The stove, the kettle and the water being given, with a certain interval of duration, it seems to me that the boiling, which experience showed. What is there at the base of this belief? Notice that the belief is more or less assured, according as the case may be, but that it is forced upon the mind as an absolute necessity when the microcosm considered contains only magnitudes.
If two numbers be given, I am not free to choose their difference. If two sides of a triangle and the contained angle are given, the third side arises of itself and the triangle completes itself automatically. I can, it matters not where and it matters not when, trace the same two sides containing the same angle: it is evident that the new triangles so formed can be superposed on the first, and that consequently the same third side will come to complete the system. Now, if my certitude is perfect in the case in which I reason on pure space determinations, must I not suppose that, in the other cases, the certitude is greater the nearer it approaches this extreme case?
Indeed, may it not be the limiting case which is seen through all the others and which colors them, accordingly as they are more or less transparent, with a more or less pronounced tinge of geometrical necessity? But my imagination acts thus only because it shuts its eyes to two essential points. For the. Induction therefore implies first that, in the world of the physicist as in that of the geometrician, time does not count. But it implies also that qualities can be superposed on each other like magnitudes.
If, in imagination, I place the stove and fire of to-day on that of yesterday, I find indeed that the form has remained the same; it suffices, for that, that the surfaces and edges coincide; but what is the coincidence of two qualities, and how can they be superposed one on another in order to ensure that they are identical? Yet I extend to the second order of reality all that applies to the first. The physicist legitimates this operation later on by reducing, as far as possible, differences of quality to differences of magnitude; but, prior to all science, I incline to liken qualities to quantities, as if I perceived behind the qualities, as through a transparency, a geometrical mechanism.
Our inductions are certain, to our eyes, in the exact degree in which we make the qualitative differences melt into the homogeneity of the space which subtends them, so that geometry is the ideal limit of our inductions as well as of our deductions. The movement at the end of which is spatiality lays down along its course the faculty of induction as well as that of deduction, in fact, intellectuality entire.
It creates them in the mind. But it creates also, in things, the "order" which our induction, aided by de-. This order, on which our action leans and in which our intellect recognizes itself, seems to us marvelous. Not only do the same general causes always produce the same general effects, but beneath the visible causes and effects our science discovers an infinity of infinitesimal changes which work more and more exactly into one another, the further we push the analysis: so much so that, at the end of this analysis, matter becomes, it seems to us, geometry itself.
Certainly, the intellect is right in admiring here the growing order in the growing complexity; both the one and the other must have a positive reality for it, since it looks upon itself as positive. But things change their aspect when we consider the whole of reality as an undivided advance forward to successive creations. It seems to us, then, that the complexity of the material elements and the mathematical order that binds them together must arise automatically when within the whole a partial interruption or inversion is produced.
Moreover, as the intellect itself is cut out of mind by a process of the same kind, it is attuned to this order and complexity, and admires them because it recognizes itself in them. But what is admirable in itself, what really deserves to provoke wonder, is the ever-renewed creation which reality, whole and undivided, accomplishes in advancing; for no complication of the mathematical order with itself, however elaborate we may suppose it, can introduce an atom of novelty into the world, whereas this power of creation once given and it exists, for we are conscious of it in ourselves, at least when we act freely has only to be diverted from itself to relax its tension, only to relax its tension to extend, only to extend for the mathematical order of the elements so distinguished and the inflexible determinism connecting them to manifest the interruption of the creative act: in fact, inflexible determinism.
It is this merely negative tendency that the particular laws of the physical world express. None of them, taken separately, has objective reality; each is the work of an investigator who has regarded things from a certain bias, isolated certain variables, applied certain conventional units of measurement. And yet there is an order approximately mathematical immanent in matter, an objective order, which our science approaches in proportion to its progress.
For if matter is a relaxation of the inextensive into the extensive and, thereby, of liberty into necessity, it does not indeed wholly coincide with pure homogeneous space, yet is constituted by the movement which leads to space, and is therefore on the way to geometry. It is true that laws of mathematical form will never apply to it completely.
For that, it would have to be pure space and step out of duration. We cannot insist too strongly that there is something artificial in the mathematical form of a physical law, and consequently in our scientific knowledge of things. But we may go further. In a general way, measuring is a wholly human operation, which implies that we really or ideally superpose two objects one on another a certain number of times. Nature did not dream of this superposition. It does not measure , nor does it count.
Yet physics counts, measures, relates "quantitative" variations to one another to obtain laws, and it succeeds. Its success would be inexplicable ,. To effect this prolongation of the movement, our intellect has only to let itself go, for it runs naturally to space and mathematics, intellectuality and materiality being of the same nature and having been produced in the same way.
If the mathematical order were a positive thing, if there were, immanent in matter, laws comparable to those of our codes, the success of our science would have in it something of the miraculous. What chances should we have indeed of finding the standard of nature and of isolating exactly, in order to determine their reciprocal relations, the very variables which nature has chosen? But the success of a science of mathematical form would be no less incomprehensible, if matter did not already possess everything necessary to adapt itself to our formulae.
One hypothesis only, therefore, remains plausible, namely, that the mathematical order is nothing positive, that it is the form toward which a certain interruption tends of itself, and that materiality consists precisely in an interruption of this kind. We shall understand then why our science is contingent, relative to the variables it has chosen, relative to the order in which it has successively put the problems, and why nevertheless it succeeds.
It might have been, as a whole, altogether different, and yet have succeeded. This is so, just because there is no definite system of mathematical laws , at the base of nature, and because mathematics in general represents simply the side to which matter inclines. Put one of those little cork dolls with leaden feet in any posture, lay it on its back, turn it up on its head, throw it into the air: it will always.
So likewise with matter: we can take it by any end and handle it in any way, it will always fall back into some one of our mathematical formulae because it is weighted with geometry. But the philosopher will perhaps refuse to found a theory of knowledge on such considerations. They will be repugnant to him, because the mathematical order being order, will appear to him to contain something' Positive.
It is in vain that we assert that this order Produces itself automatically by the interruption of the inverse order, that it is this very interruption. The idea persists, none the less, that there might be no order at all , and that the mathematical order of things, being a conquest over disorder, possesses a positive reality. In examining this point, we shall see what a prominent part the idea of disorder plays in problems relative to the theory of knowledge.
It does not appear explicitly, and that is why it escapes our attention. It is, however , with the criticism of this idea that a theory of knowledge ought to begin, for if the great problem is to know why and how reality submits itself to an order, it is because the absence of every kind of order appears possible or conceivable. It is this absence of order that realists and idealists alike believe they are thinking of-the realist when he speaks of the regularity that "objective" laws actually impose on a virtual disorder of nature, the idealist when he supposes a "sensuous manifold" which is coordinated and consequently itself without order under the organizing influence of our undemanding, The idea of disorder, in the sense of absence of order, is then what must be analyzed first.
Philosophy borrows it from daily life. And it is unquestionable that, when ordinarily we speak of disorder, we are thinking of something. But of what? It will be seen in the next chapter how hard it is to determine the content of a negative idea, and what illusions one is liable to, what hopeless difficulties philosophy falls into, for not having undertaken this task.
Difficulties and illusions are generally due to this, that we accept as final a manner of expression essentially provisional. They are due to our bringing into the domain of speculation a procedure made for practice. If I choose a volume in my library at random, I may put it back on the shelf after glancing at it and say, "This is not verse. Obviously not. I have not seen, I never shall see, an absence of verse.
I have seen prose.
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But as it is poetry I want, I express what I find as a function of what I am looking for, and instead of saying, "This is prose," I say, "This is not verse. Now, if Mons. Jourdain heard me, he would infer, no doubt, from my two exclamations that prose and poetry are two forms of language reserved for books, and that these learned forms have come and overlaid a language which was neither prose nor verse.
Speaking of this thing which is neither verse nor prose, he would suppose, moreover, that he was thinking of it: it would be only a pseudoidea, however.
Let us go further still: the pseudoidea would create a pseudo-problem, if M. Jourdain were to ask his professor of philosophy how the prose form and the poetry form have been superadded to that which possessed neither the one nor the other, and if he wished the professor to construct a theory of the imposition of. His question would be absurd, and the absurdity would lie in this, that he was hypostasizing as the substratum of prose and poetry the simultaneous negation of both, forgetting that the negation of the one consists in the affirmation of the other.
Now, suppose that there are two species of order, and that these two orders are two contraries within one and the same genus. Suppose also that the idea of disorder arises in our mind whenever, seeking one of the two kinds of order, we find the other. The idea of disorder would then have a clear meaning in the current practice of life: it would objectify, for the convenience of language, the disappointment of a mind that finds before it an order different from what it wants, an order with which it is not concerned at the moment, and which, in this sense, does not exist for it.
But the idea would not admit a theoretical use. So if we claim, notwithstanding, to introduce it into philosophy, we shall inevitably lose sight of its true meaning. It denotes the absence of a certain order, but to the profit of another with which we are not concerned ; only, as it applies to each of the two in turn , and as it even goes and comes continually between the two, we take it on the way, or rather on the wing, like a shuttlecock between two battledores, and treat it as if it represented, not the absence of the one or other order as the case may be, but the absence of both together -- a thing that is neither perceived nor conceived, a simple verbal entity.
So there arises the problem how order is imposed on disorder, form on matter. In analyzing the idea of disorder thus subtilized, we shall see. It is true that we must begin by distinguishing, and even by opposing one to the other, two kinds of order. As this confusion has created the principal difficulties of the problem of knowledge, it will not be useless to dwell once more on the marks by which the two orders are distinguished.
In a general way, reality is ordered exactly to the degree in which it satisfies our thought. Order is therefore a certain agreement between subject and object. It is the mind finding itself again in things. But the mind, we said, can go in two opposite ways. Sometimes it follows its natural direction: there is then progress in the form of tension, continuous creation, free activity. Sometimes it inverts it, and this inversion, pushed to the end, leads to extension, to the necessary reciprocal determination of elements externalized each by relation to the others, in short, to geometrical mechanism.
Now, whether experience seems to us to adopt the first direction or whether it is drawn in the direction of the second, in both cases we say there is order, for in the two processes the mind finds itself again. The confusion between them is therefore natural. To escape it, different names would have to be given to the two kinds of order, and that is not easy, because of the variety and variability of the forms they take.
The order of the second kind may be defined as geometry, which is its extreme limit; more generally, it is that kind of order that is concerned whenever a relation of necessary determination is found between causes and effects. It evokes ideas of inertia, of passivity, of automatism. As to the first kind of order, it oscillates no doubt around finality; and yet we cannot define it as finality, for it is sometimes above, sometime-, below. Tn its highest forms, it is more than finality, for of a free action or a work of art we may say that they show a perfect order, and yet they can only be expressed in terms of ideas approximately, and after the event.
Life in its entirety, regarded as a. The category of finality is therefore too narrow for life in its entirety. It is, on the other hand, often too wide for a particular manifestation of life taken separately. Be that as it may, it is with the vital that we have here to do, and the whole present study strives to prove that the 'vital is in the direction of the voluntary. We may say then that this first kind of order is that of the vital or of the willed, in opposition to the second, which is that of the inert and the automatic.
Common sense instinctively distinguishes between the two kinds of order, at least in the extreme cases; instinctively, also, it brings them together. We say of astronomical phenomena that they manifest an admirable order, meaning by this that they can be foreseen mathematically. And we find an order no less admirable in a symphony of Beethoven, which is genius, originality, and therefore unforeseeability itself. But it is exceptional for order of the first kind to take so distinct a form.
Ordinarily, it presents features that we have every interest in confusing with those of the opposite order. It is quite certain, for instance, that if we could view the evolution of life in its entirety, the spontaneity of its movement and the unforeseeability of its procedures would thrust themselves on our attention. But what we meet in our daily experience is a certain determinate living being, certain special manifestations of life, which repeat, almost, forms and facts already known; indeed, the similarity of structure that we find everywhere between what generates and what is generated-- a similarity that enables us to include any number of living individuals in the same group--is to our.
Thus the vital order, such as it is offered to us piecemeal in experience, presents the same character and performs the same function as the physical order: both cause experience to repeat itself, both enable our mind to generalize. In reality, this character has entirely different origins in the two cases , and even opposite meanings.
In the second case, the type of this character, its ideal limit, as also its foundation, is the geometrical necessity in virtue of which the same components give the same resultant. In the first case, this character involves, on the contrary, the intervention of something which manages to obtain the same total effect although the infinitely complex elementary causes may be quite different.
We insisted on this last point in our first chapter, when we showed how identical structures are to be met with on independent lines of evolution. But, without looking so far, we may presume that the reproduction only of the type of the ancestor by his descendants is an entirely different thing from the repetition of the same composition of forces which yields an identical resultant. When we think of the infinity of infinitesimal elements and of infinitesimal causes that concur in the genesis of a living being, when we reflect that the absence or the deviation of one of them would spoil everything, the first impulse of the mind is to consider this army of little workers as watched over by a skilled foreman, the "vital principle," which is ever repairing faults, correcting effects of neglect or absentmindedness, putting things back in place: this is how We try to express the difference between the physical and the vital order, the former making the same combination of causes give the same combined effect, the latter securing the constancy of the effect even when there is some wavering.
But that is only a comparison; on reflection, we find that there can be no foreman, for the very simple reason that there are no workers. The causes and elements that physico-chemical analysis discovers are real causes and elements, no doubt, as far as the facts of organic destruction are concerned; they are then limited in number. But vital phenomena, properly so called, or facts of organic creation open up to us, when we analyze them, the perspective of an analysis passing away to infinity: whence it may be inferred that the manifold causes and elements are here only views of the mind, attempting an ever closer and closer imitation of the operation of nature, while the operation imitated is an indivisible act.
The likeness between individuals of the same species has thus an entirely different meaning, an entirely different origin, to that of the likeness between complex effects obtained by the same composition of the same causes. But in the one case as in the other, there is likeness, and consequently possible generalization. And as that is all that interests us in practice, since our daily life is and must be an expectation of the same things and the same situations, it is natural that this common character, essential from the point of view of our action, should bring the two orders together, in spite of a merely internal diversity between them which interests speculation only.
Hence the idea of a general order of nature, everywhere the same, hovering over life and over matter alike. Hence our habit of designating by the same word and representing in the same way the existence of laws in the domain of inert, matter and that of genera in the domain of life. Now, it will be found that this confusion is the origin of most of the difficulties raised by the problem of knowledge, among the ancients as well as among the modems.
The generality of laws and that of genera having been. According to the point of view, the generality of laws is explained by that of genera, or that of genera by that of laws. The first view is characteristic of ancient thought; the second belongs to modem philosophy. But in both ancient and modern philosophy the idea of "generality" is an equivocal idea, uniting in its denotation and in its connotation incompatible objects and elements.
In both there are grouped under the same concept two kinds of order which are alike only in the facility they give to our action on things. We bring together the two terms in virtue of a quite external likeness, which justifies no doubt their designation by the same word for practice, but which does not authorize us at all, in the speculative domain, to confuse them in the same definition. The ancients, indeed, did not ask why nature submits to laws, but why it is ordered according to genera. The idea of genus corresponds more especially to an objective reality in the domain of life, where it expresses an unquestionable fact, heredity.
Indeed, there can only be genera where there are individual objects; now, while the organized being is cut out from the general mass of matter by his very organization, that is to say naturally, it is our perception which cuts inert matter into distinct bodies. It is guided in this by the interests of action, by the nascent reactions that our body indicates-that is, as we have shown elsewhere, by the potential genera that are trying to gain existence.
In this, then, genera and individuals determine one another by a semi-artificial operation entirely relative to our future action on things. Nevertheless the ancients did not hesitate to put all genera. Reality thus being a system of genera, it is to the generality of the genera that is, in effect, to the generality expressive of the vital order that the generality of laws itself had to be brought. It is interesting, in this respect, to compare the Aristotelian theory of the fall of bodies with the explanation furnished by Galileo. Aristotle is concerned solely with the concepts "high" and "low," "own proper place" as distinguished from "place occupied," "natural movement" and "forced movement ;" the physical law in virtue of which the stone falls expresses for him that the stone regains the "natural place" of all stones, to wit, the earth.
The stone, in his view, is not quite stone so long as it is not in its normal place; in falling back into this place it aims at completing itself, like a living being that grows, thus realizing fully the essence of the genus stone. We know what kind of physics grew out of this, and how, for having believed in a science unique and final, embracing the totality of the real and at one with the absolute, the ancients were confined, in fact, to a more or less clumsy interpretation of the physical in terms of the vital. But there is the same confusion in the moderns, with this difference, however, that the relation between the.
A noteworthy fact is the eclipse of the problem of genera in modern philosophy. Our theory of knowledge turns almost entirely on the question of laws: genera are left to make shift with laws as best they can. The reason is, that modern philosophy has its point of departure in the great astronomical and physical discoveries of modern times. The laws of Kepler and of Galileo have remained for it the ideal and unique type of all knowledge. Now, a law is a relation between things or between facts. More precisely, a law of mathematical form expresses the fact that a certain magnitude is a function of one or several other variables appropriately chosen.
Now, the choice of the variable magnitudes, the distribution of nature into objects and into facts, has already something of the contingent and the conventional. But, admitting that the choice is hinted at, if not prescribed, by experience, the law remains none the less a relation, and a relation is essentially a comparison; it has objective reality only for an intelligence that represents to itself several terms at the same time.
This intelligence may be neither mine nor yours: a science which bears on laws may therefore be an objective science, which experience contains in advance and which we simply make it disgorge; but it is none the less true that a comparison of some kind must be effected here, impersonally if not by any one in particular, and that an experience made of laws, that is, of terms related to other terms, is an experience made of comparisons, which, before we receive it, has already had to pass through an atmosphere of intellectuality. The idea of a science and of an experience entirely relative to the.
But this conception is the result of an arbitrary confusion between the generality of laws and that of genera. Though an intelligence be necessary to condition terms by relation to each other, we may conceive that in certain cases the terms themselves may exist independently. And if, beside relations of term to term, experience also presents to us independent terms, the living genera being something quite different from systems of laws, one half, at least, of our knowledge bears on the " thing-in-itself," the very reality.
This knowledge may be very difficult, just because it no longer builds up its own object and is obliged, on the contrary, to submit to it; but, however little it cuts into its object, it is into the absolute itself that it bites. We may go further: the other half of knowledge is no longer so radically, so definitely relative as certain philosophers say, if we can establish that it bears on a reality of inverse order, a reality which we always express in mathematical laws, that is to say in relations that imply comparisons, but which lends itself to this work only because it is weighted with spatiality and consequently with geometry.
Be that as it may, it is the confusion of two kinds of order that lies behind the relativism of the modems, as it lay behind the dogmatism of the ancients. We have said enough to mark the origin of this confusion. It is due to the fact that the "vital" order, which is essentially creation, is manifested to us less in its essence than in some of its accidents, those which imitate the physical and geometrical order; like it, they present to us repetitions that make generalization possible, and in that we have all that interests us.
There is no doubt that life as a whole is an evolution, that is, an unceasing. But life can progress only by means of the living, which are its depositaries. Innumerable living beings, almost alike, have to repeat each other in space and in time for the novelty they are working out to grow and mature. There is, however, this difference between the two cases, that the successive impressions are identical, as well as the simultaneous copies of the same impression, whereas representatives Of one and the same species are never entirely the same, either in different points of space or at different moments of time.
Heredity does not only transmit characters; it transmits also the, impetus in virtue of which the characters are modified, and this impetus is vitality itself. That is why we say that the repetition which serves as the base of our generalizations is essential in the physical order, accidental in the vital order. The physical order is " automatic;" the vital order is, I will not say voluntary, but analogous to the order "willed.
Now, as soon as we have clearly distinguished between the order that is "willed" and the order that is ,,automatic," the ambiguity that underlies the idea of disorder is dissipated, a-ad, with it, one of the principal difficulties of the problem of knowledge. The main problem of the theory of knowledge is to know how science is possible, that is to say, in effect, why there is order and not disorder in things.
That order exists is a fact. But, on the other hand, disorder, which appears to us to be less than order, is, it seems, of right. The existence of order is then a mystery to be cleared up, at any rate a problem to be solved. More simply, when we undertake to found order, we regard it as contingent, if not in things.
If order did not appear to us as a conquest over something, or as an addition to something which something is thought to be the "absence of order" , ancient realism would not have spoken of a "matter" to which the Idea superadded. Now, it is unquestionable that all order is contingent, and conceived as such. But contingent in relation to what.? The reply, to our thinking, is not doubtful. An order is contingent, and seems so, in relation to the inverse order, as verse is contingent in relation to prose and prose in relation to verse. But, just as all speech which is not prose is verse and necessarily conceived as verse, just as all speech which is not verse is prose and necessarily conceived as prose, so any state of things that is not one of the two orders is the other and is necessarily conceived as the other.
But it may happen that we do not realize what we are actually thinking of, and perceive the idea really present to our mind only through a mist of affective states. Any one can be convinced of this by considering the use we make of the idea of disorder in daily life.
When I enter a room and pronounce it to be "in disorder," what do I mean? The position of each object is explained by the automatic movements of the person who has slept in the room, or by the efficient causes, whatever they may be, that have caused each article of furniture, clothing, etc. But it is order of the first kind that I am expecting, the order that a methodical person consciously puts into his life, the willed order and not the automatic: so I call the absence of this order "disorder.
But the second is indifferent to me, I am interested only in the first, and I express the presence of the second as a function of the first, instead of expressing it, so to speak, as a function of itself, by saying it is disorder. Inversely, when we affirm that we are imagining a chaos, that is to say a state of things in which the physical world no longer obeys laws, what are we thinking of? We imagine facts that appear and disappear capriciously. First we think of the physical universe as we know it, with effects and causes well proportioned to each other; then, by a series of arbitrary decrees, we augment, diminish, suppress, so as to obtain what we call disorder.
In reality we have substituted will for the mechanism of nature; we have replaced the "automatic order" by a multitude of elementary wills, just to the extent that we imagine the apparition or vanishing of phenomena. No doubt, for all these little wills to constitute a "willed order," they must have accepted the direction of a higher will. But, on looking closely at them, we see that that is just what they do: our own will is there, which objectifies itself in each of these capricious wills in turn, and takes good care not to connect the same with the same, nor to permit the effect to be proportional to the cause--in fact makes one simple intention hover over the whole of the elementary volitions.
Thus, here again, the absence of one of the two orders consists in the presence of the other. In analyzing the idea of chance, which is closely akin to the idea of disorder, we find the same elements. When the wholly mechanical play of the causes which stop the wheel on a number makes me win, and consequently acts like a good genius, careful of my interests, or when the wholly mechanical force of the wind tears a tile off the roof and throws it on to my head, that is to say acts like.
That is what I express in speaking of chance. And of an anarchical world, in which phenomena succeed each other capriciously, I should say again that it is a realm of chance, meaning that I find before me wills, or rather decrees, when what I am expecting is mechanism. Thus is explained the singular vacillation of the mind when it tries to define chance. Neither efficient cause nor final cause can furnish the definition sought.
The mind swings to and fro, unable to rest, between the idea of an absence of final cause and that of an absence of efficient cause, each of these definitions sending it back to the other. The problem remains insoluble, in fact, so long as the idea of chance is regarded as a pure idea, without mixture of feeling. But, in reality, chance merely objectifies the state of mind of one who, expecting one of the two kinds of order, finds himself confronted with the other.
Chance and disorder are therefore necessarily conceived as relative. So if we wish to represent them to ourselves as absolute, we perceive that we are going to and fro like a shuttle between the two kinds of order, passing into the one just at the moment at which we might catch ourself in the other, and that the supposed absence of all order is really the presence of both, with, besides, the swaying of a mind that cannot rest finally in either. Neither in things nor in our idea of things can there be any question of presenting this disorder as the substratum of order, since it implies the two kinds of order and is made of their combination.
But our intelligence is not stopped by this. By a simple sic jubeo it posits a disorder which is an "absence of order. If it seeks to attach an idea to the word, it finds that disorder may indeed be the negation of order, but that this negation is then the implicit affirmation of the presence of the opposite order, which we shut our eyes to because it does not interest us, or which we evade by denying the second order in its turn-that is, at bottom, by re-establishing the first. How can we speak, then, of an incoherent diversity which an understanding organizes?
It is no use for us to say that no one supposes this incoherence to be realized or realizable: when we speak of it, we believe we are thinking of it; now, in analyzing the idea actually present, we find, as we said before, only the disappointment of the mind confronted with an order that does not interest it, or a swaying of the mind between two kinds of order, or, finally, the idea pure and simple of the empty word that we have created by joining a negative prefix to a word which itself signifies something. But it is this analysis that we neglect to make.
One theory is interactive dualism , which aims to discover a precise mechanism which allows our physical brains to interact with our spirit-minds. Descartes knew enough about human anatomy to recognize the role that the human brain plays in conveying signals down our spinal chords and through our nerves to all parts of our bodies. If there is a master switchboard between our bodies and spirits, Descartes thought, it must be hidden somewhere in our brains. It also must be a single point in the brain that unifies the diverse signals that travel up and down our nerves. After some hunting, he suggested that it is the pineal gland.
This unique gland sits at the most inward parts of our brains, between both the right and left halves. Its precise physical location makes it the obvious candidate. In fact, it is not even part of the brain, and its function is to regulate a bodily hormone. Descartes did what he could with the scientific knowledge of his day, but it was not good enough. If we continue his hunt for an alternative master switchboard in the brain, we will be disappointed.
There is, it seems, no central location in the brain that receives all sensory information and initiates all bodily actions. Suppose that we could find a part of the brain where all its signals converged. We would still have to explain how information jumps back and forth from that physical piece of the brain to our spirit-minds. A second version of interactive dualism is that God shuttles information back and forth between my physical brain and spirit-mind, a view defended by French philosopher Nicholas Malebranche Malebranche examined different explanations of brain-spirit interaction and felt that they all failed for one basic reason: the physical and spirit realms are so radically different from each other that there is no neutral territory for them to interact.
Think of what it would take to turn a three-dimensional brain impulse into a non-three-dimensional perception in my spirit-mind. It would be as impossible as creating something out of thin air: there is no mechanism for doing this. It would require nothing less than a miracle to accomplish that task. That, according to Malebranche, is where God comes in. Return to the hissing rattlesnake example.
My eyes and ears pick up the sensory information about the snake, which triggers a bio-chemical reaction in my physical brain. God, who is watching all things, sees this physical reaction in my brain and makes a non-three-dimensional copy of it which he injects into my spirit-mind. When I decide to turn and run, God detects these wishes within my spirit-mind, and then triggers the appropriate bio-chemical reaction in my brain to get my muscles to move.
Thus, God is the mysterious switchboard between my physical brain and conscious spirit. Relying on God to bridge the two realms is a convenient solution. The problem is that it is too convenient. While it might at first seem that the solution to the mind-body dilemma requires nothing short of a miracle, that is giving up a little too easily. As long as there are non-miraculous solutions available, they need to be explored first, and there are plenty more that Malebranche had not yet considered.
If we followed his advice, then we might fall back on divine miracles as an explanation for anything that baffles us at the moment. A scientist in his day might speculate about why objects always fall downward as if by magic, and conclude that what we call "gravity" is just God pulling small objects towards the earth. This is not a good way of doing either science or philosophy. A third version of interactive dualism, called epiphenomenalism, holds that our bodies are completely self-reliant machines that can move, speak, and have brain activity, and our spirit-minds are only spectators that observe what our bodies are doing.
Epiphenomenalism is only a one-way interaction that delivers sensation from our physical bodies to our spirit-minds, but does not initiate any bodily movements in return from our minds to our bodies. The motivation behind this theory was scientific advancement: we want to ascribe as many human functions to our self-sustaining bodies as we possibly can, including the formation of unconscious brain activity in its fullest rational capacity.
The only task remaining for our spirit-minds is to be consciously aware of that brain activity. Similarly, our bodies and brains produce conscious thoughts in our spirit-minds, but our minds have no control or influence over what our bodies and brains do. There are two difficulties with epiphenomenalism.
First is that it does not fully solve the mind-body problem. By having only a one-direction interaction between a brain and its spirit mind, epiphenomenalism indeed solves half of the problem: there is no downward flow of data from spirit to brain that needs to be explained. However, there remains the problem of how data flows upward from the brain to the spirit, for there still is that barrier between but the three-dimensional brain and the non-three-dimensional spirit.
A second problem with epiphenomenalism is that, in the interest of scientific advancement in our study of human nature, we sacrifice any control over our bodies. I am a mere spectator of my conduct, with no conscious power to control what my body does or my mouth says. This runs contrary to my natural conviction that my conscious mind has at least some control over how my body speaks and behaves. Epiphenomenalism thus seems like a theory of last resort that we should adopt only if no better solutions to the mind-body problem are available.
A fourth version of interactive dualism, called gradualism , is a little more successful in explaining the details of mind-body interaction, without falling back on divine intervention. According to gradualists, Descartes and Malebranche made a faulty assumption about the physical and spirit realms, namely, that they are radically different in kind from each other, and there is no overlap between the two territories.
Physical things are in the physical realm, spirit things are in the spirit realm, and that is that. Instead, the gradualist argues, body and spirit fall into the same category of stuff and differ only in degree not in kind. British philosopher Anne Conway argued that bodies and spirits lie on a spectrum of lightness and heaviness. Picture a scale from , where 1 is the lightest spirit and 10 is the heaviest physical body. An example of 1 might be the spirit of a dead person, and a 10 might be a rock.
Between these two extremes, though, we have heavier spirits and lighter bodies. When we are mid-range at 5 or 6 on the scale, the difference between spirits and bodies are negligible: both are wispy, airy substances that have only a little weight. According to Conway, it is at this level that body and spirit interact with each other. Just as a gentle wind can move the massive arms of a windmill, she argues, so too can heavy spirit move a light body. Conway does not commit herself to a specific physiological explanation of how physical brains and spirit-minds interact, but we can speculate.
Perhaps, for example, the electric charges in our brains stimulate an aura of heavy spirit that surrounds our heads. This aura, in turn, interacts with our conscious minds which is even lighter. On our scale of , the interaction between my body and spirit might involve interplay between bodies and spirits at the following levels:. The problem with gradualism is that anything we say about spirits would be pure speculation. Yes, there are heavier and lighter bodies in the physical realm, but our knowledge stops there. We have no experience of heavy spirits, such as auras around our heads, that we can scientifically connect to electric charges in our brains or any other aspect of brain activity.
If heavy spirits did exist as Conway describes, they would be physically detectible in some way, but we have not yet identified any. Until we do, the gradualist solution falls into the category of "an interesting idea" but there is not much we can do with it beyond that.
All of the above theories of dualism assume that my body and my spirit interact with each other: signals pass back and forth between my physical brain and my spirit-mind. The dilemma that each of these theories face is explaining the precise mechanism which allows the signals to pass back and forth. But there is an alternative explanation that rejects the assumption that the two realms interact with each other. According to the dualist theory of parallelism, bodies and spirits operate in their own realms, and have no causal connection or interaction with each other.
Imagine, for example, that a parallel universe exists which is exactly like ours, an idea that is often explored in science fiction stories. Assume that it had the same stars and planets, the same physical layout of their "earth", and the same people who behaved exactly like each of us. Their universe had a George Washington just like ours, and it has a version of me, a version of you, and a version of everyone else in it.
The resemblance is so perfect that if you visited that universe you could not tell the difference. We may not understand why this parallel universe even exists, but we trust that it is just the way that the course of nature emerged. Let's now tweak the parameters of these two universes just a little. Suppose that everything in our universe has a slightly blue tint to it that was almost undetectable. The parallel universe, though, has a slightly green tint to it.
Aside from the tiny difference in color tint, the two universes are exactly the same. Let's now make a more dramatic change to the two universes. Suppose that our universe is composed only of physical stuff, with no spirit component at all. People still walk around, talk with each other and work at their jobs, but it is only their unconscious physical bodies operating.
Turning to the parallel universe, we will make the opposite alteration: it is composed of spirit, with no material substance at all. While people do not walk around in a three-dimensional physical realm, everything there exists in a strange spirit form: rocks, trees and rivers as well as people.
The two universes still run in perfect coordination with each other, its just that ours is made of physical stuff and the other of spirit stuff. This last conception of the parallel universes is the dualist theory of parallelism offered by German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz According to Leibniz, I have an unconscious body that walks around in the physical universe, and a conscious mind in the spirit universe. Because the two universes operate in complete harmony with each other, there is no need for my physical brain to interact with my spirit-mind.
The parallel nature of the universes themselves guarantees that they will operate in perfect synchronization. Leibniz writes,. The soul follows its own laws, and the body likewise follows its own laws. They are fitted to each other in virtue of the pre-established harmony between all substances since they are all representations of one and the same universe. For example, in the physical universe, my physical body walks through the woods and stands before a hissing rattle snake. The physical perception of this triggers a mechanical reaction in my brain, which causes me to turn and run.
At the same time in the spirit universe, my mind has a visual image of my body walking through the woods and seeing a rattlesnake. I experience the mental sensation of fright and the desire to run. My mind then has a visual image of my body running back down the path. Thus, in the physical universe my encounter with the snake involves only physical stuff with no mental experiences taking place.
At the same time, in the spirit universe my encounter with the snake involves only my mental experiences, with no physical stuff being present. Parallelism is probably the most extravagant attempt by dualists to explain the relation between physical brain activity and spirit consciousness.
But the theory has two problems. Like Conway's theory of gradualism, Leibniz's parallelism is pure conjecture with no scientific evidence that a parallel universe even exists. As clever as parallelism is, we need some reason to think that it reflects the way that things actually are. There is a second and more fundamental conceptual problem with parallelism: since the two universes run independently of each other, there is no need to have them both. Suppose that the physical universe was destroyed in a cosmic explosion, but the spirit universe remained untouched.
Our conscious minds in the spirit universe would continue as if nothing happened. I would still have mental experiences of talking to people, going to work and running from snakes. What happens in the distant and unconnected physical universe is of no concern to my conscious spirit. The only thing that matters is that my consciousness of the world continues in the spirit universe, which it would with or without the physical universe. Thus, parallelism fails for making the physical universe a useless appendage to the spirit universe.
When examining the different versions of mind-body dualism, it becomes clear that we know far more about the physical world than we do about the mysterious spirit world, if the spirit world even exists. We can construct experiments to investigate the physical world, which we cannot perform on the spirit realm.
The alternative to mind-body dualism is mind-body materialism , the view that conscious minds are the product of physical brain activity, and nothing more. This means that, when we investigate human consciousness, we need to look no further than the physical realm and the operations of the human brain.
This is the assumption made by the sciences of biology and psychology when they attempt to unravel the mysteries of the human mind. It is also the assumption behind cryogenics: I preserve my mind by preserving the chemical patterns in my brain through cryogenic freezing. In this section we will look at defenses of mind-body materialism and different accounts of how our conscious minds are related to our physical brains.
Philosophers since ancient times have defended the theory of mind-body materialism, and we will consider three important contributions. First is by Roman philosopher Lucretius BCE , who presented an argument for materialism from the interdependence of mind and body. Everything we know about our human minds suggests that it is inseparably intertwined with our bodies. For example, the mind is born with the body, grows with it and becomes weary and worn with age.
He writes,. As children totter with feeble and tender bodies, they also have weak judgement of mind. Then, as they grow and their strength hardens, their sense is greater and their force of mind is increased. Later, when the body becomes shattered by the stern force of time, and its frame has sunk with its strength dulled, its reason is also diminished, its tongue raves, its mind stumbles, and everything gives way and fails at once. Further, he argues, the mind can be cured with medicine, just like the sick body.
This interconnection between our minds and bodies cannot be adequately accounted for by mind-body dualism, and the most natural explanation is that our minds are simply parts of our material bodies. Similarly, declining mental abilities correlates with damage to specific parts of the brain. We are now so confident with the link between brain and mind that say without hesitation and a specific type of brain injury will cause a specific type of mental impairment.
If mind-body dualism is true, then the growth and health of our spirit-minds would be independent of the growth and health of our physical bodies. It is not the case that the growth and health of our spirit-minds is independent of the growth and health of our physical bodies. Therefore, mind-body dualism is false, and, thus, mind-body materialism is true. A second argument was offered by British philosopher John Locke who maintained that, from a religious perspective, mind-body materialism is every bit as good at explaining life after death as mind-body dualism is. Upon the death of my earthly body, then, God will recreate my mind in a new physical body, and, in that new state, reward or punish me as I deserve.
Locke does not address the cloning problem with the theory of the ethereal body that we discussed earlier. Nevertheless, his suggestion opened the door for many religious philosophers after him to embrace mind-body materialism without feeling like they needed to reject their faith. First, mind is not as private as we might assume, and, at least in theory, you can discover everything relevant about my mind through my behavior or physiological monitoring. Second, mind is indeed localizable, and its location is within the brain. However, neuroscience suggests that consciousness may be located within the a few regions of interconnected neural activity about the size of your ear, located on the surface of the neocortex.
Third, assuming that intentionality is a genuine feature of the conscious mind, it begs the question to say that no purely material thing is capable of intentionality. We may have already reached the point in neuroscience to say with confidence that at least one type of material thing is capable of intentionality, namely the human brain, and at least some animals. It remains to be seen whether artificial intelligence can develop to a point where we can say this about a second type of material thing, namely, a sophisticated computer. Even if the case for materialism looks stronger than that of dualism, this does not completely solve the mind-body problem: it only narrows our search by rejecting the concept of a spirit-mind.
The hard problem of consciousness noted at the outset of this chapter remains: how do the bio-chemical components of our brains generate the conscious experiences that we have? The conscious experience of pain is a good example. If I drop my cell phone and break the screen, the phone itself does not feel pain. But if I trip and break my leg, I surely do.
Even if we know all of the physiological details about pain perception, we are less clear about how my conscious experience of pain emerges from my physiology. Much of the modern discussion of the mind-body problem focuses on this issue. That is, it assumes that materialism is true, but seeks to address the hard problem of how a conscious experience like pain can be a product of brain activity.
It's true, once believed to be constant beyond a certain life stage, mainstream science has now accepted that we all can upgrade our brain in many different ways. If, therefore, the philosopher applies this principle to the solar system complete, he must at least soften its outlines. It is there that we must replace them, in order to see them issue forth. Of what race were they? We can all agree that there would be little point in living an extra ten years in a state of dementia.
We will next look at four closely-related theories that attempt to solve this problem: behaviorism, identity theory, eliminative materialism, and functionalism. The first materialist theory is behaviorism, which connects mind with observable human behavior. Suppose that you were assigned the task of explaining how an ATM machine works. You have no instruction manual for it, and you are not allowed to disassemble the machine to analyze its parts. All that you can do is observe how it operates.
You put in your ATM card, hit some numbers, and wait to see what happens. That is, you input a stimulus into the machine and wait for a response. You vary the stimulus each time and note how this affects the behavior of the machine. Punching in every conceivable set of numbers, you eventually learn how the machine works, based entirely on how the machine behaves after different stimuli.
The behaviorist theory of the human mind follows this approach. Nature has not given us an instruction manual for how the mind works, and we are limited with how much we can learn by opening up a person's skull and poking around inside. What we can know is your observable behavior and how you respond when exposed to different stimuli. I hand you a bag of potato chips, and I see how you respond. I then hand you a bag of dog food and see how you respond. The more experiments that I conduct like this, the more I know about your behavioral dispositions, that is, the ways that you tend to behave.
Eventually, I am able to form conclusions about even your most hidden mental states. Happiness for you involves your behavioral disposition to smile and be friendly to other people, whereas sadness involves your behavioral disposition to frown and withdraw from other people. In short, the behaviorist view of the human mind is that mental states are reducible to behavioral dispositions. This theory was originally forged by psychologists in the early 20 th century who wanted the field of psychology to be more "scientific", like the field of biology which deals only with observable facts about the world.
The most extreme versions of behaviorism are thoroughly materialist: first, they reject the dualist assumption that our minds are composed of spirit, and, second, they restrict mental states to the physical realm of behavioral dispositions. British philosopher Gilbert Ryle felt that the psychological theory of behaviorism could help solve the philosophical puzzle about the relation between the mind and body.
Critical of Descartes, Ryle argued that the old dualist view rested on a faulty conception of a ghost in the machine. The "ghost" component of me presumably involves my innermost private thoughts that occur within my spirit-mind. Only I have access to them, and outsiders cannot penetrate into my mind's concealed regions. The "machine" component of me involves my physical body, which is publicly observable and outsiders indeed can inspect. On this view, according to Ryle,. A person therefore lives through two collateral histories, one consisting of what happens in and to his body, the other consisting of what happens in and to his mind.
The first is public, the second private. The events in the first history are events in the physical world, those in the second are events in the mental world. Descartes' error, according to Ryle, was the assumption that the human mind is private — completely hidden from outside inspection. Ryle argues instead that my mind is not really private: you can access it by observing my behavioral dispositions.
All of my so-called "private" mental states can in fact be analyzed through my public behavior, and are nothing more than predictable ways of acting. Take, for example, my belief that "it is sunny today. For Ryle, though, this belief only describes dispositions I have to behave in specific ways, such as wearing sunblock, going swimming, and saying "it is sunny. One criticism of behaviorism is that some of my mental events really do seem completely private to me. Suppose that I step on a nail, which causes me great pain. The behaviorist watches how I react and makes lists of behavioral dispositions that I display.
I say "ouch", I have a look of anguish on my face, I stop what I am doing and tend to my injury, I am irritable towards others. While all of these observations may be accurate, the behaviorist has left out one critical element: the actual pain that I am feeling. The experience of pain is mine alone, and, while outsiders can see how I react to pain, they cannot access my pain. In addition to pain, I have many other experiences throughout the day that seem private, such as seeing a bright light, or hearing a song.
These experiences involve more than the behavioral dispositions that I display. Thus, the behaviorist theory fails because it pays too much attention to the observable part of me while dismissing what goes on inside of me. A second materialist approach to the mind-body problem is identity theory , the view that mental states and brain activities are identical, though viewed from two perspectives. Like behaviorism, it is a materialist view of the mind insofar is it maintains that mind is essentially physical in nature. But, while behaviorism focuses on observable physical behaviors, identity theory targets the physical human brain.
There are two components to identity theory, the first of which is the contention that consciousness is an activity of the human brain. While brain science is still in its infancy, theories abound describing where specific mental states are produced in the brain. Suppose, for example, that I place you in a brain scan machine that displays your neural activity. I give you a math problem to solve, and neural activity increases in one part of your brain.
I have you listen to music, and neural activity increases in another. Through experiments like these I identify your conscious experiences with specific brain activities. While philosophers are less concerned with the physiological details of brain activity, what is philosophically important is the suggestion that we can identify specific mental states with specific brain activities. The second part of identity theory is the contention that mental phenomena can be viewed from two perspectives.
Suppose that you are looking at a sunset. On the one hand, you have the visual and emotional experience to what you are viewing. On the other hand, there is the bio-chemical activity within your brain, which would involve the language of brain sections and firing neurons. The event described in both cases is exactly the same, and it is just a matter of viewpoint. This is analogous to how the terms "President of the Senate" and "Vice President of the United States" both have different meanings, yet refer to the same thing.
Take, for example, John Adams. As the first "Vice President of the United States," he had a specific job description, most notably to take over if the President died. As "President of the Senate" he had the job description of presiding over the Senate. Both of these roles describe the identical person, namely John Adams, but from his different job descriptions.
There are two problems with identity theory. First, the descriptions that we give of mental experiences and brain activities are so radically different, and even incompatible, that they do not seem to refer to the same thing. Suppose that I am watching the sunset; I first describe it from the perspective of my mental experience and then from the perspective of the brain scientist who conducts a brain scan on me.
From these two viewpoints, I will have two incompatible lists of attributes, based on the three features of mental experience that we noted earlier:. As indicated on the above list, my mental experience of the sunset is a private experience within my own consciousness. I might display some behavior, such as saying, "Now that is beautiful! Also, I cannot point to a location in three-dimensional space where this experience takes place. Finally, my mental experience is also about something, namely, about the sunset itself.
The three features of my brain activity, though, will be the exact opposite of these. My brain activity is publicly observable by scientists. My brain activity is localizable in space: the scientist can point to the exact spot where the biochemical reactions occur. My brain activity is not "about" anything; it is simply some biochemical reactions that occur. The point is this: if mental states and brain activities really were identical, the two lists would be more compatible. The fact that they are so contradictory implies that they are really different things.
The second major problem with identity theory is that it restricts mental experiences to biological organisms with brains. The central contention of identity theory is that mental states and brain activities are identical. Isn't it possible, though, that non-biological things could exhibit mental consciousness? Science fiction abounds with such creatures: computerized robots, crystalline entities, collections of gasses, particles of energy.
It seems a bit chauvinistic for us to say that mental experiences will only result in creatures that have biological brain activity in the way that we humans do. Identity theory, then, is a very narrow way of understanding mental states. But philosophers sympathetic to identity theory have responded to these criticisms by creating two offshoot theories: eliminative materialism and functionalism. We turn to these next. Suppose that instead of saying "I am experiencing the sunset" I said "I am having brain section 3-G neural states regarding the sunset.
The theory emerged in response to the first problem of identity theory, namely, that our descriptions of mental experiences and brain activities are inconsistent with each other. For example, my mental experience of the sunset is private, but my brain activity is publicly observable. The eliminative materialist's solution is to junk all of our folk-psychology and commonsense notions of mental experiences and adopt the more scientific language of brain activity.
The conflict disappears once we have dispensed with talk about mental experiences that are "private" or "non-localizable" or "about something". Human history is scattered with bizarre prescientific theories that captured the imagination of people at the time, but which we now reject as false. Alchemy is one example — the "science" of turning lead into gold.
Belief in ghosts is another. These and thousands of other theories have been debunked over the years in favor of more scientific theories of how the world operates. According to eliminative materialists, folk-psychology descriptions of mental experiences are just like these. At best they are misleading, and at worst downright false. In either case, they are destined for the intellectual garbage dump.
Some defenders of eliminative materialism seem to suggest that we are not really conscious at all, or that some major aspects of our alleged conscious mental states do not actually exist. That is, I may not be any more conscious than a dead human body, in spite of all the words I use to describe my mental states. However, most discussions of eliminative materialism are not as frightening as this. It is not necessarily an attempt to deny or "eliminate" our mental experiences themselves. Rather, it is an effort to eliminate outdated folk-psychology ways of describing mentality.
As neuroscience progresses, they claim, we will have a much clearer picture of how the brain operates and eventually adopt the more precise scientific language of brain states. It is not like the government or some science agency will force us to adopt this new scientific language. According to eliminative materialists, we will naturally move towards this clearer description of brain states and reject the mumbo-jumbo of mental experience. There are two central contentions of eliminative materialism: first, that folk-psychology notions of mental experiences are like obsolete scientific theories, and, second, we will eventually adopt the language of neuroscience.
As to the first contention, eliminative materialism may be correct. Many of our folk-psychology notions of mental experiences are misleading and others are false. In our normal conversations we have mastered maybe a few dozen concepts relating to the mind, such as knowing, wishing, believing, doubting, sensing. As the conceptual grandchild of the planimeter, the mouse also translates motion the arm of the holder into graphical mathematics.
It therefore not only allows the user to point at any object on the screen, but also introduces a direct connection between the topographical space of the interface and the human gesture of the user. By extension, the invention of the mouse opens space for any translation of human motion into the electronic space of the computer interface. This point is fundamental in that it allows us to evacuate definitively the notion of cognition as purely abstract representation, to introduce instead the "embodied action" in the computer space:. Cognitive structures emerge from recurrent patterns of perceptually guided action.
I can summarize, then, by saying that cognition consists not of representations but of embodied action.. Correlatively, the world we know is not pregiven; it is, rather, enacted through our history of structural coupling. In his remarkable book entitled Techniques of the Observer , Jonathan Crary describes the shift in the historical construction of vision in the early nineteenth century, and relates it from the start with the recent "sweeping reconfiguration of relations between an observing subject and modes of representation that effectively nullifies most of the culturally established meanings of the terms observer and representation.
Much of these new forms of institutional and discursive power obviously dealt with the social and cultural construction of what counts as a "real, optically perceived world" at one given time. In this perspective, Crary shows how the autonomization of sight is a central phenomenon, characteristic of an "industrial remapping of the body in the nineteenth century," that "enabled the new objects of vision whether commodities, photographs, or the act of perception itself to assume a mystified and abstract identity, sundered from any relation to the observer's position within a cognetively unified field.
Many commentators have stressed the importance of the end-result of this process on our twentieth century culture, but Jonathan Crary goes one step further when he explains the logic of the process itself, most clearly expressed in the nuance he makes between "spectator" and "observer:". Unlike spectare , the Latin root for "spectator," the root for "observe" does not literally mean "to look at. In a sense more pertinent to my study, observare means "to conform one's action, to comply with," as in observing rules, codes, regulations and practices. Though obviously one who sees, an observer is more importantly one who sees within a prescribed set of possibilities, one who is embedded in a system of conventions and limitations.
And by "conventions" I mean to suggest far more than representational practices. If it can be said there is an observer specific to the nineteenth century, or to any period, it is only as an effect of an irreductibly heterogeneous system of discursive, social, technological, and institutional relations. There is no observer prior to this continually shifting field. In a parallel perspective, I have shown in this paper how two fundamental steps in shaping personal computer technologies were taken at Engelbart's ARC laboratory: 1 the introduction of natural language in a Whorfian "connectionnist" fashion, and 2 the introduction of the whole body of the user in the human-computer interaction process.
It is now time to tie-up these two steps in one dynamic, comprehensive description of the social construction of this "prescribed set of possibilities" that constrain the action of today's computer users. We have seen that through the notion of "linguistic relativity," the influence of Benjamin Lee Whorf's work was central in the genesis of Douglas Engelbart's framework.
But my genealogical enterprise would not be complete if I relied totally on Engelbart's translation of Whorf. The next step of my inquiry now requires a deeper look at Whorf's formulation of the linguistic relativity hypothesis also named the "Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. To do so, I need to go back to one of the early expression of the hypothesis in "The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language.
From the start, Whorf's interest is relatively more limited than the broad claim about the relationship between "culture" and "language" that many critics and followers alike including Engelbart ascribed to his work. Here is how Whorf introduces his inquiry:. That portion of the whole investigation here to be reported may be summed up in two questions: 1 Are our own concepts of time, space, and matter given in substantially the same form by experience to all men, or are they in part conditioned by the structure of particular languages?
In an illuminating parenthesis that a footnote makes even clearer, Whorf adds: "I should be the last to pretend that there is anything so definite as a 'correlation' between culture and language We have plenty of evidence that this is not the case The idea of 'correlation' between culture and language is certainly a mistaken one. The phenomena of language are background phenomena, of which the talkers are unaware of or, at the most, very dimly aware These automatic, involuntary patterns of language are not the same for all men but are specific for each language and constitute the formalized side of language, or its "grammar" From this fact proceeds what I have called the "linguistic relativity principle," which means, in informal terms, that users of markedly different grammars are pointed by their grammars toward different types of observations and different evaluations of externally similar acts of observation, and hence are not equivalent as observers but must arrive at somewhat different views of the world.
Thus for Whorf, the principle of linguistic relativity applies at the level of this prescribed set of possibilities that constrain the "observer" to whom Crary was referring: The connection between language, cultural norms and behavior is to be found at the level of the relationship between observation that is, perception and representation. Whorf proposes, in other words, a principle that establishes a link between individual, biological perception and collective, social construction of what counts as "the real world" at a given time and in a given culture.
How unconscious it may be, Whorf postulates here that language always plays a part in this process, and his idea of "connection" vs. In this perspective, Crary's observer cannot be understood apart from the collective he identifies with whether consciously or not does not really matter. To understand fully this point, one has to go back to Whorf's answer to his first question about the way particular languages may "condition" our concepts of time, space and matter.
On this point, Whorf's answer is more subtle:. Concepts of time and matter are not given in substantially the same form by experience to all men but depend upon the nature of language or languages through the use of which they have been developed. But what about our concept of space, which was also included in our first question? Probably the apprehension of space is given in substantially the same form by experience irrespective of language It is in the matter of "space" that Whorf's answer is the mot interesting because it clearly articulates two levels: the "apprehension of space" and the "concept of space.
The first level is the level of the individual, described by its physiology, and the second level is the level of the group, described by its sociology, and for Whorf, mostly by its language. At this second level, says Whorf, belong "Newtonian" and "Euclidean" notions of space. The consideration of the two levels previously introduced in the deconstruction of the concept of space led Whorf to propose to "make more conscious" through language the notions of kinaesthesia and synesthesia.
Whorf defines kinaesthesia as the "sensing of muscular movement" and synesthesia as the "suggestion by certain sense receptions of characters belonging to others. Whorf's point about the connection between synesthesia, kinesthesia and language is fundamental, as it allows to understand the link between two main advances in computing proposed by Engelbart in his Framework for the Augmentation of Human Intellect. Since Whorf's writings, numerous results in cognitive science have shown that this connection deserves a central position in our increasing understanding of the evolution of the human brain.
Whorf had certainly intuited some of these later results when he stated that "probably in the first instance metaphor arises from synesthesia and not the reverse. The boundary between human and computer can only be located metaphorically. There are two major levels of justification for this claim.
First, the very use of the word "boundary" in this context is itself metaphorical : it suggests that there is an interface on the ontological maps of the human being and the computer, a "space" where they are in contact, a line where one cannot be distinguished from the other, except by convention usually set after a war, if one follows the lessons of human history.
Therefore, to wonder about the boundary between human and computer is to think about the nature of this interface, physically representing abstract concepts the ontological nature of human and machines. Secondly, to talk about the analogies between human and computer at this specific time the end of the twentieth century , has to be metaphorical, since a direct perception sight, sound or touch is still enough to know absolutely that humans and machines are different things.
Since the early days of computer science however, the most common test to decide whether a computer can be considered analog to a human being is the Turing test , a variation on the imitation game whose experimental setting make sure that there cannot be a direct perception. In his elegant "simple comment regarding the Turing test," Benny Shanon has stressed this point and demonstrated how "the test undermines the question it is purported to settle, for with it a case of petitio petitii is introduced.
But, of course, there are ways to tell the difference between computer and man sic. Everybody knows them. Confronted with candidates for identification, look at them, touch them, tickle them, perhaps see whether you fall in love with them. Stupid, you will certainly say: the whole point is to make the decision without seing the candidates, without touching them, only by communicating with them via a teletype. Yes, but this, we have seen, is tantamount to begging the question under consideration. To say that "the mind is a meat machine," or, more accurately, that "the mind is a computer" is a metaphor: it relies on an analogy that "invites the listener to find within the metaphor those aspects that apply, leaving the rest as the false residual, necessary to the essence of the metaphor.
Now, when one considers this metaphor as a means to make sense of the "boundary" metaphor a metaphor within a metaphor , the obvious conclusion is that the topographical aspects are definetely not what is determining: if the compared materiality of human beings and computers is the false residual of the mind-as-computer metaphor, one should conclude that there is no "natural" relief helpful to locate the boundary. No ontological connection, that is, between our materiality--our body, and the material manifestation of the computer.
Past meat and circuits, ahead with conceptual conventions. For AI indeed, the computer-as-mind metaphor points at the level of information processing and symbolic manipulation. In his chapter in the Boundaries of Humanity quoted previously, Allen Newell expressed dissatisfaction with metaphorical thinking in general: "it is clearly wrong to treat science as metaphor, for the more metaphorical, the less scientific.
In his general introduction to the book however, Morton Sosna, echoes AI critics who " have questioned whether AI has remained, or can or ought to remain, unmetaphorical. In the same book, Terry Winograd introduced yet another metaphor to describe the traditional research program in Artificial Intelligence: the bureaucracy-of-the-mind-metaphor. For Terry Winograd, AI is the ultimate avatar of the Western philosophical program that, since Descartes, Hobbes and Leibniz, has sought to "achieve rational reason through a precise method of symbolic calculation.
Back to the original metaphor of the human-machine boundary, the implication here is that the boundary is a border, marked by the existence of a bureaucratic apparatus the customs, the imigration office in charge of enforcing it. This metaphor for the human-machine boundary is consistent with our previous conclusion of the absence of a "natural formation" at the border: no river nor moutain, no interface where carbon-based organization merges with silicon-based organization, but an arbitrary definition that states "here you are in machine territory, there, in human territory.
He argued that computer ought to be seen as a "language machine" rather than a "thinking machine":. The computer is the physical embodiement of the symbolic calculations envisaged by Hobbes and Leibniz. As such, it is really not a thinking machine but a language machine. The very notion of "symbol system" is inherently linguistic, and what we duplicate in our programs with their rules and propositions is really a form of verbal agreement, not the workings of mind.
In this perspective, the language-machine metaphor makes sense of the boundary metaphor by locating the boundary more accurately witthin the realm of "verbal agreement. We argue here that such is not the case if one does not equate language with symbol processing. Somehow, AI has been at the same time over-ambitious in its claim to model human intelligence or "thinking" and under-ambitious in its understanding of the linguistic phenomenom. If the notion of "symbol system" is indeed inherently linguistic, language, on the other hand, cannot be reduced to the conventional manipulation of symbols.
Hubert L. Dreyfus has regularly stated this objection since there are things that computers still can't do, because they function in a binary logic at odds with human reasoning, and binary translations in machine logic of symbols are far from enough to mimic human thinking. Now, these are the paradoxical operations that constitute the experience of a body, of an "actual" or phenomenological body in its space-time contiunuum of sensibility and perception.
Which is why it's appropriate to take the body as model in the manufacture and programming of artificial intelligence if it's intended that artificial intelligence not be limited to the ability to reason logically. It's obvious from this objection that what makes thought and the body inseparable ins't just that the latter is the indispensable hardware of the former, a material prerequisite of its existence.
It's that each of them is analogous to the other in its relationship with its respective sensible, symbolic environment: the relationship being analogical in both cases. This point was not entirely ignored by the AI researchers, but I demonstrated in this paper how the Whorf-Engelbart perspective on the connection between language and world-view for the former, and language, world-view and communication technologies, for the latter, helps us make better sense of the human-computer boundary.
If we take seriously both Whorf and Engelbart's claims, we should realize that the articulation between language and technology is specifically human, and that as a "language-machine" the computer could serve as a boundary spanning object. In this perspective, the materiality of humans and computers takes a different meaning than that of a "false residual": Both language and technology are inherently tied to the "body" on the human side of the border, and to the circuits on the mechanical side of it.
It is in this perspective maybe that the metaphor regains its natural character, in the Deleuzian fashion of geological strata. Following his goal to augment the human intellect, Douglas Engelbart contributed in setting the agenda for present computing technology. More than the numerous innovations that his laboratory at SRI produced, his work deserves credit for his role in helping establish the current and even the next, for that matter paradigm in human-computer interaction. In this perspective, the ARC legacy is to be understood as one of the leading locus for the implementation of a strategy of technological development that aimed at a co-evolution of man and its tools: Douglas Engelbart and his colleagues worked for the improvement of the man-machine relationship, and not only for the creation of smarter machines.
In the present paper, I have shown that such an undertaking should be read in the extended perspective of the relativist program that spans the twentieth century, starting with physics and mathematics, and making its way into the social sciences. In this perspective, I demonstrated the influence of Benjamin Lee Whorf on Douglas Engelbart's framework, and showed that this influence should be read from within the relativist diaspora.
I insist on the historical importance of such a connection, that locates Douglas Engelbart's work within a broader intellectual context and informs his work on the basis of a stream of philosophical ideas, that Engelbart himself seldomly acknowledges or comments. The human-machine boundary is indeed a strong metaphor when it links through language some basically human attributes and technology at its best for a certain point in time.
And in so doing, the metaphor questions the very nature of these attributes, hides them for a while, abstracts them with their own codes, understands them.
The articulation of language and technology is what constitute human beings. To model, create and use a "language machine" has been and still is the source of knowledge-claims of epistemic dimensions. It goes straigth to the heart of the metaphor of humanity and opens many new questions.