Matter & Humanity
The Mind and the Machine: What It Means to Be Human and Why It Matters
by Matthew Dickerson
(258 pages, variously priced, paperback)
reviewed by J. Daryl Charles
Ours is a most intriguing age. It bears the mark of schizophrenia yet stridency, of epistemological uncertainty yet deep-seated incorrigibility, of ethical ambiguity yet stunning intransigence. What consensually has been assumed by both ancients and moderns—namely, that the species Homo sapiens (literally, the knowing, wise, or rational species) is unique among all living forms, capable of dignity and depravity, of moral splendor and moral degeneracy, and that human beings are significantly free (and thus self-responsible) moral agents—is increasingly challenged today. This thoughtful volume, written by a professor of computer science and environmental studies at Middlebury College, responds to the present challenge by investigating the roots and ramifications of a post-consensus "physicalist" understanding of human nature.