIE's
"Levels Chart" at

In that scheme, Maggie chose "self awareness" as a definitive attribute
of the Intellectual level.

The words also differ in the implied content of objectivity vs.
subjectivity. Molecules are objects and subjects at the same time. "A
reacts with B"
and "B reacts with A" are identical expressions. The "evaluation" is
mutual and symmetrical. On the other hand "A knows B" implies a
directionality, since B does not necessarily know A. A is subject and B
is object. The 4 levels of MOQ give a very definite directionality. At
the biological level, the "life-force" for survival predicates the
existence of a living entity in an environment of non-self.

BO wrote:
>The first axiom of the MOQ is that the inner (subjective) versus the
>outer (objective) is suspended or at least removed to a less
>prominent place, so there are no AWARENESS at ANY level, not even to

I agree that there is nothing intrinsic about the inner (subjective)
versus the outer (objective). The division is an analytical tool applied
by (dare I say it) intellect.

>Q-Intellect is (according to my
>SOTAQI) subject-object thinking (separatedness) itself, but it is a
>mere static level of the overall Q-picture and may be (will be - must
>be) surpassed by another Q-development.

The SO division is always an intellectual imposition. If this is what
you mean by SOTAQI, I fully concur. What I object to is the implication
that SO thinking is *all* that intellect is. This reduces intellect to
Classical understanding and excludes Romantic understanding i.e.
completely contradicts what as I perceive to be the main theme of ZAMM.
To be fair to Bo, let me say that this view of SOTAQI is my own
You may have noticed a small item from me that Diane inserted into [LS
News, 1 August 1998]:-
> Human and Machine dignity
>Rosalind Picard, author of the book, "Affective Computing" describes
>how computers can be given certain emotional abilities, how emotions
>be regarded as an integral and essential part of human rationality.
>idea comes very close to the "coherence of romantic and classical
>understanding" a core idea in Robert Pirsig's philosophy.

>Seen thus it's no wonder that we humans from our high Intellect perch
>look down upon the rest of the Q-levels and formulates these futile
>and irrelevant questions: what is it like to be a bat? ...

That comes from a confusion of the physical why and the philosophical
"Why does it happen?" can mean either how we can explain something
mechanically (physics), or alternatively what its ultimate purpose is
(philosophy). If we define the purpose ("morality") of a bat as the
quest to survive and propagate, then "what is it like to be a bat?" is a
perfectly reasonable question about identifying the issues relevant to a
bat's survival.

>Or even: is
>there awareness at the atom level?
And that can be "translated" into another perfectly reasonable question
"will this atom respond to these particular forces?". As always, the
issue is always about explicitly phrasing questions in terms in which
they can be answered.

I started this post several hours ago, and have taken several breaks,
but am still rather unsatisfied. I think that what it actually lacks are
well-chosen questions. Unfortunately, I still can't see how to get
unstuck, and that "SEND" button is just too tempting so ... with

Best regards to all,


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