Samuel Butler on the me and the non-me
It may be said that the life of clothes in wear and implements in use is no true life, insasmuch as it differs from flesh and blood life in too many and important respects; that we have made up our minds about not letting life outside the body too decisively to allow the question to be reopened; that if this be tolerated we shall have societies for the prevention of cruelty to chairs and tables, or cutting clothes amiss, or wearing them to tatters, or whatever other absurdity may occur to idle and unkind people; the whole discussion, therefore, should be ordered out of court at once....People who take this line must know how to put their foot down firmly in the matter of closing a discussion....if they let the innocent interlocutor say so much as that a piece of well nourished healthy brain is more living than the end of a finger-nail that wants cutting, or than the calcareous parts of a bone, the solvent will have been applied which will soon make an end of common sense ways of looking at the matter. Once even admit the use of the participle "dying," which involves degrees of death, and hence an entry of death in part into a living body, and common sense must either close the discussion at once, or ere long surrender at discretion....
That which we handle most unglovedly is our food, which we handle with our stomachs rather than with our hands. Our hands are so thickly encased with skin that protoplasm can hold but small conversation with what they contain, unless it be held for a long time in the closed fist, and even so the converse is impeded as in a strange language; the inside of our mouths is more naked, and our stomachs are more naked still; it is here that protoplasm brings its fullest powers of suasion to bear on those whom it would proselytise and receive as it were into its own communionwhom it would convert and bring into a condition of mind in which they shall see things as it sees them itself, and, as we commonly say, "agree with" it, instead of standing out stiffly for their own opinion. We call this digesting our food; more properly we should call it being digested by our food, which reads, marks, learns, and inwardly digests us, till it comes to understand us and encourage us by assuring us that we were perfectly right all the time, no matter what any one might have said, or say, to the contrary.
Butler, _Luck or Cunning_