Swimming around in a mixture of language and matter, humans occupy a particular evolutionary niche mediated by something we call 'consciousness'. To Professor Nicholas Humphrey we're made up of "soul dust
": "a kind of theatre... an entertainment which we put on for ourselves inside our own heads." But just as that theatre is directed by the relationship between language and matter, it is also undermined by it
. It all depends how you think it.
posted by 0bvious
on Feb 4, 2011 -
The Lucretian swerve: The biological basis of human behavior and the criminal justice system
As de Duve has written, “If … neuronal events in the brain determine behavior, irrespective of whether they are conscious or unconscious, it is hard to find room for free will. But if free will does not exist, there can be no responsibility, and the structure of human societies must be revised”.
Ben Libet & free will, previously on metafilter. (And more on: Lucretius, Dualism, Philosophy of mind, and Free Will 1, 2.)
posted by scalespace
on Jul 6, 2010 -
Sparks of Life.
"That the electric 'spark of life' figured prominently in debates over the nature of life in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is well known. Less well known is the fact that prior to this period, gunpowder was often identified with the substances that were necessary to life, if not as a vitalistic spirit, then as an essential element in the animation of the body. The idea of a spark of life went back to ancient times, likening living beings to the glowing embers of a fire. In the Old Testament, for example, the wise woman of Tekoah begs for the life of her son, pleading 'they will stamp out my last live ember.' But from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, this vital flame was often equated with gunpowder. There was fire in the blood: not electric, but pyrotechnic fire."
posted by homunculus
on Feb 20, 2009 -
Rutgers professor of philosophy Jerry Fodor created a bit of a stir
last October when he wrote an article for the London Review of Books arguing that natural selection may not be such a great theory after all, and that a "major revision of evolutionary theory... is in the offing." Not many fellow philosophers and academics agree
, it seems. Fodor responds to his critics here
. Six months later, it's still not entirely clear whether his argument is, as Justin E.H. Smith put it
, "irresponsible and stupid or so subtle that none of his adversaries, defending a status quo interpretation of the theory of natural selection, have been able to get it yet."
posted by decoherence
on May 6, 2008 -