> I think a conversation like this cannot proceed without a careful definition
> of terms.
>What do we mean by machine?
I'd venture another position that might resolve some of these contradictions, if we consider the mechanical not in terms of something made but in terms of 'mechanisms' we may move closer to something workable (the OED entry for mechanical runs to almoist a full column). In these terms I'm thinking of folk such as Kaufmann who suggests that life is an inevitable product of chemical systems that create emergent systems... or more simply the things we see in things such as Conways Game of life. The interesting things about complex systems is that they themselves can generate novelty and as such are not themselves characteristically bound to the simple mechanisms that underpin them. There's a lot of really interesting works in robotics in this field and one of the reason I wanted to meet Rodney Brooks when we went to Boston.
>Secondly, although the fashionable debate at the moment is about questioning
>mind/body dualism (expressed in terms such as embodied cognition) to me, for
>a long time, the more interesting question has concerned the self/other
In itself this needs more carefully defining as this too seems to be based on a false dualism, what needs to be achieved is a more subtle understanding of the ontological basis of such assertions.,
>The mind/body debate is premised on the assumption that we are
>individual organisms and beings.
No its not - it is based on the notion that thought and extension are different substances. Within this debate the notion of the assurity of thought over and above physical experience has taken presidence (Descartes' Cogito ergo sum - and the concept of the evil genius)
> I would argue that this assumption may not
>be correct and that we might not exist as individuals but rather as
>instances of being. I do not mean by this some sort of Platonic holism,
>where we are each an instance of some sort of ideal,
Plato is part of the problem, there are the ideal forms, associated with thought, which is 'corrupted' by our embodied experience.
> but rather that we
>exist primarily as social and cultural beings, where we are brought into
>being through our social relations.
This is a strong statement, and if we are to be careful about our definitions this needs to be questioned. I don't think we are 'brought into being' by social relations otherwise this implies the sort of creationsim you are disputing, but equally I don't think there are individuals, however if ontological understanding is to be achieved it is more closely aligned to complexity than to the reductionism we all seem to be disputing... one might say they're a part of a complex system but the terms part and whole in themselves invoke an inappropriate reductionsim.
>Assuming this sort of position leads to a pretty messy
>scenario, where the delicate probings of the anthropologist are probably
>more useful than those of the engineer. Again, a mechanistic approach to
>this world-view would be too simplistic.
It all depends on the assumptions of the anthroplogist or engineer...
>I would argue that to consider ourselves to be machines invokes more
>immediately the creationist debates Paul feels his posiiton avoids (see my
>first argument above, about machines requiring a maker).
>As such I completely disagree (with respect) with Paul¹s position and would
>ask him to define what he means by machine.
Paul might well disagree with my position but I thought it might be useful to pull some of these issues apart, and besides which when my marking workload hits on Monday I may not be able to contiunue with the debate!...
all the best
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