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mcrepeau's picture

Not just animals...and the emergent I function in Social groups

When we say "animals" exactly what animals are we talking about? The general term "animals" which we've used in class so far has bothered me for a while now, after all it is unfair and incorrect to divide all sentient organisms into human and animal. Just as a human may not be considered the same thing as a snail... a dolphin, an octopus, a squid, or a chimpanzee cannot be directly held analogous to a snail or a nematode. These "animal" are all creatures with acknowledged problem solving abilities and/or emotions and complex social networks---if any species have the potential to have an “I” function analogous to what we humans think of as an I function than these are your best candidates. Whether or not a snail has an I-function and the ability to chose in the self-reflective sense that we are constructing the concept of "to chose" in I have no authority to comment on (I am not a snail and thus do not have an accurate idea of a snail's perception of life...potentially limited or not). Perhaps versions of or something equivalent to the "I" function do exist in animals of so called "lower orders" in terms of the "I function" as an awareness or sense of self ( I mean a sense of self exists even on a cellular level....even white blood cells…something never considered sentient in the least can decipher between self and non-self....what shares the same antibodies and DNA markers and what does not) but perhaps they have developed differently in different organisms and as such are not readily recognizable to us as humans (they may not be what we think of them as at all in other organisms)

Going back to the idea of the "I" function as an emergent property....perhaps the idea of the "I-function" as being an agent of reflective...big-picture....cause-and-consequence choice and information processing is an emergent property of social living in which the survival of an organism becomes the survival of a group in which the group must function as one individual, in a sense, where all the members of the group must coordinate with one another in a coherent fashion in order for the group to function and survive (this calls for an awareness not only of self but of others and ability to recognize how one's actions affect not just the state of oneself but also the state of group at large---in evolutionary terms this is a smart way to play, the more members of a group that are taken care of and survive to reproductive maturity...perhaps at the cost of the lives or quality of life of a few others...ultimately the more genetic material is preserved---thus choices about whether or not it is advisable for one individual to, say, horde a food supply for themselves versus share the food source with dependents, or smoke in a crowded, poorly ventilated restaurant---you get a nice nicotine rush out-of it but put the three asthmatics sitting at the table next to you at a potentially fatal health risk---are all very relevant to the idea of choice and group living)---as for the choice between a paperclip and a staple...humans have taken an emergent property to an extreme....



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