Notes on mechanism and its opposite

-An age that sees the physical as mechanistic understands the spiritual as the one who controls, because when we call something “mechanistic” we don’t most of all mean to speak of gears, wheels, billiard balls banging into each other (although this is what we mean first) but rather what can be controlled by us.

-In this sense the slave is seen as having no spiritual value. Although some men are controlled by others in a qualified sense (e.g. by rhetoric or orders) the slave is not persuaded nor is he commanded as a part of a human community (a general commands a soldier, but both see themselves as parts of an army; likewise for a teacher and a student) the slave is outside the human community by definition. We can, of course, never be consistent with this in real life, but end up treating slaves somehow as in control of themselves, e.g. by punishing one slave to make him an example to others.

-This distinction might make for an interesting account of the division between the sciences and the humanities; or it might serve to point out what is misguided or untenable in such a division.

-The machine has a double relation to determination. On the one hand, we see it is determined so far as given some input, the outputs are given in advance; on the other hand the machine has no determination at all of itself: something else has to get it going and supply it with any purpose it might work for. So it seems that when we view the physical as a machine we are viewing it as indetermined in itself. It is strange that we tend to associate “mechanism” with “determinism”, since this does not seem to talk about the machine as it is in itself.

Subset: The Spiritual as Creative. 

-The machine is frequently better in its task than the human being doing the same task, and yet for all that it is not the initiator of the task. There is still a spiritual value in initiating activity, or to call it by its glamorous name, being creative. 

-Mechanism must come into conflict with the idea of creativity, which has a truth at its core of what is spiritual, i.e. what controls.

-But how is science creative? Don’t we just suffer an influx of data which we arrange according to pre-set laws? Isn’t this just what “objectivity” means?

-Notice on this account of objectivity that it becomes an anti-spiritual value. This is the hard truth at the bottom of a good deal of muddled division between the arts and sciences.

- Aristotle found he needs a making intellect – one is almost tempted to say we would understand it as a creative intellect. “Yes, but all it does is make an intellect able to suffer.” Really. That’s it? It empowers us to suffer? Isn’t that what passive potency does?  What exactly does it mean to make an intelligible object, and how is this not contrary to the idea of objectivity? To make is to be a source of existence.

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