An efficient cause is what brings something into being or alters it in some way. This is to be distinguished from a final cause, which if the end, goal, or outcome toward which something is directed or points. For example, an acorn “points to” or is “directed toward” becoming an oak.
That an efficient cause A reliably produces a particular effect or range of effects B, rather than C, or D, or no effect at all, is intelligible only if generating B is the final cause of A.
Final causality is also known as “teleology” (from the Greek telos or “end”).
Aristotle's Revenge 34-36
The shape of the ear is directed towards the experience of sound for a listener. The goal of the heart beating is to circulate blood and resources so that the whole might persist. The feet move the body, the hands grasp and turn and twist. Nowhere is the existence of teleology more apparent than in our selves, we overflow with it! Not only our parts have intent and direction, we as a whole act towards some ends and not others.
With this idea of directedness in our mind, we should turn and examine machine. A characteristic of an artifact is that it has its end imposed on it. A hammer is used towards our ends. The human-hammer cannot be evolved outside of humans! What will be evolved is an organism-specific implement for applying force of a morphology appropriate to the wielding organism.
The transhumanist would have you believe that all is machine, but clearly a machine is an artifact in the same vein as a hammer. A machine does not have an inherent end to it in the way living substances have. Rather, the machine’s direction–or equivalently, its form–can only be understood in the context of a human operating it.
Stick an acorn and a computer in the ground. One hundred years later you’ll get a rust bucket and hundreds of acorns. The acorn and the soil and the sun and oceans and wind et. al. all participate to recreate the acorn–it is a living substance. The computer, on the other hand, is an artifact and cannot reproduce its own form. Humans have to craft the world into the form of a machine.
Telos forces us to begin with the idea that man is not reducible to machine. It further suggests that man is not reducible to symbols, another human-created tool. It is we who imbue symbols with meaning. A purely symbol processing machine operates correctly if and only if there is a human there to observe and interpret the output symbols after feeding it with input symbols.
When the transhumanist suggests that we evolve into machine, she asks us to become like silicon–without life! We must resist calls that would strip us of our sacred élan vital at all costs. What the transhumanist believes to be paradise is only a broken lonely suicide.
Now, accepting telos naturally leads one to the following question: if I have some direction towards me and you have some sort of direction to you… if we tried to sum that all up, where would that point? This question is something I recommend you to contemplate yourself. It is also not my goal to suggest anything particular on that scale.
Let us then first differentiate tradhumanism from transhumanism by accepting teleology. To help discover towards what ends we as humans point towards, a good source of clues can be found within the human body. In the next entry, I’ll discuss how the way we are embodied and embedded in this world can further differentiate tradhumanism.