Paul Valéry1 Valéry’s “Variation sur Descartes” excellently evokes the vanishing act that has haunted philosophy ever since Darwin overturned the Cartesian tradition. If my body is composed of nothing but a team of a few trillion robotic cells, mindlessly interacting to produce all the large-scale patterns that tradition would attribute to the nonmechanical workings of my mind, there seems to be nothing left over to be me. Lurking in Darwin’s shadow there is a bugbear: the incredible Disappearing Self.2 One of Darwin’s earliest critics saw what was coming and could scarcely contain his outrage.
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