Anything But Human

(…..) So why have we been tempted for millenniums to explain humanity away? The culprit is our tendency to forget what Edmund Husserl called “lifeworld”, pre-scientific world of normal human experience, where science has its roots. In the lifeworld we are surrounded by valuable opportunities, good and bad choices, meaningful goals, possibilities we care about. Here, concepts such as virtue and vice make sense. Among our opportunities are the scientific study of ants or construction of calculating machines. Once we’ve embraced such a possibility, it’s easy to get so absorbed in it that we try to interpret everything in terms of it, even if that approach leaves no room for value and meaning. Then we have forgotten the real-life roots of the very activity we’re pursuing. We try to explain the whole in terms of a part. For instance, one factor that makes the computer-brain analogy seem so plausible is ubiquitous talk of “information.” The word is often thrown around with total disregard for its roots in lifeworld, specifically, the world of mid-20th-century communications. Seminal work in information theory is Claude Shannon’s 1948 paper “A Mathematical Theory of Communication”, which is mainly about efficiency with which a certain sequence (say, a set of dots and dashes) can be transmitted and reproduced. There is no reference here to truth, awareness, understanding. As Shannon puts it, “semantic aspects of communication are irrelevant to engineering problem.” But concepts from information theory, in this restricted sense, have come to influence our notions of “information” in broader sense, where the word suggests significance and learning. This may be deeply misleading. Why should we assume that thinking and perceiving are essentially information processing? Our communication devices are an important part of our lifeworld, but we can’t understand the whole in terms of the part. By now, naturalist philosophers will suspect there is something mystical or “spooky” about what I’m proposing. In fact, religion has survived the assaults of reductionism because religions address distinctively human concerns, concerns that ants and computers can’t have: Who am I? What is my place? What is the point of my life? But in order to reject reductionism, we don’t necessarily have to embrace religion or the supernatural. We need to recognize that nature, including human nature, is far richer than what so-called naturalism chooses to admit as natural. Nature includes the panoply of lifeworld. The call to remember the lifeworld is part of the ancient Greek counsel: “Know yourself”. The same scientist who claims behavior is a function of genes can’t give a genetic explanation of why she chose to become a scientist in the first place. The same philosopher who denies freedom freely chooses to present conference papers defending this view. People forget their own lifeworld every day. It’s only human, all too human.



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

2 Responses to Anything But Human

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Prof. Richard Polt makes a passionate defense of ethical behavior by humans: “I’d like to suggest why I stubbornly continue to believe that I’m a human being — something more than other animals, and essentially more than any computer. The temptation to reduce the human to the subhuman has been around for a long time. Let’s begin with ethics.”

    Is that so? NYT: ON THIS DAY – On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, that instantly killed an estimated 66,000 people in the first use of a nuclear weapon in warfare.

    The prosecution rests, Your Honor.

  2. Regina Caldas says:

    Communication is essential for human development. That’s obvious! People are a sum of genes+ communication which is acquired in the environment.


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