by Hans Jonas, The University of Chicago Press, 1984
[p1] 1 The Alterned Nature of Human Action [...]
All previous ethics...hadthese interconnected tacit premises
in common: that the human condition, determined by the nature of man and
the nature of things, was given once for all; that the human good on
that basis was readily determinable; and that the range of human
action and therefore responsibility was narrowly circumscribed.
More specifically, it will bemy contention that with certain
developments of our powersthe nature of human action has change, and,
since ethics is concerned with action, it should follow that
thechanged nature of human cation calls for a change in ethics as
well: this not merely in the sense that new objects of action have
added to the case material on which received rules of conduct are to
be applied, but in the more radical sense that the qualitatavily
novel nature of certain of our actions has opened up a whole new
dimension of ethical relevance for which there is no precedent in the
standards and canons of traditional ethics.
Since throughout those ages man was never without technology, the
question involves the human difference of modern from previous
[p2] I. The Example of Antiquity
1. Man and Nature
The raping of nature and the civilizing of man go hand in hand.
[p3] All this holds because before our time man's inroads into
nature, as seen by himself, were essentially superficial and
powerless to upset its apponted balance. (Hindsight reveals that
they were not always so harmless in reality.)
2. The Man-Made Island of the ``City''
The immunity of the whole, untroubled in its depth by the
importunities of man, that is, the essential immutability of Nature
as the cosmic order, was indeed the backdrop to all of mortal man's
enterprises, including his intrusions into that order itself.
[p4] Still, this citadel of his own making, clearly set off from
the rest of things and entrusted to him, was the whole and sole
domain of man's responsible action. [...] But in the city, the social
work of art, where men deal with men, cleverness must be wedded to
morality, for this is the soul of its being. It is in this
intrahuman fram, then, that all traditional ethics dwells, and it
matches the size of action delimited by this frame.
II. Characteristics of Previous Ethics
1...[A]ction of nonhuman things did not constitute a sphere of
authentic ethical significance.
2. Ethical significance belonged to the direct dealing of man with
man, including the dealing with himself: all traditional ethics is
3. [T]he entitiy ``man'' and his basic condition was considered
constant in essence and not itself an object of reshaping techne.
4. The good and evil about which action had to care lay close to
the act, either in the praxis itself or in its immediat reach, and
were not matters for remote planning.
[p5] [T]o assure the morality of action fitted these limited
terms: it was not the knowledge of the scientist or the expert, but
knowledge of a kind readily available to all men of good will.
[p6] Precisely because the human good, known in its generality, is
the same for all time, its realization or violation takes place at
each time, and its complete locus is always the present.
III. The New Dimensions of Responsibility
1. The Vulnerability of Nature
[p7] The nature of human action has de facto change, and that an
object of an entirely new order--no less has the whole biosphere of
the planet--has been added to waht we must be responsible for because
of our power over it.
All traditional ethics reckoned only with noncumulative behavior.
2. The New Role of Knowledge in Morality
[p8] The gap between the ability to foretell and the power to act
creates a novel moral problem. [...] No previous ethics had to consider
the global condition of human life and the far-off future, even
existence, of the the race.
3. Has Nature ``Rights'' Also?
No previous ethics (outside of religion) has prepared us for such
a role of stewardship--and the dominant, scientific view of Nature
has prepared us even less. [...] On this speculative subject I will say
no more here than that we should keep ourselves open to the thought
that natural science may not tell the whole story about Nature.
IV. Technology as the ``Calling'' of Mankind
1. Homo Faber over Homo Sapiens
[p9] [T]echnology, apart from its objective works, assumes ethical
significance by the central place it now occupies in human purpose.
[p10] 2. The Universal City as a Second Nature
For the boundary between ``city'' and ``nature'' has been
obliterated: the cito of men, once an enclave in the nonhuman world,
spreads over the whole terrestial nature and usurps its place.
3. Man's Presence in the World as an Imperative
Now [man's presence] has itself become an object of obligation:
the obligation namely, to enlure the very premise of all obligation[.]
V. Old and New Imperatives
[1. Kant's categorical imperitive said: ``Act so that you can will
that the maxim of your action be made the principle of a universal law.''
[p11] The sacrifice of the future for the present is logically
no more open to attack than the sacrifice of the present for the
future. [...] But that it ought to go on, ... this cannot be derived
from the rule of self-consistency within the series, long or short
as it happens to be: it is a commandment of a very different kind,
lying outside and ``rpior'' to the serious as a whole, and its
ultimate grounding can only be metaphysical.
[Rob: Only be
metaphysical is key. If you look at mankind as emerging from lower
forms, there is no reason, or ``ought'' about it. There is no
metaphysical. This is not a logical basis for non-existence, that
is, if metaphysics doesn't exist, we don't automatically lose are
reason for continuing our existence.]
2.... ``Act so that the effects of your action are compatible with
the permanence of genuine human life''
3... However, the new imperative says precisely that we may risk
our own life--but not that of humanity[.]
[p12] At present, our imperitive simply positis it without proof,
as an axiom.
4. It is also evident that the new imperative addresses itself to
public policy rather than private conduct, which is not in the causal
dimension to which that imperative implies. [...] This adds a time
horizon to the moral calculus which is entirely absent from the
instantaeous logical operatino of the Kantian imperative: whereas the
latter extrapolates into an ever-present order of abstract
compatibilyt, our imperitive extrapolates into a perdictable real
future as the open-endede dimension of our responsibility.
VI. Earlier Forms of ``Future-oriented Ethics''
[p13] 1. The Ethics of Fulfillment in the Life Hereafter
That qualification, however, consists in a life pleasing to God,
of which in general it may be assumed that it is the best, most
worthwhile life in itself anyway, thus worthy to be chosen for itsown
sake and not merely for that of eventual future bliss.
[p14] Between the finite and the infinite, the temporoal and the
eternal there is no commensurability and thus no meanigful
comparison; that is, there is neither a qualitative nor a
quantitative sense in which one is preferable to the other.
Concerning the value of the goal, whose informed appraisal ought to
form an essential element of ethical decision, there is nothing but
theempty assertion that it is the ultimate value.
If one inquires why the this-worldly renunciation is considered so
meritorious that it may dare to expect this ckind of indemnification
or reward, one answer might be that the flesh is sinful, desire is
evil, and the world is impure.
In sum, we can say that, insofar as this whole complex of
otherworldly striving falls within ethics at all (as do, for
instance, the afrementioned ``moderate'' forms in which a life good
in itself forms the condition for eternal reward), it too fits our
thesis concerning the orientation of all previous ethics to the
2. The Statesman's Responsibility for the Future
[p15] Certainly, political action has a wider time span of effect
and responsibility than private action, but its ethics, according to
the premodern view, is still none other than the present-oriented
one, applied to a life form of longer duration.
3. The Modern Utopia
[p17] Thus there already exists, in Marxism, a future-oriented
ethic, with a distance of vision, a time span of affirmed
responsibilty, a scope of object(= all of future humanity), and a
depth of concern (the whole future nature of man)...which in all
these respects stands comparison with the ethic for which we want to
VII. Man as an Object of Technology
[p18] But man himself has been added to the objects of technology.
Homo faber is turning upon himself and gets ready to make over the
maker of all the rest.
1. Extension of Life Span
A practical hope is held held out by certain advances in cell
bioligy to prolong, perhaps indefinitely extend, the span of life by
counteracting biochemicial processes of aging. [...] These questions
involve the very meaning of our finitude, the attitude toward death,
and the general biological significance of the balance of death and
[p19] So it could be that what by intent is a philanthropic gift
of science to man, the partial granting of his oldest wish--to escape
the curse of mortality--turns out to be to the detriment of man. [...] My
point is that already the promised gift raises questions that had
never to be asked befor in terms of practical choice, and that no
principle of former ethics, which took the human constants for
granted, is competent to deal with them.
2. Behavior Control
[p20] The troublesome problems of rule and unruliness in modern
mass society make the extension of such control methods to nonmedical
categories extremely tempting for social management. [...] Shall we
overcome aggression by elecronic pacification of brain areas?
[E]ach time we thus bypass the human way of dealing with human
problems, short-circuiting it by an impersonal mechanism, we have
taken away something from the dignity of personal selfhood and
advanced a further step on the road from responsible subjects to
programmed behavior systems.
[p21] 3. Genetic Manipulation
[M]an will take his own evolution in hand, with the aim of not
just preserving the integrity of the species but of modifying it by
improvements of his own design. [...] Who will be the image-makers, by
what standards, and on the basis of what knowledge?
VII. The ``Utopian'' Dynamics of Technical Progress and the
Excessive Magnitude of Responsibility
Living now constantly in the shadow of unwanted, built-in,
automatic utopianism, we are constantly confronted with issues whose
positive choice requires supreme wisdom--an impossible situation for
man in general, because he does not possess that wisdom, and in
particular for contemporary man, because he denies the very existence
of its object, namely, objective value and truth.
[p22] In the face of the quasi-eschatological potentials of our
technological proecesses, ignorance of the ultimate implications
becomes itself a reason for responsibile restraint--as the second
best to the possesion of wisdom itself.
[I]t casts on the capacity of representative goverment, operating
by its normal principles and procedures, to meet the new demands.
IX. The Ethical Vacuum
For the very same movement which put us in possession of the
powers that have now to be regulated by norms--the movement of modern
knowledge called science--has by a necessary complementatarity eroded
the foundations from which norms could be derived; it has destroyed
the very idea of norm as such.
[p25] 2 On Principles and Method
I. Ideal and Real Knowledged in the ``Ethic of the Future''
1. Priority of the Question of Principles
What are the foundations of an ethic such as would match the new
style of action? And what are the chances that its injunctions will
prevail in the practical affairs of men?
[p26] 2. A Predictive Science of the Long-Range Effects of
But from the ``ideal'' truth about principles we must soon past to
a very different kind of truth which--being about facts--is a mbatter
of scientific (not philosophic) knowledge: truth about predictabel
future conditions of mankind and the earth, on which those first,
philosophic verities are to pass judgment.
3. What This Science Contributes to the Knowledge of Principles:
The Heuristics of Fear
And we need the threat to the image of man--and rather specific
kinds of threat--to assure ourselves of his true image by the very
recoil from these threats.
[Rob: There can also be the danger of
looking for fear for fear itself instead of trying to search for the
good. Fear is a powerful weapon (e.g. of nuclear reactors) when
considering new things and is often overplayed.]
[p27] Therefore, moreal philosophy must consult our fears prior to
our wishes to learn what we really cherish. [...] [The heuristics of
fear] is at least an extremely useful first word and should be used
to the full of its helpfulness in a sphere where so few unlooked-for
words are vouchsafed for us.
4. The ``First Duty'' of an Ethics of the Future: Visualizing the
Long-Range Effects of Technological Enterprise''
[p28] 5. The ``Second Duty'': summoning Up a Feeling Appropriate
to What Has Been Visualized
Therefore, bringing ourselves to this emotional readiness,
developing an attitude open to the stirrings of fear in the face of
merely conjectural and distant forecasts concerning man's destiny--a
new kind of education sentimentale--is the second, preliminary duty
of the ethic we are seeking, subsequent to the first duty to bring
about that mere thought itself.
6. The Uncertainty of Prognistications
[p29] In any casy, the required extrapolation demands an
exponentially higher degree of science than is already present in the
technology from which it is to be extrapolated.
7. Knowledge of the Possible: Heuristically Sufficient for the
Doctrine of Principles
[p30] What is her contepmlated, therefore, is a casuistry of the
imiganation which, unlike the customary casuistries of law and
morality that serve the trying out of principles already known,
assists in the tracking and discovering of principles still unknown.
The serious side of science fiction lies precisely in its performing
such well-informed thought experiments, whose vivid imaginary results
may assume the heuristic function proposed. (See, e.g., A. Huxley's
Brave New World.)
8. Knowledge of the Possible: Seemingly Useless for Applying the
Principles to Politics
[p31] II. Prevalence of the Bad over the Good Prognosis [...]
[T]he prophecy ofdoom is to be given greater heed than the prophecy
1. The Probabilities in hte Great Wagers [...]
If we add to this the disparity of hit-or-miss chances that we found
to prevail here, we must bow to the command to allow, in matters of
such of capital eventualities, more weight to threat than to promise and
to avoid apocalyptic prospects even at the price of thereby perhaps
missing eschatological fulfillments.
[Rob: A genious: Better safe
2. The Cumulative Dynamics of Technological Developments
So we have to add to the first observation--that the speed of
technologically fed developments does not leave itself the time for
self-correction--the further observation that in whatever time is
left the corrections will become more and more difficult and the
freedom to make them more and more restrictions.
[Rob: Revolution can
3. The Sacrosanctity of the Subject of Evolution
[O]n a less pragmatic plane, there is the heritage of a past
evolution for us to preserve--which heritage cannot be all bad in our
case, if only because it has bequeathed to its present incumbents the
(self-proclaimed) capacity to be judges of what is good and what is
[p33] [The possession of the creative steering of destiny]
therefore, as much as we were granted of it, purports that there is
something infinite for us to preserve in the flux, but something
infinite also to lose. [...] The logical folly of [biotechnological
alchemy] aside, the ingratitude it implies for the inheritance badly
accords with the extreme use of its gift wich the very attempt at
its revisions represents.
[p34] III. The Element of Wager in Human Action
[p35] 1. May I Stake the Interests of Others in My Wager?
[O]ne may wager nothing which one does not own[.] [...] But we cannot
live with this answer, because in the inextricable interweaving of
human affairs as of all things, it is nowise avoidable that my action
will affect the fate of others; and thus any staking of my very own
is always a staking also of something that belongs to others and to
which I have properly no right.
[Rob: logic gap? Maybe not.]
[F]rivolity or foolhardiness regarding on's own well-being and even
life is a right not really to be disputed: at most one can say of it
that it is limited by an opposing duty, but not htat it is thereby
annulled. Only the inclusion of others in my ``wager'' makes
frivolity unacceptable. With this stipulation observed, some such
inclusion must be allowed if there is to be any action at all.
2. May I Put All the Interests of Others at Stake? [...]
Perhaps, then, we should qualify our first, exclusionary answer,
which we had to reject as too sweeping, by adding that it must never
be the totality of the interests of others, above all not their
lives, which I wager in my game of uncertainty.
[p36] One would not deny the statesman the right to risk his
nation's existence for its future if really ultimate issues are at
stake. [...] Thus, minding this asymmetry between goods desired and
evils shunned, even the proposition that never the whole of the
interests of others must be staked in the wager of action is not
3. Meliorism Does Not Justify Total Stakes
4. Mankind Has No Right to Suicide
[p37] For there is (as has yet to be shown) an unconditional duty
for mankind to exst, and it must not be confounded with the
conditional duty of each and every man to exist.
5. The Existence of ``Man'' Must Never Be Put at Stake [...]
The ethical axiom which validates the rule is therefore as follows:
Never must the existence or the essence of man as a whole be made a
stake in the hazards of action.
This ``go-for-broke'' calculation of risks, objectionable also in
other respects, is in error already be the fact that, in proprotion
to the nothing which is here accepted among the risks, every
something (including the things of fleeting temporal existence) is of
infinite magnitude; and thus the second alternative (betting all upon
a possible eternity while sacrificing the give temporality) also
bears the risk of infinite loss. There must be more that mere
possibility: a faith must assert that an eternity awaits us--and then
the option is no longer purely a bet.
[p38] [C]aution, otherwise a peripheral matter of our discretion,
becomes the core of moral action.
IV. The Duty to Ensure a Future
1. The Nonreciprocity of Duties to the Future
[p39] The nonexistent makes no demangs and can therefore not
suffer violation of its rights. It may have rights when it exists,
but it does not have them by virtue of the mere possibility that it
will one day exist. [...] [S]o that within it framework the question
jokingly invented for the situation: ``What has the future ever done
for me? Does it respect my rights?'' cannot possibly be asked.
2. The Duty Regarding Posterity
To be sure, one may expect some return from them, in old age, fur
the love and effort expended upon them, but this is certainly not the
precondition or motive for doing it, and still less a condition of
the responsibility itself one owes toward the child--which, on the
contrary, is unconditional.
If, nevertheless, as ethical theory requires, we reflect on the
ethical principl operative here (and males must perhaps sometimse be
reminded of it), then we see that the duty toward children and the
duty toward later generations are not the same.
[p40] But something other than the duty arising from procreation,
which already faces a right arising from existence, would be the duty
to such procreation, to the generation of children, to reproduction
in general. This duty, if it exists, is far harder to prove and, if
at at all, then surely not from the same principle; and a right of
the unborn to being born (more precisely: of the ungenerated to
generation) is simply not arguable from any principle whatsoever.
3. The Duty toward the Existence and the Condition of Future
a) Does the duty to posterity need proof?
[p41] Whereas for their existence they can hold responsible only their
immediate begetters (and even there have a right to complain only if
the parents' right to progeny can be questioned on specific grounds),
for the conditions of their existence they can hold distant
anscestors or, more generally, the originators of these conditions
b) The priority of the duty of existence
[p42] [I]t is less the right of future men (namely, their right to
happiness, which, given the uncertain concept of ``happiness`'' would
be a precarious criterion anyway) than their duty over which we have
to watch, namely, their duty to be truly human: thus over their
capacity for this duty--the capacity to even attribute it to
themselves at all--which we could possibly rob them of with the
alchemy of our``utopian'' technology.
[p43] c) The first imperitive: that there be a mankind [...]
The first rule is, therefore, that no condition of future
descendants of humankind should be permitted to arise which
contradicts the reason why the existence of mankind is mandatory at
4. Ontological Responsibilty for the Idea of Man [...]
With this imperative we are, strictly speaking, not responsible to
the future human individuals but to the idea of Man, which is such
that it demands the presence of it embodiment in the world.
5. The Ontological Idea Generates a Categorical, Not a
The hypothetical (of which there are many) says: If there are
human beings in the future--which depends on our procreation--then
such and such duties are to be observed by us toward them in advance.
But the categorical command sonly that there be human beings, with
the accenty equally on the that and the what of obligatory existence.
[p44] 6. Two Dogmas: ``There Is No Metaphysical Truth'' and ``No
Path Leads from `Is' to `Ought' ''
The last ocntention contradicts the most firmly entrenched dogmas of
our time: that there is no metaphysical truth, and that no ``ought''
can be derived from ``being.''
For in every other ethic as well, in the most utilitarian, most
eudaemonistic, most this-worldly, etc., a tacit metaphysics is
imbedded (``materialism,'' e.g., would be one), and they are not a
whit better off in this regard. What is special about our case is
only that the inherent metaphysics cannot remain hidden but must come
to light--which for the proximate business of mere ethics is a
tactical disadvantage, but for the cause of truth rather more of an
advantage in the end.
7. Concerning the Necessity of Metaphysics [...]
We have intimated before that relgious belief has answers here which
philosophy must still seek, and must do so with uncertain prospects
of success. [...] Faith in revealed truth thus can very well supply the
foundation for ethics, but it is not there on command, and not even
the strongest argument of need permits resorting to a faith that is
absent or discredited.
The apocalyptic possibilites inherent in modern technology have
taught us that anthropocentric exclusiveness could be a prejudice and
that it at least calls for reexamination.
[p46] V. Being and Ought-to-be
1. Concerning ``A Something Ought to Be''
2. The Priority of Being to Nothingness: How Valid for the
Individual [...] The laying down of one's own life for the salvation of
others, for on's country, for a cause of humanity, is a decsion in
favor of being, not for nonbeing. Also the deliberate suicide in
order to preserve one's own human dignity from utter degradation
(like the Stoic suicide, which is always also a ``public'' act) is in
the final analysis committe for the sake of the survival of human
dignity in general.
[p47] 3. The Meaning of Leibniz's Question, ``Why Is There Something and
Not Nothing?'' [...] which Leibniz designated as the first question of
metaphysics [...] The logical state of affairs is not altered by the
doctrine of creation, which does provide an answer for the world as a
whole in hte divine causative act--only to revive thequestion with
this very regress, namely, for the existence of God himself.
[p48] Indeed, it is arguable that the perception of value in the
world is one of the motives for inferring a divine originator
(formerly even ono of the ``proofs'' for God's existence), rather
than, converseely, the presupposition of the originator being the
reason for according value to his creation.
Metaphysics can learn from theology only a previously unknown
radicalism of questioning, exemplified in the fact that a question
such as Leibniz's would have been impossible in ancient philosophy.
4. The Question of a Possible ``Ought-to-Be'' Is for Philosophy to
[p49] The capacity for value (worth) is itself a value, the value
of all values, and so is even the capacity for antivalue
(worthlessness), insofar as the mere openness to the difference of
worth and worthlessness would alon secure to being its absolute
preferability to nothingness. [...] This, to be sure, does not tell us
why there is a world (which remains shrouded in the impenetrable
contingency of sheer fact), but might possibly answer the question we
substituted for it: why there ought to be a world (which would redeem
the contingency forhfrom issuing in a senseless fact).
5. Turning to the Question of the Ontological Status of ``Value'' [...]
Hence, we cannot shirk the task of ascertaining the ontological and
epistemological status of value in general, and must delve into the
daunting question of its objectivity.
[p51] 3 Concerning Ends and Their Status in Reality [...]
What we must first clarify is the relation of values to ends (or
aims), which are often confused with one anather but are not the same
at all. An end is that for whose sake a matter exists, and which to
bring about or to preserve a process occurs or an act is performed. [...]
Thus, my stating that y is the end of x involves no value judgement
on my part. [...] I can then proceed from the recognition of their
inherent ends to judgments concerning their greater or lesser fitness
to them, that is, their suitability for the attainment of thes endes,
and can speak of a better or worse hammer, digestive state,
locomotive act, or judicial system.
[p52] Whose are the ends which we perceive in the things? And what
is the value of these ends themselves whith respect towhich the
things under discussion are of value and can be better or worse, as
means? Can they too be better or worse?
I. The Hammer
1. Constituted for an End
Concerning the question ``to whom'' the end belongs, it must be noted
that the expression ``to have an end'' has two meanings. The hammer
has the end of enabling someone to hammer with it. [...] The end, we can
also say, belongs to the concept of the hammer, and this concept, as
with all artifacts, preceded its existence and was the cause of its
origination. [...] The concept of time measurement, for example, was the
generative cause of the clock, and the clock is totally defined by
2. The End Not Located in the Thing
[p53] The purpose essential to them qua artifacts is yet not theirs;
notwithstanding their total determination by purpose (or rather
precisely because of it) they are baren of purposes of their own.
II. The Court of Law [...]
Let us go to the other end of the spectrum, to the court of law. It
too is an artifact, namely, a human institution, and of course here
too the concept precedes the thing. [...] Brought into existence through
```final'' causality, a court of law is also held in existence only
through this same causality operating within it.
1. Immanence of the End [...]
Thus, in contradistinction to the``hammer,'' it is true for the
``court of law'' (both are in some sense ``tools''!) that a purpose
is not only objectively its raison d'etre but also subjectively the
continued condition of its functioning, insofar as the members of the
court must themselves have appropriated the purpose for the court to
function as a court.
2. Invisibility of the End in the Physical Apparatus
3. The Means Does Not Outlive the Immanence of Purpose
[p55] A legislature, a tax authority, a judicial system have no
such independently describable ``look'' [such as a ``hammer''],
because they have no existence distinct from their purpose.
4. Visible Means Indicating Invisible Ends [...]
And not even the clearest purpose of atomic weapons in their
eventual use--namely, annihilation--betrays that the purpose of their
being stockpiled is that they rather not be used.
5. Man the Seat of Purpose
[p56] We have htus not yet arrived at an ``end in itself,'' that
is, something being its own end.
1. Artificial and Natural Means
[p57] 2. The Distinction between Means and Function (Use)
Legs fulfill their purpose in walking as hammers do in hammering,
but whether these fulfill their purpose is another question.
[p58] 3. Tool, Organ and Organism [...]
But the success story of a name naturally proves nothing concerning
a substantive issue, and whether natural tools, like artificial
ones, have purpose already at their origin and in their being, apart
from being employed thereto, is as yet undetermined.
4. The Subjective End-Means Chain in Human Action [...]
Even in the present class of examples (represented by ``walking''),
the role of subjective purpos is by no means undisputed, despite the
action being voluntary. That one walks ``in order to'' get somewhere
is surely convincing where the subject is human.
[p59] 5. The Objective Means-ends Mechanics of Animal Action
[p60] a)...The first restricitionup animal behavior even in the
cerebrally higher species, compared to human behavior, would thus be
the confinement of subject anticipation--of what is ``known'' and
``willed'' in it--to the momentarily nearest goal, so that the whole
purposive series is pieced together of single subpurposes, echa one
leading to the next.
b)... Thus, generally speaking, feeling associated to need is the
psychic proxy of purpose in the voluntary behavior of prerational
c)... The purpose thus dwells on the one hand in the impulse, on
the other hand in the preimprinted behavioral form ready for it.
d)...For the feeling [p61] of hunger, so we are told, is nothing
but the psychic equivalent (or even less: the symbolic, surface
appearance) of a physical deficiency in the metabolic system which
also, through its own chemical and neural mechanisms beneath feeling,
produces those bodily states (purely physical again) that really
cause the motor behavior, complete with its emotional garb. If this,
however, and not the feeling (demoted to a mere symptom) is and anot
merely decorative role, must have its seat first in this causality
and not in the feeling mirroring it--and in that case has been
allowed an existence outside the psychic realm in general.
e) [p62] According to this explanation, every exertion of animal
life would have but one goal and that a negative one, namely,
alleviation of stress; or rather, since the word ``goal'' has become
inappropriate her, the course of all animal action follows the law of
terminal equilibrium--the mechanics of entropy. [...] What passes itself
off for effective striving would be the unidirectional drift toward
easing of tension, the pleasure felt at attaining it would be the
fancy trimmings of a disappearing act, that is, of tension ceasing in
a (momentary) condition of rest.
f) Descartes' decree tha subjectiviti as such can be only rational
and therefore only exist in man, does not bind the reasonably
observer, and every owner of a dog can laugh it off.
[p64] 6. The Causal Power of Subjective Ends [...]
The result assumed from here on andbriefly put is the restoration to
credibility of the original testimony of subjectivity in its own
behalf, that is, a vindication of its prima facie claim to
``reality'' against its denial an the hemotion to a mere
``epiphenomenon'' by metialism. [...] The long-held, wold-be axiom that
nature does on principle not allow this room is an overstatement of
its determinism, which the mostt recent physics no longer shares.
[p65] Thus, we can say with some confidence that the realm of
voluntary bodily movement in man and animal (exemplified by
``walking'') is a locus of real determination by purposes and goals,
which are objectively executed by the same subjects that subjectively
entertain them. [...] Implicit in this statemen is the recognition that
efficacy of ends is not tide to rationality, reflection, and free
choice--that is, to men.
The efficacy is tied, however, as far as our argument has gone, to
``consciousness'' in some sense, to subjectivity and to ``volition,''
for wich our examples were chosen.
IV. The Digestive Organ
1. The Proposition That Purpose in the Physical Organisim is Only
[p66] 2. Is End-Causality Confined to Beings Endowed with Subjectivity?
And what about the total life of unconscious (noncerebral)
organisms in general? If we stopped at the point we have reached, we
would be left with the strange dichotomy, which is in itself no
a) The dualist interpretation
[p67] Either one thinks, dualistically, the alien principle (the
subjective ``soul'') to seize upon and make use of confiurations of
matter (brains) which favor it but came about for other evolutionary
reasons and not ``for'' it (unless soul had a hand already in
bringing it about); in that case, the adventitious (transcendent)
principle would have ingressed into nature at the opportunity
offered. Or it is thought, monistically, to have, with the
opportunity, come forthe by immanent logic from a nature which had
reached this point. [...] The ultimate stumbling block, however, is this:
the theory of ``ingression'' implies the soul (or whatever it is) to
exist beforehand and, as it wer, to wait in the wings for it
opportunity to enter the stage. [T]hat by every evidence of human
experience, matter occurs without mind, but not mind without matter,
and that no example of a disembodied spirit is known.
b) The monistic emergence theory [...] The real qualitative novelty of
such ``emergents'' is empasized at once with their nontranscendence,
that is, their strictly immanent origin.
[p68] If the new principle is to have power (an essential
attribute of it, as we saw), then its supporting base--the simpler
level--must comply with the evident condition that nothing can give
birth to what is entirely alien to it and runs counter to its
immanent law, and thereby does violence to itself. [...] This is
inconsistent with the idea of emergence, in which the new adds itself
to the old without changing it--rather supplementing it as an
expression of the level of organization attained in it.
[Rob: This is a big problem area. I see no reason why a new
property can't take away at the same time--a bomb for example.
Maybe I need to read more about emergence.]
[p69] 3. Final Cause in Preconscious Nature
[p70] a) The abstinence of natural science [...] [The biologist] places
himself at the point of those ``beginnings,'' at which indeed no one
but God could foresee what would one day evolve out of them, or at
the point of those elemental components in the evolved entitity
itself, from which again no one but God could discover what invisible
complement (e.g., awareness) goes with them. And so it behooves
b) The fictive character of the abstinence and its self-correction by
the scientist's existence [...] [F]or example, in writing down the
results of his thinking. But with this (if he doesn't take refuge in
a fantastic dualism) he has recoginized mind, indeed subjectivity and
interest in general, to be an efficacious principle within
nature--thus implicitly broadening his concept of nature beyond his
asserted model. Taking himself seriously (as he must) and at the
same time not as a unique exception (as he cannot do as a member of
the human community) he cannot but give nature credit for bringing
forth goal-causality, and hence regard the latter as not completely
foreign to the former.
[Rob: Somehow I see quantum mechanics
talking about this explicitly, that is, you must describe the
experiment before you can predict the results--the thought is a part
of the experiment. Subjectivity can be emergent, why not?]
[p71] c) The concept of ``ends'' beyond subjectivity: how
compatible with natural science
[p72] For natural science it is enough that in the measurable
regions the quantitative-deterministic accounting always tallies,
that is, that its equations each time stand the test of event and its
methond is rebuffed by none. And that is quite campatible with an
underlying teleology of the whole train of events. We are thus
actually saying no more than that natural science doesn't tell us
everything about nature--whereof its avowed inability to ever account,
from its premises, for consciousness, nay, for the most elementary
case of feeling (thus for the best-evidenced phenomenon in the
universe!) is the most telling and conclusive evidence.
[Rob: I don't really understand why natural science can't account for
d) Purpose beyond subjectivity: what sense does it make?
[p74] e) Willing, occasion, and the channeling of causality
[p75] In conclusion, then, toanwer the title question of IV.2
(p. 66) and its more pointed framing in IV.3.d (p. 2): it is
meaningful, and not just a metophor borrowed from our subjectivity,
to speak of the immanent, if entirely unconscious and involuntary,
purpose of digestion and its apparatus in the totality of the living
body, and to speak of life as the end-prupose of just this body. It
makes sense and has greater probability on its side