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Hubble telescope photograph of stars, galaxies, and nebulae

Quote of the Week
(June 5, 2023)

The fact of purposive activity; the obvious play of an active agency; the coordination of diverse means toward the realization of countless interwoven and relatively stable ends; the undeniable evidence that animals perceive a world, interpreting and responding to perceptions according to their own way of life; and the coherence of all this activity in a governing unity — this tells us that every organism is narrating a meaningful life story. This is not something that a rock, say, loosened by ice and tumbling down the steep slope of a mountain ravine, does in anything like the same manner. The pattern of physical events in the organism is raised by its peculiar sort of coherence toward something like a biography whose “logic” unfolds on an entirely different level from the logic of inanimate physical causation. When we tell a story, the narrative threads convey the meanings of a life — for example, motives, needs, and intentions — and these are never a matter of mere physical cause and consequence.

So when I speak of the organism’s wise and knowing agency, or its purposive striving, I refer, among other things, to its capacity to weave, out of the resources of its own life, the kind of biological narrative we routinely observe, with its orchestration of physical events in the service of the organism’s own meanings.

(from Chapter 2, “The Organism’s Story”, in Organisms and Their Evolution — Agency and Meaning in the Drama of Life)

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