In science we define something as living if it has a certain set of characteristics. In this post from Quora, John Chua defines these characteristics as follows –
- M – Movement
- R – Reproduction
- S – Sensitivity
- G – Growth
- R – Respiration
- E – Excretion
- N – Nutrition
However, in religious studies you would be given a different explanation and when talking about being alive we would be thinking about consciousness.
So I want to think about this as well – what does it really mean to be alive, and more to the point what is consciousness? To me I think consciousness is entirely separate to the human body and to the physical or worldly signs of life. I think that even if we had advancements in computing and we could create a robot using neuro-computing, one that was identical to the human body in every way, we still would not necessarily have a conscious being.
This also makes me think why does consciousness have to be limited to things that look alive? I recently wrote an article on non-tangible things and discussed whether or not they could be considered to exist and whether or not they could even be classed as “living” or “conscious” or at least be classed as something else on the same spectrum as those other things.
This thought led me on to think about weather inanimate objects could also be alive or conscious. For example, lets just take a tree – in science we would class it as alive because it has the 7 characteristics of living things as defined above. Is a tree capable of experiencing consciousness? When a tree is cut down and made into a table, it is considered to have died – it no longer exists any of those signs of life and so it is no longer living.
However, it still exists. So, on a philosophical front, what exactly left that tree in order that it ceased to be living? Or in actual fact is it still living? Is consciousness what makes us exist, or is it the other way around – does existence make us conscious? Is a tree even conscious in the first place, and if so, is it still conscious after its been made into a table.
This might seem absolutely ridiculous, but why not? After all, we have been on this planet for tens of thousands of years and yet we still no absolutely nothing about consciousness or existence or what it means to be alive.