Krishnamurti & the Art of Awakening
Experimenter's Corner | moderated by John Raica

Are we actually machines?


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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #1
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

Are we actually machines? I ask this question because there is so much comparison between man and machine, in general, and also because such comparison is raised specifically in the discussions on the K teaching in terms of thought being mechanical, the brain being compared to a computer, a typewriter or a tape recorder.

So, when we use a word such as "mechanical" what are the images we conjure up? Ken posted on the General forum recently with a "Mr Machine" animation of clockwork figures marching around. He added a Kwote, "We function mechanically, in the home, in the office, when we talk, when we talk, it is always mechanical." Is this actually so?

Also, I was drawn to consider when and where all this idea of man being mechanical first arose, trying to trace the idea back. I recalled the story of the Emperor and the Nightingale, the development of clocks and clockwork (automatons) and the fable of the golem (a soulless creation approximating a man). Man's growing activity with constructing ever more complicated machines made him question whether life itself could be constituted through mechanical means. Philosophers conjectured that nature itself, the universe, was a gigantic clockwork machine, set up and put into motion by an almighty clockmaker in the sky. That is to say, man took his own activity and created a God in that image, the clockmaker.

Mary Shelley wrote her Frankenstein (A Modern Prometheus) story in that vein - could science create or recreate life? Can life be created by the putting together of parts?

The prevailing Western idea until very recently was that animals, devoid of souls, are merely machines. Man is not a machine as he has a god-given soul.

I am trying to get across something that man has been doing for quite a while . . . thought has been putting together a wide idea about the machine and its relation to life. And these ideas are endemic to our modern culture, we 'invibe' them through stories, art, religion and so on. The idea was added to, African slaves were considered soulless golems. I remember watching the Popeye cartoons in which there was a class of humans called "goons" who were Black and tried to cannibalise poor Popeye. The modern variant of the sub-human is the Hollywood 'zombie.' There we have 'man' at his most mechanical.

Now, we are told, we live in a "post-modern era." We have ditched the soul. And we ask if man himself is a machine. At least the question is consistent. And if man is a machine, then so is the whole of nature a machine. We are part of that. But, we are told, man may rise out of this condition and become 'real.' It's a little like the Pinocchio story, the wooden boy becoming flesh and blood, a real mutation. In our case, however, it is a nuanced story of 'enlightenment' or whatever words are used. We can move from the mechanical to the creative through an instant mutation.

So, in order not to be simply drawn in by notions put into my head since childhood, in order not to be entranced by notions of improbable solutions for non-existing problems, intelligence and sanity tell me I have to question all of this. Am I bringing to my reading of K a whole basket of goodies, an underlying theme that has a powerful emotional charge to it? And is this underlying theme interfering with my understanding, not of K (primarily) but of myself?

So, I have to throw it all out the window and start from . . . where?

The question posed most succinctly is, is thought simply a machine?

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #2
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

John Raica wrote:
Basically we can all see the 'natural' tendency of human thought to create for itself a self-protective 'identity'

Is that what we all see, John? Someone may disagree with you and then what do you have?

Your assertion is that it is the basic nature of thought to create the self. Why do you say so?

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #3
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

John Raica wrote:
So that is a tendency which is definitely 'mechanical' in the sense of being programmable and predictible.

Well if your first assertion is correct, that self is basic to thought (programmed in), then it would follow that where there is thought, one can predict the creation of self. You are saying, in effect, that thought is a mechanism for creating self. That would be, of course, to put it very categorically.

But if self and thought are not mutual and binding necessities to each other then the assertion falls and the metaphor of thought being a mechanism for the creation of self falls. Then, in what way is thought mechanical?

What you have done, in effect, is the following:

You say thought is mechanical and then the question is posed as to how to explain this. You say, thought creates the self and that process of creating the self is mechanical . . . and you add the word "predictable."

So, is predictability the key to it? Are the words 'predictable' and 'mechanical' equal, in that context?

You see, we want to understand the word 'mechanical' and are offered a new word, 'predictable' as if this explains the first word. Does it? Does the addition of the word 'predictable' take us deeper?

Let's try and find what we mean by 'mechanical.'

This post was last updated by Paul David son Thu, 02 Mar 2017.

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #4
Thumb_hot-sale-font-b-cool-b-font-cat-animal-poster-custom-font-b-wallpaper-b-font Jan Kasol Czech Republic 101 posts in this forum Offline

I understand under the word "mechanical" that a thing is functioning according to deterministic mechanisms. According to K, thought is mechanical, it is a reaction

psychological reaction = f(stimuli, conditioning through previous experience), where f is some complicated fuction

Yes, Descartes considered the whole universe as a deterministic machine, although he believed human soul to be exempt out of the mechanism, otherwise free will could not exist. Since the discovery of quantum mechanics, we know that things are not that simple, because uncertainty and randomness are fundamentally part of the physical reality. What quantum mechanics means for the human mind is an open question. Penrose believes that human brain is a huge quantum computer, other scientists are more skeptical.

There is even an interesting theorem linking quantum randomness to free will, proposed by the Brittish mathematician Conway
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will_theorem

this is the best diagram of the human souls that scientists have been able to come up so far
http://i.imgur.com/5Flh68G.gif?noredirect

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #5
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

Jan Kasol wrote:
I understand under the word "mechanical" that a thing is functioning according to deterministic mechanisms. According to K, thought is mechanical, it is a reaction

Thanks for adding some clarity to the issue, Jan. Before addressing your post I want to backtrack a little to a word John used . . . 'predictable.'

When it comes to things such as day following night, events are predictable, in general terms (we do not know what the day will bring, how it will turn out, etc, but it will constitute what we call day.) Many patterns in nature are of that 'deterministic' nature, repeated patterns, tho0ugh all patterns eventually come to an end. Mark Twain once wrote of the idea that history is so determined that it repeats itself. He said, "History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes."

When we speak of prediction we must never omit that prediction is a mental act, it is the mind that predicts, not 'nature' as such. Nature may repeat, may be patterned but it does not, outside of the human mind (and some other intelligent creatures) predict. The mind that predicts is also engaged in thought, which we are told is marked by mechanicism and is predictable. So we enter a circle. How to get out of the circle, which is itself a product of mind? If the mind is not quite predictable, then the circle is a temporary phenomenon which ends as the conditions for its arising cease.

Day follows night and the human mind can predict certain things about that and other physical phenomena. We can predict the weather, but such predicting is not often highly accurate and only goes several days ahead. Why, if weather systems are mechanical, can they not be accurately predicted? It is to do with two things: One is the number of variables one includes in any model and two is that there is a random of 'chaotic' element to the weather.

I would say that it is even more so with the human mind and with thought. Thought is not linear in the terms day/night is. Not only are there millions of variables but thought seems to involve random processes which cannot be easily equated with what we normally term 'mechanical.'

For example, can you predict what you will think of next?

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #6
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

Jan Kasol wrote:
Yes, Descartes considered the whole universe as a deterministic machine, although he believed human soul to be exempt out of the mechanism, otherwise free will could not exist.

Three cats come eat at our house. One was with the house when we moved in five years ago. The second was a kitten we found in the street over New Year and the third 'belongs' to a neighbour but is in love with the second. Their names are Shah, Minnie Moocher and Pitoko.

They have certain behaviours about which one can make certain predictions - behaviours of eating, sleeping, shitting, hunting, playing, fighting and fucking. Well, that's cats for you. On the other hand, one never knows what they will do next (an often said truism). Are cats machines?

Isn't it a turn of the mind that determines what category to fit 'cat' into? And then, isn't that the same with thought? Is it so easy to categorize thought? And, if it is so easy, should it be so easy?

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #7
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

Jan Kasol wrote:
psychological reaction = f(stimuli, conditioning through previous experience), where f is some complicated fuction

Yes, but what the 'f' is 'f?' Have we just given life itself a letter?

Is there something intrinsically random at the very heart of life? And, if so, does thought expel that quality and make itself entirely mechanical, like a machine?

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #8
Thumb_photo_reduite John Raica Canada 536 posts in this forum Offline

Paul David son wrote:
Your assertion is that it is the basic nature of thought to create the self. Why do you say so?

Well, Paul, it is not just my assertion but one of K's points.
However this is a 'fact' only if one is aware of this trend in oneself. If not,...it is jus another 'personal point of view'. So, here is my psychologically correct 'erratum' : there may be a self-centred 'trend' of human thought which may have the tendency to create a self-image...or which may not. The truth or fallacy of this statement is 'in the eyes of the beholder'. And by the way, in his latter years one of K's 'solid' arguments when he was countered by Dr Bohm or by other 'top' scientists and intellectuals was...'Because it is so !'

This post was last updated by John Raica Thu, 02 Mar 2017.

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #9
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

John Raica wrote:
there may be a self-centred 'trend' of human thought which may have the tendency to create a self-image...or which may not.

Well, which is it?

John Raica wrote:
one of K's 'solid' arguments when he was countered by Dr Bohm or by other 'top' scientists and intellectuals was...'Because it is so !'

I'd let K answer for himself. Meanwhile, there is us.

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #10
Thumb_img_20150716_212047-1-1 richard viillar France 37 posts in this forum Offline

hello all,

maybe there is a word for the meaning of mechanical here: reactive

however, can we compare the human being and a computer? there are some questions...

is there thought (reaction) without memory? (brain)

is there reaction (application, program etc...) without memory? (computer)

?is the brain autonomous?

is a computer autonomous?

can the brain be aware?

can the computer be aware?

for sure there are others questions

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #11
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

John Raica wrote:
there may be a self-centred 'trend' of human thought which may have the tendency to create a self-image...or which may not.

So, back to the issue. Thought has a capacity to organize itself around an image of itself, imagining the image is the thing itself, right? I think we both understand that.

The question is, whether that is a defining characteristic of something deemed to be mechanical. Are you saying that thought is mechanical insofar as it creates an image of itself and acts from that? If so, in what way is that a mechanical process?

I think we are no nearer to the issue than before. Let's start from this, what do we mean by 'mechanical?' Are we saying that something is like a machine? If so, how is a machine? What is the defining characteristic of a machine?

A machine is a collection of parts, put together, each one having a definite function within the whole movement.

Can that be said about thought? One has to look at oneself, doesn't one? It's no good offering a definition or a philosophical position anymore than it is good to leave it all to K because he says, "It is so." This mind, here, has to engage with the question freshly and look at itself. So, 'I' have to look at 'my' thinking, as it is going on, and understand what is going on . . . whether it is likened to a machine, parts put together, each with its own determinate function, working as a whole towards an inevitable end. Is that what's going on in me right now? There has to be some honesty.

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #12
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

richard viillar wrote:
maybe there is a word for the meaning of mechanical here: reactive

The point is well taken, Richard. Thank you.

I wrote of the cats at our house. When they are hungry they come around and 'miaow.' When they are horny, they fuck. When they are thirsty, they find water, when they are frisky, they play, when they are cold, they seek shelter, when they are tired they lay down and sleep etc etc. That is all reaction. Is that all a cat is? Is a cat a machine?

I ask this in all sincerity because animals were once said to be machines, unlike humans who are said to have souls. But we don;t believe in souls now and the question therefore naturally extends itself from the feline to the human. Are we machines?

If mechanical is defined as to be reactive, is there anything about us that is not reactive, not machine-like? If the cat is a machine and if thought is reactive and if we do not have souls . . . where are we?

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #13
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

richard viillar wrote:
can we compare the human being and a computer?

We certainly can. But what is the motivation? What is behind the comparison? What are we trying to do through it? Are we trying, mentally, to solve a problem, to bring some understanding and if so, what is it?

Can we get past the categorical mode of thinking (this is this and that is that) and find out what we are trying to find out? Not the answer but the quest itself, what motivates it?

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #14
Thumb_img_20150716_212047-1-1 richard viillar France 37 posts in this forum Offline

The machine (computer) is limited because it is made by something which is limited: thought.
Life is reaction but a timeless reaction, an unlimited reaction which give us a little window of a reality beyond cause/effect (reaction).

As i see it there is comparison just in thé field of thought.

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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 #15
Thumb_img_20150716_212047-1-1 richard viillar France 37 posts in this forum Offline

We try to solve by extension, the same problems that We can observe in the field of thought which is daily life...

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #16
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

richard viillar wrote:
The machine (computer) is limited because it is made by something which is limited: thought.

Yes and no. Please tell me anything in this world that is not limited. Why say just thought is limited? Does something have to be made by something that is limited in order to itself be limited? Okay, perhaps you need to give some consideration to what is meant by limitation and then come back to it.

richard viillar wrote:
Life is reaction

What do you mean? What is life a reaction to?

richard viillar wrote:
Life is reaction but a timeless reaction, an unlimited reaction

How can a reaction, any reaction, be unlimited? And why say life is timeless? Is life outside of time?

richard viillar wrote:
Life is reaction but a timeless reaction, an unlimited reaction which give us a little window of a reality beyond cause/effect (reaction).

Is life beyond cause and effect? Recall that you just said life was a reaction. Do you know enough about how life arose to be able to say for sure it was not caused by some event or condition?

In general, my mind is asking, why do we jump at things? Is it that we need to categorize quickly in order to move on and build up?

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #17
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

richard viillar wrote:
We try to solve by extension, the same problems that We can observe in the field of thought which is daily life...

Some things yes and some things no. If my house is too small I may extend it. If my fence falls down I don't extend it, I put new posts in and fix it. But I am supposing you are referring to psychological difficulties, not material ones. But are you saying that extension is mechanical? Are you trying to pin the meaning of 'mechanical' down by means of example? In which case, you may only be extending 'mechanical.'

That is what is happening. We start with a word such as mechanical and rather than finding out what we mean by it, we extend it, adding 'predictable,' 'programmable,' 'reactive' and now 'extendable.'

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #18
Thumb_2474 Dan McDermott United States 159 posts in this forum Offline

Paul David son wrote:
That is what is happening. We start with a word such as mechanical and rather than finding out what we mean by it, we extend it, adding 'predictable,' 'programmable,' 'reactive' and now 'extendable.'

Can you "find out what we mean by it" ('mechanical') and not add any other words such as others have offered to describe it?

When there is only fear without any hope of escape, in its darkest moments, in the utter solitude of fear, there comes from within itself, as it were, the light which shall dispel it."

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #19
Thumb_photo_reduite John Raica Canada 536 posts in this forum Offline

Paul David son wrote:
Thought has a capacity to organize itself around an image of itself, imagining the image is the thing itself, right? I think we both understand that.The question is, whether that is a defining characteristic of something deemed to be mechanical.

Hi, Paul, you'll have to carry on moderating this thread since I'm leaving today for a short trip to Ojai.

Just one point I wanted to make: once this self-identification of thought is 'operated' -it may take years to build a consistent self-image- the whole process of self-identified thinking is becoming predictible, manipulable and generally speaking 'mechanical' -behaving like an autonomous ball- it can be kicked around or it can kick around other similar 'balls'. But this is just a 'honest' mistake done by a brain who's feeling physically and psychically insecure (in a rather violent world) but does not necessarily imply that this mechanistic interactive 'shield' (or identitary interface) is not irreversible.

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #20
Thumb_leaping_fire_frog_by_sirenofchaos natarajan shivan India 11 posts in this forum Offline

Paul David son wrote:
So we enter a circle. How to get out of the circle, which is itself a product of mind? If the mind is not quite predictable, then the circle is a temporary phenomenon which ends as the conditions for its arising cease.

As I see, we can say that thought is mechanical/predictable when its origin is non-cognitive, i.e. with its source in memory and therefore driven by limited number of variables in the repository of memory. Cognitive thought has it’s origin in ongoing perception, where the whole movement implies a dynamic interaction with the what is set against us as a cognitive challenge, i.e. when there is always an influx of variables which is unpredictable, happening in the background of an attentive silence.

contraria sunt complementa

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #21
Thumb_img_20150716_212047-1-1 richard viillar France 37 posts in this forum Offline

hello paul,

Paul David son wrote:
Please tell me anything in this world that is not limited.

life, impermanence...

Paul David son wrote:
richard viillar wrote:

Life is reaction

What do you mean?

all effect has its cause

Paul David son wrote:
How can a reaction, any reaction, be unlimited? And why say life is timeless?

i say that in this way because i cannot see end to this movement...

Paul David son wrote:
Is life outside of time?

i think you know what is time and maybe that we can say that life is beyond time.. it seems...

Paul David son wrote:
Is life beyond cause and effect? Recall that you just said life was a reaction.

yes paul.. i know exactly what i said and i said also:

"an unlimited reaction which give us a little window of a reality beyond cause/effect (reaction)."

Paul David son wrote:
to be able to say for sure it was not caused by some event or condition?

here is not my meaning paul

Paul David son wrote:
Is it that we need to categorize quickly in order to move on and build up?

yes maybe

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #22
Thumb_img_20150716_212047-1-1 richard viillar France 37 posts in this forum Offline

Paul David son wrote:
But are you saying that extension is mechanical? Are you trying to pin the meaning of 'mechanical' down by means of example?

no no paul, you said:

Paul David son wrote:
But what is the motivation? What is behind the comparison? What are we trying to do through it? Are we trying, mentally, to solve a problem

and then, i'm just refering that the way which why human made computer to solve problem, is an extension of the way that human resolves problem with/through thought, just that.

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #23
Thumb_img_20150716_212047-1-1 richard viillar France 37 posts in this forum Offline

Paul David son wrote:
What are we trying to do through it? Are we trying, mentally, to solve a problem, to bring some understanding and if so, what is it?

now trying to answer to this question..

maybe that through all that comparison, human is looking for psychological security, because human know how he made (a machine for example), and then he is in the field of known, in the field of self... maybe

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #24
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

Dan McDermott wrote:
Can you "find out what we mean by it" ('mechanical') and not add any other words such as others have offered to describe it?

I think so, Dan. A word such as 'predictable' bears down on one aspect of the thing. It describes an aspect, a quality of the thing but doesn't take us into the thing itself. It's like using the word 'metallic' to explain what the Eiffel Tower is.

Look, I'm not saying we should not use words. We have to use words, especially in the medium of an internet forum. But let's use them in such a way as gets to the heart of the subject and doesn't just swap one word for another or doesn't just end up as a list of characteristics.

For instance, the word 'mechanical' in regard to thought means 'machine-like.' So I find myself asking what a machine is. I go into it. A machine is a combination of parts with specific functions, which in combination and when set into motion, perform a set task. I have no doubt about that. It is now clear to me what terms thought is being described as.

Now that I now how thought is being thought of, I ask whether it is true, to what extent the description matches thought itself. But first there must be attention on thought itself, not the concept of it, not the description of it, not the list of its many aspects. Thought cannot be understood by thinking about it, it has to be observed, perceived.

I find that when I do this, when I have a feel for the richness of what is going on in thought and in thinking, single-word descriptions fall away, they have no place. They do not cover the whole and do not reach the heart.

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #25
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

richard viillar wrote:
maybe that we can say that life is beyond time.. it seems...

That is thought, not observation.

richard viillar wrote:
i say that [life is endless - PD] because i cannot see end to this movement...

There are many things I cannot see an end to, Richard. But is this an adequate basis for saying they are endless? I cannot see an end to thought. I die and the next one carries it on. Probably it is there in other life-forms on other planets. Maybe they even have a Kinfonet there.

If life is 'endless' why is thought not also 'endless?' Personally I think endlessness is an overrated idea. It is a concept, impossible to perceive. Basically, endlessness is a product of our thinking.

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #26
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

richard viillar wrote:
maybe that through all that comparison, human is looking for psychological security

Right, but then let's take that back to our original question and include it there:

In comparing thought to a machine, in saying thought is mechanical, are we even there looking for psychological security?

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #27
Thumb_img_20150716_212047-1-1 richard viillar France 37 posts in this forum Offline

Paul David son wrote:
are we even there looking for psychological security?

I say as i see it, yes it seems...

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #28
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

richard viillar wrote:
i'm just refering that the way which why human made computer to solve problem, is an extension of the way that human resolves problem with/through thought

Yes, but 'extension' is only one way thought tries to resolve a problem. And some problems can be resolved by extension. Other problems require more radical methods. When faced with a faulty design, thought has to go backwards to the root, or to the bifurcation which produced the error. Other times we are faced with new challenges and have to make insightful connections in order to reveal an understanding.

Thought only deals with the known. That is true. But there is the old known and the new known. Nicola Tesla, for example, had his vision of the AC Motor and the Tesla Coil, not by extension per se, but he still had to go and learn mechanics in order to create functioning models. You may see the ocean for the first time and be awed by it, but the moment you see it, it is already in the field of the known.

Is 'extension' another descriptor for the cause-effect chains? Is everything that ever happens an extension of what came before? Even transformations are extensions. Life, it seems to me (I admit, it is an appearance), is an extension of what came before, that from which it naturally arose. I cannot prove this but unless I say there is nothing that is non-living I must admit the distinction between the living and the biologically inert. If I admit that distinction in space, then why not also in time? If I can say the stone is not living, why would I suppose that there was life when the planet earth was stone? (Not a scientifically correct designation but metaphorically true.)

It is said that the Earth, when it was young, had no life upon it. Life on Earth had a beginning and when the planet tumbles into the sun in a billion years or so, the life upon it will perish. How can it then be said that life is timeless?

Personally, I am attracted by the idea that life is material. Living matter is a process within matter that, once began, will continue until it ends.

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #29
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

richard viillar wrote:
I say as i see it, yes it seems...

Okay, let's take it that we all say it as we see it. You then seem to say that you see that even in the comparison of thought to the machine, there is the search for psychological security. Please let me know if I have it wrongly.

How then does it follow? It seems a perverse way to secure the psyche, to imagine that all its mentation is simply cogs and wheels, clunks and clicks. That doesn't make me feel secure. I would think it would make many people feel unsettled. What type of mind would seek security in imagining itself to be a machine?

Sorry Richard, I have to go work now. I'll come back to this later.

This post was last updated by Paul David son Fri, 03 Mar 2017.

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 #30
Thumb_screen_shot_2017-04-11_at_14 Paul David son Brazil 202 posts in this forum Offline

Before I go, just to ask once more, are my cats machines?

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