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Are we more than molecules?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Category: Philosophy

We think. We feel. We are aware of ourselves and the world around us. We have consciousness. We are made of the same raw materials as bacteria, as earth, as rock, as the great dark nebulae of dust that swim between the stars, as the stars themselves. But somehow, a vanishingly small fraction of that brute stuff (you, me, chimpanzees maybe, chickens possibly, worms probably not) has been cunningly arranged into objects which experience what the American philosopher William James calls “subjective life”. How is that possible? Why do most of us feel that we are something more than molecules? Why are even ardent materialists haunted by the sense of being something insubstantial inhabiting a physical vessel?

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