Objectivism defines life as “a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action” (Galt speech, AS).
I’d add that life is also a process of self –organization of the matter.
In their book “Biological Self-organization” Camazine et al. (2001: 8) define self-organization:
‘‘As a process in which pattern at the global level of a system emerges solely from numerous interactions among the lower level components of the system. Moreover the rules specifying interactions among the system’s components are executed using only local information, without reference to the global pattern. In short pattern is an emergent property of the system rather than being imposed on the system by an external ordering influence.’’
From this definition one may conclude that if life is self-sustained, self-organized process then it is non-deterministic process, that is-without antecedent cause. Or, as Robert Rosen observed, life doesn’t have efficient cause, this is a process of self-causation. Therefore, any interaction of living entity with its environment is self-initiated, goal-orientated response. (SIGOR)
“Only a living entity can have goals or can originate them. And it is only a living organism that has the capacity for self-generated, goal-directed action. On the physical level, the functions of all living organisms, from the simplest to the most complex—from the nutritive function in the single cell of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man—are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of the organism’s life.”
(Ayn Rand, The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 16.)
SIGOR exists on any level of biological organization-from viruses to men. It’s manifestation of essential biological feature-the ability to projects goals into the future and to act to achieve them. This is a mechanism of biological self-causation. On the preconscious levels organisms use preprogrammed codes (DNA and others) for this purpose, but on conceptual level the tool is human mind, the only tool of human survival. On conceptual level self-initiated, goal-orientated action becomes volitional-that is by using concepts mind able to make choices about goals or rather purposes. Desire is a goal, projected into the future which is chosen according to Man’s needs. Free will is not an illusion but attribute of Man’s consciousness which is developed from very basic property of living being-the ability to project goals and to initiate an action to achieve them. From other hand, for the same reason a living entity is NOT a mechanism, NOR is mind a computer. .W. Tecumseh Fitch observed i” A crucial difference between a cell (including but not limited to a neuron) and a transistor on a silicon chip is that the former arrangement of matter can autonomously and adaptively modify itself in response to its circumstances, whereas the latter cannot. An everyday example of this biological capacity is provided by the healing response: a damaged organism can often stem the loss of precious bodily fluids, stitch itself up, and (with some scar perhaps) continue living. We all witness this capacity regularly in our own bodies and it is worth stopping for a moment to realize how amazing it is…eukaryotic cells which possess a crucially intrinsic aboutness I dubbed nano-intentionality “ (Nano-intentionality: a defense of intrinsic intentionality, Biology and Philosophy, Media B.V 2007).
It is not difficult to see that Fitch’s nano-intentionality is what I call SIGOR and that what is makes living organisms alive. Human cognition as any other biological process is self-regulated, self-organized, self-causated process.. It is an attribute of the living entity-human being, and as such it doesn’t have any efficient cause. Actually antecedent causes can be only harmful to the living process and to the mind. The ethical consequence of this biological fact is the principle of non-initiating of force. Human mind is an essence of human existence and cannot be separated from it, as one cannot separate from a plant its ability to turn its leaves to the light. Any attempt of application of antecedent cause, a force, on mind will be a hindrance, will impede its functions or stop it altogether. Initiation of force therefore is an act which prevents man to live qua man or to live at all.
Edited by Leonid, 01 May 2010 - 12:33 AM.