This short film has a darkly comic grounding idea which we won’t spoil here! The vision of humanity it constructs is one which is rich but also slightly repellent – it works to make the notion of ‘the human’ seem strange.
What conclusions might you draw from this about the human body, and whether we can see the body as providing a stable basis for defining what it means to be human?
This quite nicely ties in to Physicalism or materialism and the belief that the mind and matter are made of the same stuff. It is quite amusing to think that our minds are made of meat rather than of the same stuff that meat is made of. From a philosophical point of view, what makes the brain special in comparison to other organs is that it forms the physical structure that generates the mind.
What makes the human mind special is being able to think about thoughts, the future and things that don’t exist. The body is the shell and doesn’t define what it means to be human.
The brain is made up of neurons.
Neurons share the same characteristics and have the same makeup as other cells, but the electrochemical aspect lets them transmit signals over long distances (up to several feet or a few meters) and send messages to each other.
Neurons have three basic parts:
Cell body or soma. This main part has all of the necessary components of the cell, such as the nucleus (which contains DNA), endoplasmic reticulum and ribosomes (for building proteins) and mitochondria (for making energy). If the cell body dies, the neuron dies.
Axon . This long, cablelike projection of the cell carries the electrochemical message (nerve impulse or action potential) along the length of the cell. Depending upon the type of neuron, axons can be covered with a thin layer of myelin sheath, like an insulated electrical wire. Myelin is made of fat and protein, and it helps to speed transmission of a nerve impulse down a long axon. Myelinated neurons are typically found in the peripheral nerves (sensory and motor neurons), while non-myelinated neurons are found in the brain and spinal cord.
Dendrites or nerve endings. These small, branchlike projections of the cell make connections to other cells and allow the neuron to talk with other cells or perceive the environment. Dendrites can be located on one or both ends of a cell. (How Stuff Works)
Neurons are matter as are our bodies and everything else. Our bodies are made of matter and so are our minds and so is meat. So rather than thinking that everything is made out of meat, meat like everything else is made of matter.
What makes us human?
It can’t be just because we look human.
These robots look incredibly human but they do not have minds. They are programmed to act in the same way as humans, to imitate humans.
A church worker who had a melon-sized tumour removed from his ribs has had his chest rebuilt using concrete. Some of his is no longer biological. He is still a human. He still has a mind and functions as a human. Not everything about us is necessary to be human. We can lose part of our physical form and have it replace with something that is plastic or metal or concrete and still be human. This is not a new concept.
But it is becoming a lot more like the human physique.
What makes us human is not our bodies but our minds.