Deep into the morning procrastination ritual – reading two or more blogs and FB instead of the chapter I’m meant to be finishing – I realized that I had forgotten what I had been reading a minute ago. So I let my mouse hover over the IE icon on my task bar and hey presto! I saw a “mouse over” preview of the Discover Post on identical twins I had been perusing. Moral: the extended mind works, but it needs metacognition to patch its resources together.
Distracted from distraction by distraction T S Eliot, Burnt Norton
I’m currently using Davidsonian radical interpretation as a model for understanding the obstructions presented by very alien minds and phenomenologies – posthumans, aliens, cats, etc. However, much as I admire Davidson’s writings I don’t really want to be a Davidsonian. For example, I don’t think that content is constituted by how others might interpret it in ideal conditions. Entertaining or having a certain content is at bottom a power or disposition – it’s a state that makes a difference to what one can do, it exercises influence on actions, etc..
Ray Brassier refers to humans animals “with the capacity to be gripped by concepts” (Brassier 2011). I find the implicit analogy between concept use and possession suggestive, though it does not incline me to his view that concepts are inferential roles or articulations. If contents are real powers with “grip” then “uninterpretable content” is an oxymoron – for it would be a causally inert property whose possession makes no difference to the possessor or to anything else (Heil 2003, Ch8).
Such properties need not be identical to inferential roles because inferential roles are manifestations of powers and powers are not identical to their manifestations. Nonetheless, assigning inferential roles ( interpreting) may be a good way of predicting and manipulating the behaviour of the possessed.
If one is a Davidsonian radical interpreter, interpretation can be thought of as using a sentence with a familiar role in some interpreting theory or metalanguage – e.g. “The box is a trap” – and proceeding as if a state of the interpretee (an utterance or mental state) has the content which manifests this role. I suggested this approach in 2004 back when I was more sympathetic to the interpretationist cause. At that point, I was only dimly aware that this was a way of instrumentalizing interpretation and divesting it of its pretensions to constitutive status (I’m slow this way). Interpretability is just a spinoff of the fact that concepts and contents exert influence and have results we can track and use.
Thus understood, radical interpretation is semantic modelling as extreme sport. We create an artificial idiom that means something for us – the interpreting “theory” – and consider the degree to which another being shares that idiom (Roden 2004, 200-1). Success in interpretation need not depend on mirroring the content of the alien state we wish to understand. For example, the state by virtue of which the raccoon is able to represent the fact that a box is a trap will presumably differ from “The box is a trap” in not being a grammatically structured sentence in a public language but a brain state of some kind. However, if the modelling procedure helps us to shape and cope with cat, raccoon, posthuman behaviour the interpretation can be warranted on purely pragmatic grounds.
In Donald Davidson’s Philosophy of Language, Bjorn Ramberg imagines an idealized hard case involving people who are solely concerned with events that happened two days ago (Ramberg 1989, 120). We might not be able to appreciate what is it like to be entirely preoccupied with two day old events, but this does not mean that we cannot detect this temporal fixation and interpret those who have it. For example, we might have a theory that says of a temporal displacee that s (an utterance in the displacee’s language) uttered at time t is true if and only if p – where p reports some event two days prior to t. Of course, realizing that use value in the form of fluid communication might require more than just a helpful simulation. It would require the interpreters to become sensitive to the point of view of the displacees. So from radical interpretation we arrive at the threshold of cyborg becomings. But that’s another story.
Brassier, R. (2011). The view from nowhere. Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture, (17), 7-23.
Autonomous systems of the kind that we can conceive as emerging from our technology are liable to be modular assemblages of elements that can couple opportunistically with other entities or systems, creating new assemblages whose powers and dispositions are transformed and dynamically put into play by such couplings.
The best way of representing modularity is in terms of networks consisting of nodes and their interconnections. A network is modular if it contains “highly interconnected clusters of nodes that are sparsely connected to nodes in other clusters” (Clunes, Mouret and Lipson 2013, 1). In autonomous assemblages modules support functional processes that make a distinct and specialized contribution to maintaining the conditions necessary for other interdependent processes within the assemblage.
Modules may or may not be spatially localized entities. They may be relatively fragmented while exhibiting dynamical cohesion. An instance of a software object class such as an “array” (an indexed list of objects of a single type) need not be instantiated on continuous regions on a computer’s physical memory. It does not matter where the data representing the array’s contents is stored is physically located so long as the more complex program which it composes can locate that data when it needs it. Thus while it is possible that all assemblages must have some spatially bounded parts – organelles in eukaryotic cells and distributors in internal combustion engines come in spatially bounded packages, for example – not all functionally discrete parts of assemblages need be spatially discrete in the way that organelles are. Cultural entities such as technologies or symbols may consist of repeatable or iterable patterns rather than things and may be conceived as repeatable particular events than objects (Roden 2004). Yet in systems – such as socio-technical networks – whose components cued to recognize and respond to patterns, such entities can exert real causal influence by being repeated into varying contexts.
Importantly for our purposes, dynamical cohesion should not be conflated with functional stability. An entity can retain its dynamical integrity and intrinsic powers while subtending distinct wide functional roles in the systems to which it belongs. To use, Don Ihde’s term: such entities are functionally “multistable”. An Acheulian hand axe – a technology used by humans for over a million years – might have been used as a scraper, a chopper or a projectile weapon. Modern technologies such as mobile phones and computers are, of course, designed to be multistable; though their uses can exceed the specifications of their designers, as when a phone is used as a bomb detonator (Ihde 2012). It seems as if the decomposability of cognitive systems also confers multistability upon their parts thus contributing to the functional autonomy of the system as a whole.
In cognitive science, the classical modularity thesis held that human and animal minds contain encapsulated, fast and dirty, automatic (mandatory) domain-specific cognitive systems dedicated to specialized tasks such as kinship-evaluation, sentence-parsing or classifying life forms. However, it is an empirical question whether the mind is wholly or partly composed of domain-specific cognitive agents and, as Keith Frankish notes, a further empirical question whether neural modularity also holds: that is, whether domain-specified cognitive functions map onto anatomically discrete brain regions in the human brain such as Broca’s area (traditionally associated with language processing) or the so-called “Fusiform Face Area” (Frankish 2012, 280). Neither the classical theory of mental modules nor the neural modularity thesis follows from the fact that human brains are decomposable in the network sense presupposed by assemblage theory.
We should nonetheless expect autonomous entities such as present organisms or hypothetical posthumans to be network-decomposable assemblages rather than systems in which every part is equally coupled with every other part because modularity confers flexibility on known kinds of adaptive system. For example, in biological populations modularity is recognized as one of the necessary conditions of evolvability “an organism’s capacity to generate heritable phenotypic variation.” (Kirschner and Gehart 1998, 8420). Some biologists argue that the transition from prokaryotic cells (whose DNA is not contained in a nucleus) to more complex eukaryotic cells (who have nucleated DNA as well as more specialized subsystems such as organelles) was accompanied by a decoupling of the processes of RNA transcription and subsequent translation into proteins. This may have allowed noncoding (intronic) RNA to assume regulatory roles necessary for producing more complex organisms because the separation of sites allows the intronic RNA to be spliced out of the messenger RNA where it might otherwise disrupt the production of proteins. If, as seems to be the case, regulatory portions of intronic DNA and RNA are necessary for the production of higher organisms, then this articulation in DNA expression may have allowed the ancestor populations of complex multi-cellular organisms to explore gene-regulation possibilities without disabling protein expression (Ruiz-Mirazo, Kepa and Moreno 2012, 39; Mattick 2004).
The benefits of articulation apply at higher levels of organization in living beings for reasons that may hold for autonomous “proto-ex-artefacts” poised for disconnection. Nervous systems need to be “dynamically decoupled” from the environment that they map and represent because perception, learning and memory rely on establishing specialized information channels and long term synaptic connections in the face of changing environmental stimulation. This entails a capacity “for cells to step back from the manifold of ambient stimulus and to be prepared to pick and choose which stimulus to make salient and thus in so doing a capacity to enjoy an unprecedented level of internal autonomy” (Moss 2006 932–934; Ruiz-Mirazo, Kepa and Moreno 2012, 44).
Network decomposition of internal components also seems to carry advantages within control systems, including those that might actuate posthumans one day. Research into locomotion in insects and arthropods shows that far from using a central control system to co-ordinate all the legs in a body, each leg tends to have its own pattern generator.
A coherent motion capable of supporting the body emerges from the excitatory and inhibitory actions of the distributed system rather than through co-ordination by a central controller. The evolutionary rationale for distributed control of locomotion can be painted in similar terms to that of the articulation of DNA transcription and expression considered above – a distributed system being far less fragile in the face of evolutionary tinkering than a central control architecture in which the function of each part is heavily dependent on those of other parts.
This rationale plausibly applies to human beings and as well as to our immediate primate ancestors, especially in the case of sophisticate cognitive feats that require the organism to learn specific cultural patterns – such as languages – which would not have been stable or invariant enough to have selected for the component abilities that they require over evolutionary time (Deacon 1997, 322-334 – the Visual Word Form Area is a particularly spectacular example of such “cultural recycling” – see below). While this is compatible with network decomposition it may not tally with the classical modularity thesis since it suggests an evolutionary rationale for the promiscuous re-use of functionally multistable components.
Evidence from functional imaging suggests that anatomically discrete regions like Broca’s or the Fusiform Area are co-opted by evolutionary and cultural processes in support of functionally disparate cognitive tasks. For example, relatively ancient areas in the human brain known to be involved in motor control are also involved in language understanding. This suggests that circuits associated with grasping the affordances and potentialities of objects were recruited over evolutionary time to meet the emerging cultural demands of symbolic communication (Anderson 2007, 14). In a recent target article on neural-reuse in Behavioural and Brain Sciences Michael Anderson cites research suggesting that older brain areas tend to be less domain specific and more multistable – that is, that they tend to get re-deployed in a wider variety of cognitive domains (Anderson 2010, 247). Peter Carruthers and Keith Frankish likewise argue that circuits in the visual and motor areas which have been initially involved in controlling and anticipating actions have become co-opted in the production and monitoring of propositional thinking (beliefs, desires, intentions, etc.) through the production of inner speech. A an explicit belief, for example, can be implemented as a globally available action-representation – an offline “rehearsal” of a verbal utterance – to which distinctive commitments to further action or inference can be undertaken (Carruthers 2008). Andy Clark cites experimental work on Pan troglodytes chimpanzees which comports with the Carruthers’ and Frankish’s assumption that cognitive systems adapted for pattern recognition and motor control can be opportunistically reused to bootstrap an organism’s cognitive abilities. Here, an experimental group of chimps were trained to associate two different plastic tokens with pairs of identical and pairs of different objects respectively. The experimental group were later able to solve a difficult second-order difference categorization task that defeated the control group of chimps who had not been trained to use the tokens:
The more abstract problem (which even we sometimes find initially difficult!) is to categorize pairs-of pairs of objects in terms of higher order sameness or different. Thus the appropriate judgement for pair-of-pairs “shoe/shoe and banana/shoe” is “different” because the relations exhibited within each pair are different. In shoe/shoe the (lower order) relation is “sameness”; in banana/shoe it is difference. Hence the higher-order relation – the relation between the relations – is difference (Clark 2003, 70).
Interestingly, Clark notes that the chimps in the experimental group were able to solve the problem without repeatedly using the physical tokens, suggesting that they were able to associate the “difference” and “sameness” with inner surrogates similar to the offline speech events posited by Carruthers and Frankish (71; See also Wheeler 2004).
This account of the emergence of specialized symbolic thinking and linguistic thinking via the reuse of neural circuits evolved for pattern recognition and motor-control illustrates a more general ontological schema. Assemblages – whether human, inhuman, animate or inanimate – inherit the capacity to couple with larger assemblages from their structure and components and are similarly constrained by those powers. Carbon atoms have the power to assemble complex molecular chains because their four valence electrons permit the formation of multiple chemical bonds. Simpler prokaryotic cells may lack the capacity to evolve the regulatory networks required to form multicellular affiliations because their encoding process is insufficiently differentiated. Likewise, although specific neural circuits may be inherently multistable it does not follow that each can do anything. Each may have specific “biases” or computational powers that reflect its evolutionary origins (Anderson 2010, 247). For example, Stanislas Dehaene and Laurent Cohen review some remarkable results suggesting the existence of a Visual Word Form Area, a culturally universal cortical map situated in the fusiform gyrus of temporal lobe, which is involved in the recognition of discrete and complex written characters independently of writing system.
As Dehaene and Cohen observe, it is not plausible to suppose that the VWFA evolved specifically to meet the demands of literate cultures since writing was invented only 5400 years ago, while only a fraction of humans have been able to read for most of this period (Dehaene and Cohen 2007, 384). Thus it appears that the cortical maps in the VWFA have structural properties which make them ideal for reuse in script recognition despite not having evolved for the representation of written characters (among the factors suggested is that the VWFA is located in a part of the Fusiform area receptive to highly discriminate visual input from the fovea – 389).
Coupling an assemblage with another system – e.g. a transcultural code such as a writing or number system – may, of course, increase the functional autonomy of system by allowing it to respond fluidly and adaptively to the demands of its environment – enlisting new affiliations and resources which, then, come to be functional for it. Literacy and numeracy have become functionally necessary for economic activity in advanced industrial societies – clearly this was not always so! However, this is only possible because both the assemblage and its parts are open to functional shifts that, in effect, allow the creation of new social “megamachines” which extend beyond the coupled individuals. Thus while complex assemblages articulated into lots of functionally open systems may be more functionally autonomous than less articulated ones – are more capable of accruing new functions –they are more apt to be “deterritorialized” by happening on new modes of existence and new ways of being affected (DeLanda 2006, 50-51).
Anderson, Michael (2007). “Massive redeployment, exaptation, and the functional integration of cognitive operations”. Synthese, 159(3): 329-345,
Anderson, M. L. (2010). “Neural reuse: A fundamental organizational principle of the brain.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(4), 245.
Carruthers, Peter (2008). “An architecture for dual reasoning”. In J. Evans & K. Frankish (eds.), In Two Minds: Dual Processes and Beyond. Oxford University Press.
Clark, Andy (2003). Natural Born Cyborgs. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Clune, J., Mouret, J. B., & Lipson, H. (2012). “The evolutionary origins of modularity”. arXiv preprint arXiv:1207.2743.
Deacon, Terrence. 1997. The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Human Brain . London: Penguin.
Dehaene, S., & Cohen, L. (2007). Cultural recycling of cortical maps. Neuron,56(2), 384-398.
DeLanda, M. (2006), A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity, London: Continuum.
Frankish, Keith (2012). “Cognitive Capacities, Mental Modules, and Neural Regions”. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 18 (4).
Ihde, D. (2012). “Can Continental Philosophy Deal with the New Technologies?” Journal Of Speculative Philosophy, 26(2), 321-332.
Kirschner Marc and Gehart, John (1998). “Evolvability”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 95, 8420-8427.
Moss, L. (2006). “Redundancy, plasticity, and detachment: The implications of comparative genomics for evolutionary thinking”. Philosophy of Science, 73, 930–946.
Roden, David (2004). ‘Radical Quotation and Real Repetition’, Ratio (new series) XVII 2 June 2004, 191-206.
Ruiz-Mirazo, Kepa & Moreno, Alvaro (2012). “Autonomy in evolution: from minimal to complex life”. Synthese 185 (1):21-52.
Wheeler, M. (2004). “Is language the ultimate artefact?.” Language Sciences, 26(6), 693-715.
 One of the benefits of so-called “objected oriented” programming languages (OO) like Java over “procedural” programming languages such as COBOL is that OO programs organize software objects in encapsulated modules. When a client object in the program has to access an object (e.g. a data structure such a list) it sends a message to the object that activates one of the objects “public” methods (e.g. the client might “tell” the object to return an element stored in it, add a new element or carry out an operation on existing elements). However, the client’s message does not specify how the operation is to be performed. This is specified in the code for the object. From the perspective of the client, the object is a black box that can be activated by public messages yielding a consumable output. This means that changes in how the proprietary methods of the object are implemented do not force developers to change the code in other parts of the program since these do not “matter” to the other objects. Maintenance and development of software systems becomes simpler.
 The cochlear cells in our inner are connected to hair like cells which are receptive to sound vibrations. This specialized arrangement allows the cochlear to conduct a fast spectrum analysis on incoming vibrations, assaying the relative amplitudes of components in complex sounds.
“Unlike physical or chemical dissipative structures, in which patterns of dynamic order form spontaneously, but whose stability relies almost completely on externally-imposed boundary conditions, autonomous systems build and actively maintain most of their own boundary conditions, making possible a robust far-from-equilibrium dynamic behavior.”
“A big stone in the river holds water from flowing, and some bacteria ferment milk to produce yoghourt. Although both systems do something, we do not call the stone an agent. The difference between the two cases is not in the degree of change operated by one or the other, but in the consequence of that change: only in the latter case does the change contribute to the maintenance of the performer of the action.”
Ruiz-Mirazo, Kepa & Moreno, Alvaro (2012). “Autonomy in evolution: from minimal to complex life”. Synthese 185 (1), 33-34.
I’ve argued e that posthumans would have to be, in some sense of the term, “autonomous entities” capable of operating outside the scope of the socio-technical network I refer to as the Wide Human (Roden 2013). A being is autonomous if it is self-governing. According to the modern practical philosophy that follows Rousseau and Kant, autonomous beings (paradigmatically human beings) are those that can freely determine the principles by which they act and live.
A nonhuman animal may have desires and drives, but not being rational it cannot represent those desires to itself or attempt to be motivated by different ones (Frankfurt 1971).
It appears that a posthuman entity would need to be autonomous in something like this sense since it will have to become both functionally and existentially independent of the Wide Human (WH).
Within WH functional and existential independence are related. Entities belonging to WH accrue functions that have come to be required by biological (narrow) humans. They also tend to exist in a form that is perpetuated over time. Further, their existence in historically stable forms is explained by this contribution to narrow human ends.
We can express this relationship as a “consequence law”: where E is the dated fact that some entity ? exists in a historically stable form in a context and (E—>H) is some humanly valuable causal function F of ?.
Thus: (E—>H) –> E Expresses the fact that (E—>H) accounts for or causes E.
A consequence law supports counterfactuals. If (E—>H) ceased to obtain, ? would cease to occur in in a historically stable form in a context (E would become false).
Technological change is capable generating new functions and it is quite normal for realizers of those functions to be superseded by new realizers. For example, automobiles have superseded horses in the developed world because the functions associated with horses can be better served by cars. The result is that horses have ceased to occur in the contexts in which they were formerly used (public transport and the provision of motive power). However, objects can acquire new functions. So we need to complicate this formula by stating that ? exists only so long as there is some human-related function that it continues to serve in some context (EF) .
EF expresses the functional dependence of those Wide Humans that are not Narrow Humans upon WH. They exist in a given context only so long as there is some narrow human purpose that they fulfil. It also expresses the fact that WH is predicated on the existence of narrowly human individuals. Were human individuals to disappear so would the functions and thus the historically stable forms of these Wide Humans would disappear also.
Certain species of domesticated animal like pigs and cows are thus Wide Humans (as I have advertised) since they would cease to exist in most of the current contexts in which they occur were it not for the fact that they serve human needs for milk and meat. For example, if all humans converted to veganism and vegetarianism cows and pigs would likely survive only as domestic pets or as feral pigs or feral cattle. Those belonging to the former group would remain parts of the wide human while those in the latter group would be effectively outside it since their continued existence in their new context would not depend on their fulfilment of human related functions.
Important Note: the term “human related function” does not refer to something like core human needs or authentically human needs, or invariant human needs. No such essentialist commitment is implied here. A human related function is simply a function that would not exist but for the existence of narrow humans. These can be as artificial and as historically contingent as you like: computer gaming, cash dispensing and pornography are human-related functions in this sense.
Nor does EF commit us to some voluntarist conception of functions. It does not require that functions come to exist through the intentions of individuals or groups. It is quite compatible with the view the some human-relative functions come into being by incremental processes in which no individual intended that a particular function or activity come into being. We can call the independence from the human-related functions of beings outside WH negative autonomy (analogously perhaps to Berlin’s notion of negative liberty).
Arguably, however, we need a positive conception of posthuman autonomy. Here’s why. There are plenty of objects that are a) technically fashioned and b) can exist for some extended period of time after they have ceased to be technically useful: hulks and ruins, for example. However, unless they are preserved for aesthetic purposes hulks and ruins have no functions at all (having aesthetic functions would, of course, qualify them for membership of WH).
Hulks and ruins are unlike feral animals in that the latter seem to carry out many non-human-related functions: for example, mating, foraging, giving birth, etc. A conception of disconnection that resulted in hulks and ruins having posthuman status would be simply too broad. Hulks and ruins are existentially independent of WH but not functionally independent in the way, say, that feral animals are. But functional independence would require that posthumans would be able to determine non-humans purposes or functions.
Rational subjects can do this within certain parameters. They can choose the projects that will give meaning to their lives or (as Rawls puts it) their conceptions of the good.
However, I have argued elsewhere that the notion of the rational subject is too narrow to comprehend Posthuman Possibility Space (PPS). It is also not well defined since we do not have a self-standing conception of the subject that could not be revised by some future sciences of cognition.
Thus we will need a more general conception of autonomy if we are to get a sense of the kind of being that inhabits PPS. Some of these may have a mode of being that is rather like the Dasein of humans – reflecting upon their plans for life in terms formulated in shared public languages, for example – but others may lack what Thomas Metzinger refers to as a self-model. They may not think of themselves as unique individuals whose lives could go better or worse and they may not experience or participate in intersubjectivity. If so, the category of the subject is not going to furnish the general conception of autonomy we require.
The example of feral animals points us towards a different and arguably more fundamental conception of autonomy. In the philosophical tradition, the bodies of biological organisms have been understood as having functions fixed by their contribution to activity or self-maintenance of the organism.
This conception has its classical formulation in Aristotle’s biology and metaphysics who argued that the presence of certain arrangements of parts and materials in plants or animals can be explained by their specific contribution to the life activity of the creature. Thus in the Physics, Aristotle argues that the presence and specific arrangement of teeth in the mouth of animals is explained by their contribution to animal nutrition (Phys 198b25-35). Similarly, the form of the parts of organs are fixed by their contribution to the functions of those organs, whose function is determined by their contribution to the life activity of the entire organism. In animals without hard external shells, eyelids have the function of protecting the thin, moist eyes, which, in turn, realize the function of seeing in the whole organism (Ariew, Cummins and Perlman 2002, 14).
Now, this explanation conforms to the consequence law schema set out above. It is teleological (explanation in terms of purposes) because the propensity of these structures (teeth, eyelids) to contribute to the functions of the organism explains their form and thus their being. Moreover, these functions depend on the continued life of the whole organism. The contribution of these parts to life-activity of the organism is thus the ontological ground of their functions: “Thus, organisms and their parts are what they are only when living. As for the products of techne … they are defined by the function they must perform.” (Moya 2000, 321).
An animal is similar to a technological artefact like a couch in that both it and its organization can only be understood in terms of the function is performs. According to Aristotle the function (and thus the form or being) of an artefact like a hammer or couch depends upon something external to the matter of the artefact.
However, the form and function of a natural thing like an animal or plant depends only on the thing itself ((Met 1070a7-8). Whereas an instrument serves a function set by its users, the body of the animal is an “instrument (organon) performing or making manifest its own act of living (its entelecheia)” (Moya 2000, 326).
The autonomy of the organism as understood by Aristotle, and by long tradition of biological thought that follows, consists in its capacity to determine its existence: where “existence” here needs to be understood as its mode of life or function – it’s being the kind of thing it is. This clearly a different conception of self-determination from the Kant-Rousseau conception of rational-autonomy since the organism does not need to consciously choose its function or being in order to have it.
So does this provide the concept of positive autonomy that we are seeking? Well, if we understood posthumans as organisms in the Aristotelian sense we would be able to explain their existential independence in terms of their functional independence. They would not need humans to set their ends because (qua organisms) they would be teleologically self-fixing.
However, the Aristotelian reading of posthuman autonomy will not do. There are at least six objections that can be levelled at it and they all carry some weight.
1) The Aristotelian account of organism is committed to objective teleology. However, post-Darwinian biology provides a far more satisfactory explanation of biological order than Aristotle and other organicists. Since it rejects objective teleology, we should too (Darwinian Objection)
2) The Disconnection Thesis implies that some posthumans could be WHD’s of artefacts, not organisms. But artefacts have only derived functions and organisms have original functions. There is thus no technological process whereby the WHD’s of artefacts could acquire original functions and thus jump ontological category (The Category Objection).
3) Contrary to Aristotle, the functions of the parts of creatures are not exclusively determined by their contribution to the whole organism. Mechanisms at a lower level than the organism have functions independently of the systems to which they belong. Treating the organisms as a self-sufficient biological totality or whole is thus a mistake (Anti-Holism Objection).
4) Organisms are not self-determining, in any case. They and their components can acquire new functions and thus new forms of existence by being “iterated” into new contexts (Functional Indeterminacy Objection).
5) The organismic perspective is a kind of vitalism; but the wrong kind. It envisages an ordered nature with functions analogous to those of the human world. But “nature is not natural” in this sense. ( Neo-Vitalist Objection).
6) The organismic perspective is, in any case, parochial. The justification for specifying the posthuman in terms of WHD is surely that posthumans are liable to be postbiological. Thus the organic/inorganic distinction would not apply to them (The Post-Biology Objection).
Ariew, Andre ; Cummins, Robert C. & Perlman, Mark (eds.) (2002). Functions: New Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology and Biology. Oxford University Press.
Collier, John (2002). “What is autonomy?”, http://cogprints.org/2289/3/autonomy.pdf, accessed 04/03/2011.
Colebrook, Claire (2010). Deleuze and the Meaning of Life. Continuum.
Frankfurt, Harry G. (1971). “Freedom of the will and the concept of a person”. Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Moya, Fernando (2000), “The Epistemology of Living Organisms in Aristotle’s Philosophy”, Theory In Biosciences 119(3-4): 318-333.
Roden, David (2012). “The Disconnection Thesis”, in The Singularity Hypothesis: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment, edited by Amnon Eden, Johnny Søraker, Jim Moor, and Eric Steinhart. Springer Frontiers Collection.