Thank you for the courteous and thoughtful response. Well said BabyBear.
"Je pense, donc je suis." (I think, therefore I am.) -Descartes
No doubt. I propose language as the mechanistic tool which allows thinking to manifest. We can all claim "thought", but can we all demonstrate the mechanism that makes thought possible? I want to know the physical mechanism that allows us to know we are alive.
I've spoken much about language here and other posts so I'll try not to repeat. I will add anew however.
Thinking capacity is proportionally related to language capacity. Levels of consciousness are presented from those relationships. A bumblebee is conscious, directly because he has the ability to author the figure 8 waggle dance. The bumblebee is authoring code. His dance encodes for distance, direction, wind velocity, and even suggests an optimal route to find the pollen. The message is decoded by other bumblebees and in turn the word is spread, and a troop goes out to collect.
This demonstrates a Will and Desire within the bumblebee.
Ants, on the other hand, have not demonstrated the ability to author code. Individually, they seem as automatons, with all "apparent communication" taking place under the control of sensory equipment reacting to stimuli... just switches and triggers, but no thought, no language, no intentions, and no code. Interestingly though, when the entire ant colony is looked at as a whole, then it does (as a colony) in fact show debatable signs of being aware.
A baby is not as conscious as an adult. The more the baby increases her abstract reasoning of symbolic association (language), then the more she will become conscious.
Whale Song, Wolf Howls, Dolphin Squawk, Bird Calls... all different levels of conscious thinking ability base purely upon their capacity to author code. To describe, to warn, to predefine physical reality into existence.
I suppose the problem with "knowing" you are alive is that first you must define knowledge, then you must define life/alive.
Biologically speaking, something is alive if it can reproduce. After all, viruses are not considered by most biologists as alive because they are obligate parasites (ie: they literally cannot live or reproduce without a host). But this definition may in time change as well.
Biology has new considerations from Genetics. And yes, the definition of being alive is under debate. Genetics would tell you that nothing alive is without a genetic code. Virus' have genetic codes.
An oddly queer and much overlooked attribute about codes is that they also reproduce. No kidding... Just looking at a code reproduces it in your mind. Not so silly if you really pause to think about it.
Now, on a more personal level, how do I know I am alive and not dead? Well, then I suppose you could turn to Descartes' definition. I am here to think about being a live, so I must exist.
And so, ultimately, if thinking is indeed a process of creating a thought, and that thought is the product of some degree of sentient authorship, then what Descartes really implies... is... "I author, therefor I am"... No?
Computers can't think. They can't think about being alive... unless somehow programmed to.
Yes indeed. And yet somehow they (we) were programmed to. The fact is that our genetic code defined us long ago with the ability to "think" about being alive. We are flesh and blood computers ourselves. Perhaps the bumblebee was not programmed with this ability, or his language is not expansive enough to embrace the concept.
In effect, we are the A.I. In that, an original program got us started. And our entire physical lives are spent adding to and authoring our own code as we go along. Like a good little A.I., we are defining our being beyond that which authored us into existence. Let's face it, our desire for A.I. is for it to end up being just like ourselves, or worse, the super intelligence that becomes the God we made by our own hands. What parent doesn't want their child to become greater than they are?
What about artificial intelligence? This still exists in the realm of science fiction right now, but it might some day become a real question.
Actually great strides have been made with computer simulations in the field of A.I. Programmers have succeeded in A.I. digibots controlling their own mutations in order to compete for a prize. They can actually learn from their poor designs and author new mutations to help them win the next round. I believe virus's may play the same type of game.
If Dats from Star Trek: TNG were real, would he be alive? No? Why not? Because he was made artificially?
What if I suggested that all life is artificial? Would you consider that all life has code, all code is sentient authored, all sentient authored code is created from mind, and anything created from mind could be considered as artificial, and thus not natural from nature?
Because he can't die? Maybe you can't be alive unless you can experience death, kind of like Seneca was getting at.
I was getting at the same thing.
You can "know" it in that all evidence points in that direction. But does it make it truth?
If there is a physical mechanism that explains it without paradox, then yes, that makes it truth. It may not be all the truth, but it is another layer peeled away from the truth onion. I propose language capacity as the physical mechanism that allows "knowing" to be possible.
On the subjective, experience side of things, it doesn't. If you define life on the biological side, you're alive because you are capable of reproducing... because that's the current definition of life. But, then, that might even be subject to change or debate some day.
That's why we need a physical mechanism, in order to overcome the subjective interpretations. Like a math equation is a physical mechanism to avoid subjective interpretations about gravity or energy. We also need a physical mechanism to avoid subjective interpretations about what "thought" and "knowing" are.
And yes... Biology is being challenged about what the definition of being alive really is. Biology is the discipline that spread the myth about life being a process of "just add water"... Not.