December 27, 2008 | By | 3 Replies More

A note I jotted to myself sometime in the past.  I don’t recall the circumstances, but the question posed feels universal.

The spiritualists cringe and argue against any description of self-conscious life as mechanism, that any mere machine is necessarily only an accumulation of parts and processes that can never rise above its own origins.  They offer in its place a description that makes of us a vessel to contain an essential self that is gifted from without, a near complete something that a priori transcends the mechanistic.  From where?  Choose your own myth of origin.  But they all presume a Maker.  The question must then be put—what separates the divinely made from the “naturally” made or, later, the self-made?  Are they not in the end all simply made things and as such all mechanisms?


Category: Culture, History, Language, Meaning of Life, Psychology Cognition, Religion, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Good point. We are able to see all types of "makings" as mechanisms. The important question then might be "What type of mechanism?" rather than whether or not it is a mechanism.

    There is an elephant in the room, though. Most Believers assert that you need a more complex thing to make a less complex thing. Numerous examples from the natural world disprove that assumption. There is no reason to assume that simple things can't aggregate or emerge into higher order things. That is one of Daniel Dennett's recurring thoughts:

    Dennett sees this sort of argument as simply intellectually bankrupt. It is something he has long fought in philosophy; he calls it "Philosopher's Syndrome: mistaking a failure of imagination into an insight into necessity". To those who cannot understand how complexity can emerge from a simple process, Dennett replies: "Try harder". His work in philosophy of mind is largely devoted to showing that we can imagine such things, if only we try hard enough. Similarly, in much of Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Dennett tries to show that evolution by natural selection can explain natural history, without appealing for divine design.

    The above quote is from a short article by Kelby Mason. For more, see Consciousness Explained Penguin Books 1993

  2. Mechanisms for both types of 'creation' {from simple to complex and complex acting upon simple} would be instructive of what?

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