David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Imagine a Paleolithic hunter, who has failed to hunt down anything for a couple of days and is hungry. He has an urgent desire, the desire to eat, which he is not able to fulfill – his desire is frustrated by the world. Now imagine our contemporary bank clerk, who went to work forgetting his wallet at home and is hungry too. He too is not able to fulfill his urgent desire to eat because it is frustrated by the world. From the viewpoint of the two individuals the situation is very similar. However, it differs in at least one crucial respect. While the hunter cannot eat because there is no food available to him anywhere near (at least as far as he can find out), the clerk can easily find tons of food - it is enough to visit a nearest supermarket. The reason why he cannot get the food is not that it would be physically impossible, but because taking food from store's shelves without paying is forbidden. This story reminds us that many of the barriers that constrain our lives and make us find our way merely within the space delimited by them are no longer barriers in the literal sense of the word - they are no longer produced by the conspiracy of the causal laws that form our physical niche. Rather they are produced by the conspiracy of attitudes of our fellow humans - they are deliberate rules, rather than inexorable natural laws. In this way evolution is canalized not by the environment relatively independent of it, but rather by the ploy of the organisms it itself has brought into being. I think that realizing the full import of this autocatalyctic situation may lead us, on the one hand, to the appreciation of certain philosophical doctrines, pervasive especially after Kant, regarding normativity as the hallmark of the human, while, on the other hand seeing how they get enlightened by scientific doctrines regarding the development of the human race its continuities/discontinuities with its animal cousins.
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