Stupid ideas 1: Man is a blind machine

Whether or not they are designed in the sense of being given a mechanistic function, the very fact that there is a design of some sort immediately assures intelligence and purpose.

“I am a machine” is bad grammar - bad philosophical grammar. A machine is an ad hoc assembly of objects that fulfill a task - it is a tool. We cannot say that we are a tool, and then claim that we are not the tool but rather the identity using the tool.

why do you assume everyone’s using the same definition of machine as you, johnjones? you haven’t defined it in this thread, so it’s ludicrous to think that they already agree on your definition.

Perhaps life-forms do not have inherent purposes or functions. If we are products of natural selection, random genetic mutation, etc., we, as a species, carry successful traits. Natural selection is not forward thinking (not that it thinks at all, Humpty, I’m lookin’ at you). Natural selection is resultant, not anticipatory.

Sorry, I was unclear - let me edit: Are there no possible cases in which one can call something a machine which is not designed? That we give meaning and purpose to things does not mean that all such things are designed.

We are ourselves our primary means.

ma·chine (noun, often attributive)

2a : a living organism or one of its functional systems

A machine is a tool whose main function is accomplished by indirect manipulation. So a car moves by operating the pedals etc and not by directly turning the wheels.

There is a distinction between tool and user. Without that distinction we undermine the grammar of “tool”. It is fanciful and changes meanings to say that we are the tool and the user.

I’m happy in leaving it at life is for itself.

To say that life has, or has not, a function or purpose undermines the grammar of function, purpose and life -functions and purposes are indicative of life, and are not indicative of any physical system whatever. That is why Dawkins made a mistake when he used the machine as a metaphor for life - machines are ad hoc assemblies given functions and purposes - hence to argue for machines is to argue for life and intelligence.

But that is a straight contradiction. There is necessarilly design, intelligence, purpose and life if there is a machine, otherwise there would only be rubble, piles of junk, and more rubble in the universe.

The first of those three things (design) is a fair point, but you then ruin it by adding ‘intelligence’ and ‘purpose’ to the list. I used Ganapati’s point to illustrate my own, and the point still stands.


User and tool can have different meanings and yet apply to the same thing. To be cliche - they’re not mutually exclusive in their application. One is both user and tool. This does not undermine any grammar. Nor do I view it as a debasement of our species.

I think you missed my point about natural selection. It is consistent with natural selection to say that people do not have inherent purposes (not quite sure about functions yet). And I submit to you that this is the case. Successful traits/genes/etc. are those that survive by being reproduced in later generations. They were not ‘selected’ for, as if to say literally ‘chosen’, although many people talk this way. Evolution is not an intelligent process. That most of us are driven to sexual reproduction is a testament to a combination of successful traits, not a telos. It is not essential that we reproduce, even if we have such a drive. One does not literally go against his purpose if he chooses not to reproduce. It is not an inherent purpose, however it will allow for traits/genes to be reproduced.

It’s funny that you cite Dawkins because he has just the argument to destroy your claims.

Man is a machine, not in that he is built to meet certain goals or accomplish certain tasks, but that his entire makeup can be explained by basic mechanics, like a machine.

No, look-
What makes a design a design? Functionality. And what makes functionality? Needs and goals.

If you admit to design you admit to intelligence.

Dawkins used the word MACHINE, not mechanics. There is a huge, critical difference. Mechanics has no forms. Machines are forms associated with tasks and purposes, hence intelligence.

To say “I use my body as a tool” is fanciful and vague, unless we acknowledge that the phrase is only poetical. Otherwise we seem to be proposing that we have a relationship with ourselves, that my left hand can give my right hand money, and that I am a ghost that works the nearest body with a set of levers.

Natural selection is an unncessary shuffle here. It isn’t grammatically sensible to say that life has, or has not purpose. “Purpose” makes sense only in the context of life. I don’t see what evolution has to do with this grammatical point.

No, there is not. The only kind of machines whose existence has been acknowledged so far are of the type that have been deliberately designed and manufactured by some others to serve a purpose. But that need not be. Evolution makes possible complex structures with no designer and no intelligence on the part of the builder, but which serve a purpose to those that build them.

The comparison of living beings to machines is in the sense they serve the purpose of the builder, not everything you can conceive of when someone mentions a machine.

Well, I don’t know what else I can say. Yes your left hand can give your right hand money… The human body is a tool (can be thought as/used as one) and it is also a person. It seems you just don’t like the sound of that.

It is not an unnecessary shuffle. Let me try again. You said a “life-form that works for itself” has inherent purpose, but cannot explain why. I don’t doubt that we have purpose or purposes, I just don’t think they inhere in us. I have offered an explanation. Inherent purpose is not given by evolution - so you need to explain what you think gives life inherent purpose.

Your left hand cannot owe your right hand money, and there is no sense of “giving money” from one to the other, although you can move money. But you know this already.

You want to say that we use ourselves. This is contradictory, unless “we” and “ourselves” refer to two different entities, where the former is our own person, and the latter is not. But that commits you to saying that one person is two persons.

It only makes sense to talk about purposes and functions in the context of life. Life neither has, nor does not have, purposes. Purposes are conceptually inherent, analytic to the concept. We don’t talk about the purpose of sand on the beach but we may talk about the purpose of a bucket of sand because it is connected with the ways of life.

There are no functional objects in the world that can be identified on material grounds alone. Thus, to identify a machine is to identify a function, life, non-materiality, and intelligence.

We know all the machines in the universe, from year dot to as far ahead as you can think. Machines are tools that we make to help us complete tasks. That defines the lot. Anything else is rubble, even if it has a pleasing shape.

There is the same degree of structural complexity in ten kilograms of sand as ten kilograms of “evolutionary” life form.

If Man is a machine for another then that means that there is life and intelligence in that other.

There’s no getting away from the fact that machines represent the tasks and purposes of life, so where you identify a machine you identify tasks and purposes and life. All Dawkins has done is made us out to be slaves to other life-forms, not machines.

If I want to build strength in my chest/arms, I might do push-ups. I use my own body weight. I am also mobile. I use my legs to move. I walk. Man is a machine for himself. It’s not contradictory for a thing to use itself as a means.

No. Basic logic - life must either have purpose or not have purpose - that is the nature of a disjunction of the type p v ~p (life either has purpose or does not have purpose - one of these must be true).


Yes, I agree. And Intelligence (or whatever you want to call it) must exist to project purpose and function onto things. So purpose is not inherent, it is projected. As per your example, sand can very well serve many purposes:

A bucket was made with distinct purposes in mind - that does not mean they are inherent to the material, you are correct, they are inherent to the idea of bucket which is a projection of the human mind. Life (as it is physically manifested in the world) does not have inherent purpose.

But aren’t you blurring the distinction between using a tool and not using a tool? After all, if insects can position themselves for best leverage are they tool users like us?

I don’t think there is any disagreement elsewhere. Just the fact that not everything physical is a machine. And if we are machines then there IS life, intelligence and purpose.