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ree of consciousness or are they purely mechanistic? In order to make sense of his argument this question draws upon several different concepts: vitalism, mechanism, linear causation and the calculation problem within traditional control systems. To start, vitalism is the concept that stems from the idea that all functions of living organisms are due to a vital principle distinct from biochemical processes. On the other hand, mechanism is the theory all biological processes can be reduced to the fundamental physical and chemical mechanisms, and it relies on the concept of linear causation. Linear causation argues that the cause must precede the effects in time, which would mean for example that increasing acid would cause an increased scratching response. However, the contrary to this idea would be negative feedback within the control systems theory. Control systems use a perceptual signal as the input of the function, a reference signal as a fixed setpoint of acceptable values, and an error signal calculated by a comparator that is what helps determine the output. The process through which we determine the output is negative feedback loops, where the organism determines if the output was able to reduce the error signal and if it was not the organism is able to set forth a new output through hierarchical control systems. These concepts are essential for the understanding of Mayr’s claim. Mechanists believe in linear causation and argue that animals and other complex living systems do not have any form of consciousness or intentionality in their actions and the only material forces that act upon them are those that are physico-chemical. However, Mayr claims that these same scientists disagree with the idea that animals are nothing but machines, thus Mayr argues that since the explanations that only use physical sciences oversimplify complex living systems that the most precise way to comprehend them is through negative feedback. This oversimplification comes to light in the theory of the “calculation problem” which is the idea that the output of the final common path must always vary according to the changes introduced by the unknown disturbances. Thereby, if the source of these disturbances is unpredictable, the brain would not be able to decipher how much output to produce and when. Hence, the argument of linear causation would be discredited because we could not have the input precede the output. On the contrary, negative feedback takes into consideration that complex living systems do have the level of consciousness necessary to generate goal-corrected behaviors and thus be able to, through negative feed
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