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Friday, November 20, 2015

Mother, Child, and Meat Machines

Check out this wonderful magnetic resonance image of a mother kissing her son, along with Rebecca Saxe's brief description of the circumstances.

Looking at the image, I had the semi-conscious thought, "here's one sack of bone and soft tissue that loves another sack of bone and soft tissue." It's very hard to reconcile, I think, our understanding of ourselves both as persons that can love and as physical organisms that can love. Yesterday, in a comment, I described humans as meat machines. I'm not very fond of that expression, but I think it captures a side of ourselves that we sometimes prefer to ignore.

Posted by Adam Kolber on November 20, 2015 at 03:13 PM | Permalink

Comments

"It's very hard to reconcile, I think, our understanding of ourselves both as persons that can love and as physical organisms that can love."

I'm going to admit that this isn't my experience or feeling _at all_. After all, actual implies possible, and people seem to me to be very clearly animals of a certain sort, and animals are clearly organic machines on a straight-forward understanding. So, that we should be animals - organic machines, physical organisms - that love, think, feel, etc., seems completely obvious and unproblematic. Not seeing this both seems to be a result of being stuck inside a particular philosophical picture, and the cause of lots of bad philosophical views.

Posted by: Matt | Nov 20, 2015 6:27:11 PM

I believe that many people go about their lives ignoring the fact that we are mechanistic creatures. It's only on occasion, upon looking at an image like the one I linked to, for example, that we need to confront more directly our mechanistic nature. It sounds like you don't have such experiences. But either way, one need not muddy one's philosophical views with one's feelings of serendipity or je ne sais quoi. People who know they are standing on a terrace seventy stories above the ground can get a queasy, anxious feeling despite believing that they are completely safe. (I'm following along the lines Tamar Gendler uses to distinguish beliefs and aliefs).

As an empirical matter, you may be right, that people frequently do muddy the philosophical waters on matters like the one discussed here. I aspire to not be part of that generalization.

Posted by: Adam Kolber | Nov 20, 2015 9:11:54 PM

A posthuman perspective that's related:

“You, a speck of dust, an electric chair, and a solar flare are all equal objects.” This almost sounds like a neat idea, until you pause to consider its ethical implications. “You” may indeed get a kick out of comparing yourself to a speck of dust or a solar flare. But substitute “you” for pretty much anyone else on the planet and you begin to see how dehumanizing “posthumanism” can be.

https://artforum.com/inprint/issue=201509&id=55519

Posted by: Posthumanist Monist | Nov 21, 2015 11:29:08 AM

Interesting point, Posthumanist Monist! Thanks for sharing that quote.

Posted by: Adam Kolber | Nov 23, 2015 6:45:23 AM

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