The Brain and the Inner World p.94

When one starts thinking about the problem of consciousness in the way that Damasio suggests, the question of whether or not a machine can be conscious begins to appear rather ridiculous. Some day this question might only be asked by people who are unfamiliar with the essential neuroscientific facts about consciousness. Consciousness has everything to do with being embodied, with awareness of one’s bodily state in relation to what is going on around one. Moreover, this mechanism seems to have evolved only because bodies have needs. Consciousness is therefore deeply rooted in a set of ancient biological values. These values are what feelings are, and consciousness is feeling. It is therefore very difficult to imagine how, why, and where a disembodied machine would generate consciousness. This does not rule out the possibility of an artificial system with self-monitoring properties. But the self that it monitors would have to be a body (and preferably one with a long evolutionary history) if it is really going to generate feelings.

 

Mark Solms – The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of the Subjective Experience p.94

 

 

 

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Love and Its Place in Nature p.214

For Aristotle, every living organism is a composite of form and matter. Form is an active force in the organism for the development of structure. Form, that is, promotes the development of form in living things. Form thus exists at various levels of organization. In the embryo or youth, form exists as a potentiality or force for development. A mature adult’s form, by contrast, is a completed structure. It is an active mode of functioning which preserves that structure. Now, as the living organism acquires structure, it becomes more intelligible. It is in the healthy functioning adult that the inquiring scientist can discover the principles or organization of that species. Only then can he understand what the youthful striving to acquire form was a striving toward.

It is as though the developing organism is striving to be understood. Aristotle took this possibility seriously. As the scientist studies the principles of organization and functioning of a living organism, these principles impress themselves on the inquiring scientist’s mind. His mind comes to reflect the structure he has discovered in the organism. A mind that has understood the form and is actively thinking it has itself taken on the form it is thinking. And as he teaches others about this structure, he is expressing the form itself, now at the level of thought. Mind actively contemplating form is the form itself at its highest level of activity. Living creatures, in striving to grow and acquire form, are doing the best job they can to imitate God’s activity. In striving to imitate God, they are striving to be understood. Humans distinguish themselves from the rest of nature by the fact that they can participate in the divine activity of understanding.

 

Jonathan Lear – Love and Its Place in Nature p.214

Leading a Worthy Life p.132

Although we know from biological science the equal contributions that both parents make to the genetic identity of a child, it is still true to say that the mother is the “more natural” parent, the parent by birth. A woman can give up a child for adoption, or, thanks to modern reproductive technologies, can even bear a child not genetically her own. But there is no way to deny out of whose body the new life sprung, whose substance it fed on, who labored to produce it, who wondrously bore it forth. The father’s role in all this is minuscule and invisible, in contrast to the mother, there is no naturally manifest way to demonstrate his responsibility.

The father is thus a parent more by choice and agreement than by nature (and not only because he cannot know with absolute certainty that the woman’s child is indeed his own). One can thus explain the giving of the paternal surname if the following way: the father symbolically announces “his choice” that the child is his, fully and freely accepting responsibility for its conception and, more importantly, for its protection and support, and answering in advance the vital question: Who’s my dad?

The husband who gives his name to his bride in marriage is thus not just keeping his own; he is owning up to what it means to have been given a family and a family name by his own father. He is living out his destiny to be a father by saying yes to it in advance. And the wife does not so much surrender her name as accept the gift of his, given and received as a pledge of (among other things) loyal and responsible fatherhood for her children. A woman who reuses this gift is, whether she knows it or not, refusing the promised devotion or, worse, expressing her suspicions about her groom’s trustworthiness as a husband and prospective father.

Patrilineal surnames are, in truth, less a sign of paternal prerogative than of paternal duty and commitment, reinforced psychologically by gratifying the father’s vanity in the perpetuation of his name and by offering this nominal incentive to fulfill his obligation to mother and child. This naming custom enables the father to become explicitly the parent-by-choice that he, more than the mother, must necessarily be. Fathers who will not own up to their paternity, who will not “legitimate” their offspring, and who will not name themselves responsible for childrearing by giving their children their name are not real fathers at all, and their children suffer. The former stigmatization of bastardy was, in truth, meant  to protect women and children from such irresponsible behavior.

 

Leon R. Kass – Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times p.132

The Angels and Us p.148

The third view, advanced by Aristotle, attempted to correct what he thought to be the errors in the two extreme views. In his conception of human nature, man is neither just a body or a collocation of atoms nor a union of two quite distinct and separable substances, one material and the other spiritual – one a body and the other a rational soul or mind.

In Aristotle’s view, man is a single substance and, in that respect, is like every other individual thing in the physical cosmos. However, unlike every other corporeal substance, man, as a single substance, is composite of matter and spirit, of material and immaterial aspects – the immaterial aspect consisting in the intellectual power that distinguishes man  from other animals.

According to this third view, man is neither entirely a material thing, composed of elementary particles of matter or quanta of energy, nor is he compounded of two substances as alien to one another as body and soul or matter and mind. He is a living organism like any other animal, but he is distinguished from all other animals by virtue of having a mind or intellect – the powers and operation of which cannot be explained by the action of the brain.

Brain action is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for the occurrence of mental operations or processes. There is, in short, something immaterial about man, something spiritual in the sense that it is not reducible to bodily parts or movements and not explicable entirely by reference to them.

 

Mortimer J. Adler – The Angels and Us p.148

Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity p.269

Why do so many teach the promise of life after death, of something eternal, of something imperishable? This takes us to the heart of the matter.

What is the meaning of this concern with immortality? Why do we human being seek immortality? Why do we want to live longer or forever? Is it really first and most because we do not want to die, because we do not want to leave this embodied life on earth or give up our earthly pastimes, because we want to see more and do more? I do not think so. This may be what we say, but it is not what we finally mean, Morality as such is not our defect, nor bodily immortality our goal, Rather, mortality is at most a pointer, a derivative manifestation, or an accompaniment of some deeper deficiency. The promise of immortality and eternity answers rather to a deep truth about the human soul: the human soul yearns for, longs for, aspires to some condition, some state, some goal toward which our earthly activities are directed but which cannot be attained in earthly life. Our soul’s reach exceeds our grasp; it seeks more than continuance; it reaches for something beyond us, something that for the most part eludes us. Our distress with mortality is derivative manifestation of the conflict between the transcendent longings of the soul and the all-too-finite powers and fleshly concerns of the body.

What is it that we lack and long for, but cannot reach?

 

Leon R. Kass – Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics p.269

Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity p.241

Human beings, alone among the earthly creatures, speak, plan, create, contemplate and judge. Human beings, alone among the creatures, can articulate a future goal and bring it into being by their own purposive conduct. Human beings, alone among the creatures, can think about the whole, marvel at its articulated order, and feel awe in beholding its grandeur and in pondering the mystery of its source.

 

Leon R. Kass – Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics p.241

Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity p.135

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the challenge came in the form of Darwinism and its seeming opposition to biblical religion, a battle initiated not so much by the scientists as by the beleaguered defenders of orthodoxy. In our own time, the challenge comes from molecular biology, behavioral genetics and evolutionary psychology, fueled by their practitioners’ overconfident belief in the sufficiency of their reductionist explanations of all vital and human phenomena. Never mind “created in the image of God”; what elevated humanistic view of human life or human goodness is defensible against the belief, asserted by most public and prophetic voices of biology, that man is just a collection of molecules, an accident on the stage of evolution, a freakish speck of mind in a mindless universe, fundamentally no different from other living – or even nonliving – things?  What chance have our treasured ideas of freedom and dignity against the reductive notion of “the selfish gene” (or, for that matter, of “genes for altruism”), the belief that DNA is the essence of life, or the teaching that all human behavior and our rich inner life are rendered intelligible only in terms of their contributions to species survival and reproductive success?

 

Leon R. Kass – Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics p.135