We are not machines

Albert Camus
"A living man can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object. But if he dies in refusing to be enslaved, he reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object."  
- Albert Camus

The eternal debate between nature and nurture divides people into two territories. Most of us live close to the middle of this divide, favouring one over the other overall but seeing merit in both points of view.


On the "nurture" side you have those who believe your destiny will be written upon you as a result of the environment you're born into. Here we are as blank sheets of paper (or a "tabula rasa"[1]) and our characters and lives are dictated to us by events beyond our control.


Over on the "nature" side there are those who believe you're born with natural instincts already written within you that will determine who you'll become. In the past this was seen as your intended "destiny" or destination. Nowadays those who side with this belief system tend to focus upon genetics.

The above points are important because they provide a lens through which a number of recent debates can be understood.

For example, of these two points of view I think the former is by far the most dominant in the UK and suspect this is why the establishment use its logic to justify their ideas. If you think we're all blank sheets of paper censoring the internet can be made to sound like good sense as it means you can stop "bad" ideas and thoughts being spread around and written recklessly upon helpless hearts of your citizens.

That the establishment pay lip service to the "nurture" argument speaks only to the fact they're trying to lead people. In fact, they appear to support the "nature" argument, with our Monarchy decided by birth right.

Personally speaking I find both points of view, even when combined, to be unsatisfactory and incomplete. Unfortunately I cannot use a 'rational argument' to articulate why this is. It's just a niggling feeling my human brain gets when seeing its kind reduced to the role of a machine either purpose built or programmed by others.

The word rational is derived from "ratio" and means to measure or quantify. There is something about people which I feel cannot be rationed. Perhaps I only think this because I am one but even if that is the case to deny this ineffable quality is to deny my human identity.

We are not machines, I just can't say exactly what it is we are.


[1] Tabula Rasa means 'blank stone slate'.


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