Mirror of Zen Blog

From ”Being You” (2)

Centuries ago, when Descartes and La Mettrie were forming their views about the relations between life and the mind, it was not the hard to problem [of consciousness] that was at issue, but the existence – – or non-existence – – of the “Soul“. And – – perhaps surprisingly – – there are echoes of the soul to be found in the beast machine story too. This soul is not an immaterial quiddity, nor a spiritual distillation of rationality. The beast machine view of selfhood, with its intimate ties to the body, to the persistent rhythms of the living, returns us to a place liberated from concepts of a computational mind, before Cartesian divisions of mind and matter, reason and non-reason. What we might call the “soul“ in this view is the perceptual expression of a deep continuity between mind and life. It is the experience we have when we encounter the deepest levels of embodied self-worth – – these inchoate feelings of “just being“ – – as really existing. It seems right to call this an echo of the soul because it revives even more ancient conceptions of this eternal notion, conceptions – – such as the Ātman in Hinduism – – which contemplated our innermost essence more as breath than as thought. 

We are not cognitive computers, we are feeling machines.

pp. 193-194

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