Life Is A Miracle
Wendell Berry‘s book titled “Life is a Miracle: An essay against Modern Superstitions”.
In Life Is a Miracle, “the devotion of science to the quantitative and reductionist world is measured against the mysterious, qualitative suggestions of religion and art. Berry sees life as the collision of these separate forces, but without all three in the mix we are left at sea in the world”.
Through my discussion of this Book am going to try and look at the fifth aspect of the second chapter which is titled “Creatures as machines”. In this chapter opens with remarks that the definition of world in comparison to a machine is a consilience (Wendell Berry 46).In this case a consilience is an induction taken from group truths, relates with another induction from a totally different group or Class. It therefore is an evaluation to get the facts from its mother theory. In this chapter Wendell (22, 82 and 91) supports Mr .Wilsons assumption about people as being complicated machines of the world. This is a machine in itself. He further goes ahead to relate humans to organisms that are of machine nature.
The machine aspect talks about in this section can be welcome as a metaphor but its interpretation entirely depends on an individual. For example when you view a creature as a machine this can be based on the fact that a human body like a machine, is not able to perform its functions without the coordination of other body parts. The creatures mind acts as the engine in this case coordinating all the activities in the body and if one of the creature’s parts malfunctions the entire unite will malfunction just like the actual machine (Wendell Berry 46).
In support of this argument (Wilson 96, 98).Considers the Brain as a machine and the mind as the brain in action. Wendell Berry (47).talks about Edgar Rice Burroughs “Tarzan theory” in that despite a human being born among Apes his or her mind will with no doubt function as a human mind. He further goes a head to look at the possibility of the existence of a mind without a body and a body with out a mind as unrealistic. Berry asks himself the rationality in a body having no limps, lacking an appetite, immobile or dumb, inability to feel neither pleasure nor pain. He thus concludes that this is impossible. (Wendell Berry 47).
Berry greatly differs with the fact that a mind can be equated to a machine. He argues that unlike a machine a mind needs a body which he calls its dwelling place. It also needs a language of communication and thus coordination within a mind would be practically impossible without a language. Wendell argues that a mind can not exists outside a body like a machine and further goes ahead to defend his answer by coming up with a formula which he calls the mind theory of Adam and Eve. “Brain+body+world+local dwelling place+community+history=mind”. He uses this to clearly bring out the difference between man and machine. He continues his argument by saying that the mind need a language, memory, tools, skills and cultural heritage in history as opposed to the brain(48-49)
In another argument Berry argues that an organism and the mind are tied together in an inseparable bond and it must thus adopt and survive in its dwelling or else be no more as opposed to a machine. In cementing his facts Berry talks about a machine always remaining a machine when its shot into outer space, meaning a machine can survive on its on as opposed to the mind that will die has soon as it fails to connection to the other being and thus failing to sustain itself. He continues and says that if a mind is to survive it has to practice “earthly housekeeping”. In his own words “the virtues of domestic economy”, they consist of; good soil and water husbandry, frugality, repair, neighborliness and household maintenance. (Wendell Berry49-50).
In conclusion, Berry’s arguments are realistic in that his analysis of the relationship between a machine and the mind are two fold. Where a machine will always remain a machine no matter what condition it is exposed to, on the other hand a mind can not sustain itself without its references. That is to say a mind can only remain a mind if and when it has a dwelling place as opposed to the machine that has no attachments and can exist as its own entity. It thus becomes unrealistic to torture your self in trying to compare creatures and machines.
Wendell Berry. Life is a miracle: an essay against modern superstition. Counterpoint Press 2001.46-50