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Old 05-12-2015   #21
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Re: Animals

TL;DR version: don't want to buy into a social media view of animals based on 'aww' and 'ick' reactions.

Proper version:

Recently, during a conversation about the moral status of animals, someone came out with what I thought was an incredibly courageous comment: 'I don't like animals'. I can't agree or disagree with that statement as it's too broad (there's some animals I might dislike for natural aesthetic reasons but that doesn't make them 'things that should not be') but I think it's an unusually brave person who will come out with it so overtly in this day and age. There is a universal expectation that one should 'like animals' - not this or that species of animal; such favoritism would be 'selfish'- but 'animals' in the generic. This is somewhat ironic if only because many of the ecologist types most keen to enforce this as a way to condemn humanity for daring to think themselves 'different' from the rest of Nature are also prone to trumpet about the 'cruel, indifference of Nature': certain conclusions might be drawn from this none of which would much please animal or human rights activists.

For my own part, I would hold that if Humanity has a place in the cosmos then we should be very cautious about dramatically altering the biosphere to suit our own wants. If not then Nature along with everything else is only an arbitrary means for 'our' - this 'our' is equivalent to the royal 'we' - equally arbitrary amusement.

Quote Originally Posted by With Strength I Burn View Post
Taking a moment of prayer doesn't really help when you begin questioning why life had to evolve in such a fashion to devour itself to survive.
If anything it should make us question our own knee-jerk emotive responses: a sort of koan against lazy thinking. I'm reminded of a passage from one of Ernst Junger's notebooks were he remarks that observing the lifestyles of predatory insects always made him think of the cosmic cycles.

Quote Originally Posted by With Strength I Burn View Post
One can't really condemn the lion for killing the cubs of the pact its taken over because its brain and body evolved for that (i.e., through natural selection).
Of course! Who would do otherwise though?

Quote Originally Posted by Druidic View Post
There are voices in the scientific community that speculate language and self-consciousness are not independent things but that language creates the ability to think, and that the use of language creates individuation and is identical with self-consciousness.
Eh hem, with all due respect I think such statements might raise a problem for the trust-worthiness of the voices uttering them.
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Old 05-12-2015   #22
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Re: Animals

Here are some things animals don't have: rights, morals, names, identities, culture, meaning.áI'd argue that 90% of humans have never interacted with an animal, and the number might be closer to 100% (although a large number of humans have interacted with their own ego projections which they claim to be animals).á

I think if we're really honest we could admit that animals don't even exist and there are only various "inhuman forces" that we're temporarily staving off (of course the final outcome has already been decided, as the forces we callábacteria and insects successfully process us).á

Quote Originally Posted by Evans View Post
If not then Nature along with everything else is only an arbitrary means for 'our' - this 'our' is equivalent to the royal 'we' - equally arbitrary amusement.
Yep, this is actually the case.
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Old 05-12-2015   #23
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Re: Animals

But to say we can't interact with other animals seems to assume either that we are unique (I mean, unique in every aspect of our being), or that no animals ever interact with each other. Some animals are more amenable to domestication than others - for instance - so something is going on there, some kind of sliding scale of closeness to human culture. For instance, with this kind of thing:


I suppose if one discounts the lower levels of awareness then one might say there is no interaction in the sense of amusing table talk, but there is certainly the kind of organic interspecies interaction that takes place between pilot fish and sharks (at least).

I don't talk much to my stomach, but it successfully digests food for me, which is quite a profound interaction.

I think 'rights' is the key one, though, in the difference between humans and animals. We have no way of knowing whether animals would want to be embroiled in our ideas of rights and legality. I would tend to suspect that a man-eating shark, for instance, will enjoy the flesh of a vegetarian as much as someone who eats meat, though perhaps there is a slight difference in taste, or perhaps enjoyment doesn't come into it.

There's also a question of whether self-awareness automatically makes things human - that is, whether self-awareness has at its foundation some kind of universal constant of which we have a large enough share that all others who share it are basically human (are only as different from us as we tend to be from each other).

I don't know the area well, but it seems some apes learn to communicate with sign-language. I suppose I shouldn't write about that without checking facts first.

ôSpecialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved." - Max Weber
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Old 05-12-2015   #24
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Re: Animals

Quote Originally Posted by With Strength I Burn View Post
I recommend cat lovers
I'm always somewhat astonished when this phrase is used. What exactly can be meant by "loving" an amoral being? Presumably it means associating positive emotions with cats, which implies not being at their mercy. We know how cats treat living beings physically smaller than them: with immediate sadistic violence. They even attack the visible dots produced by laser pointers. And yet the reason cats aren't considered a worldwide menace is simply that we're physically larger than them and have weapons and technology capable of wiping them out; in other words we're in a position of privilege based on a power imbalance.

And what can it mean for a cat to "love" its "owner," a being which is larger and more powerful than it and which can provide it with food and shelter? The tendency of the cat to seem positively disposed towards its "owner" seems no different from the tendency of Unity Mitford and other fascist lovers to be positively disposed to Hitler, Mussolini and other figures who seem larger and more powerful than anyone else. I don't know about you but I don't want the admiration of fascist lovers.

Quote Originally Posted by qcrisp View Post
Some animals are more amenable to domestication than others - for instance - so something is going on there, some kind of sliding scale of closeness to human culture.
Domestication has more in common with building a dam (i.e. interfering with the course of natural forces such as flowing water) than it does with building a relationship, since the animals being domesticated can neither consent to nor refuse the process. As with "cat lovers," I always smile upon hearing of "horse lovers" who, of course, have to "break in" the objects of their "love" using conditioning and in some cases violence. They sound more like slave masters to me. Similarly, the sheepdog has been subdued and conditioned to behave a certain way; it has been acted on by a conscious intelligence and has reacted to that intelligence's design. But it has no views.

Quote Originally Posted by qcrisp View Post
I don't know the area well, but it seems some apes learn to communicate with sign-language..
But they have no ability to originate or expand upon it and have never independently developed it. They have innate capacities to respond in certain limited ways to different kinds of conditioning, but they never move any closer to being human. A chimpanzee learning sign language is never going to have a Helen Keller moment where he suddenly breaks through to understanding contractual law or the Bhagavad-Gita. Neither is he going to remember the enemy chimpanzee he thoughtlessly mutilated in a fight a year ago and spontaneously feel compassion and remorse.


Quote Originally Posted by qcrisp View Post
I don't talk much to my stomach, but it successfully digests food for me, which is quite a profound interaction.
The sentence structure here implies that you're separate from your stomach, or that the stomach is your possession rather than your identity, which implies that your nature is something else (such as mind) rather than stomach. I don't believe this to be the case and I don't think you do either (our language is notoriously susceptible to dualism), but at the same time we have an awareness of "ourselves" as something able to stand outside of or abstractly consider natural processes, which animals are incapable of doing. Similarly, we're incapable of experiencing an animal's subjectivity (assuming it has one), which is why I'd argue we're interacting with our conceptualizations of animals rather than the animals themselves. This isn't to say that something isn't happening, but most of the time I think it has very little to do with what we think is happening.
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Old 05-12-2015   #25
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Re: Animals

Quote Originally Posted by Justin Isis View Post
[
Quote Originally Posted by qcrisp View Post
I don't talk much to my stomach, but it successfully digests food for me, which is quite a profound interaction.
The sentence structure here implies that you're separate from your stomach, or that the stomach is your possession rather than your identity, which implies that your nature is something else (such as mind) rather than stomach. I don't believe this to be the case and I don't think you do either (our language is notoriously susceptible to dualism), but at the same time we have an awareness of "ourselves" as something able to stand outside of or abstractly consider natural processes, which animals are incapable of doing. Similarly, we're incapable of experiencing an animal's subjectivity (assuming it has one), which is why I'd argue we're interacting with our conceptualizations of animals rather than the animals themselves. This isn't to say that something isn't happening, but most of the time I think it has very little to do with what we think is happening.
On this last point, recent reading (etc.) has led me to accept my ignorance on the subject of duality or non-duality. That is, I think there is a strong case for dualism, after all, even though it's not fashionable. Having realised that, I realise afresh how dependent my views are on incoming information, so, basically, for me, the jury is out.

It's true that in a certain sense I am not separate from my stomach, but I think that the comparison I make is relevant in the following way: I don't consciously direct my stomach to digest food, but it does it. In the same way, the shepherd is not conscious of what is going on in the sheepherding dog's mind, so as far as the shepherd is concerned, beyond his whistles, etc., the process is taking place unconsciously. But there is nonetheless an integrated action in both cases - the herding of the sheep and the digestion of my food. (I.E. In a totality non-dual universe, humans certainly aren't separate from animals; if one can draw a distinction between humans and animals, it might also be permissible to draw one between people and their own stomachs.)

Also, on the topic of dualism and so on, I suppose I was thinking of my stomach as a system composed of cells, enzymes and so on, rather than a single thing, in the way that there are systems composed of various lifeforms. I dare say distinctions can be made here, but there are still perhaps parallels that hold.

ôSpecialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved." - Max Weber
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Old 05-12-2015   #26
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Re: Animals

I don't think we should necessarily boycott cats or other pets but I think it's important to remember that most people have never really been at the mercy of animals or been forced to contend with them outside of an "upper hand" position. This would include something like being stalked by a pack of wolves, or having to compete with physically faster scavengers (feline, lupine, whatever) for resources in a situation where their life or the lives of their family/friends/group depended on it. Animals are always going to be inclined to treat us (and other animals) a certain way, and it took us hundreds of thousands of years to arrive at our current position of having the incredible luxury to imagine their subjectivities, impute them rights, feel moral outrage at their use as food products in a factory farm setting, etc.

For example, think about Ahab's hatred of Moby Dick. In modern times this is almost always interpreted as some kind of quixotic obsession or symbol of irrational fixation, but it seems to me that it was meant in a simpler sense: Ahab literally feels personal hatred for a being which has mutilated him, and wishes to kill it in return. The whale is a "monster" because it is beyond self, thought, reason and argument. Though still a living being, it's not a character but a force. Can anyone in a first world country now really understand what it would mean to hate an animal? All discussion of animal rights already implicitly assumes human domination of the world and its resources; no one would tolerate a situation in which wolves were free to pick off their children.
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Old 05-12-2015   #27
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Re: Animals

Quote Originally Posted by With Strength I Burn View Post
This is not true for animals with a "theory of mind", which are capable of modeling the thinking of others and attribute mental beliefs, desires, and intentions to both oneself and others.
Quote Originally Posted by With Strength I Burn View Post
it's undeniable that orcas, dolphins, such as the bottlenose dolphin and pilot whale, and other cetaceans have nearly an equal level of sapience and metacognition compared to humans.
I think this is something of an overstatement of the evidence, at least on the basis of the information available at the links you provided. To quote one of the researchers involved:

"I’m not sure what that means in terms of theory of mind per se, but I know that our birds will learn phrases like what’s that, what colour, what shape and use that to obtain information from us. So they clearly have gotten some idea that we have this knowledge because they keep asking us for these bits of information. It may be an adaptation from their training: they see we ask them so they’re going to ask us and it may be no more than that."

This seems like a reasonable conclusion to me: still complex behavior, but not the same as any kind of deep or human-like cognition, or even one that would really involve a "theory of mind"; more the ability to make observations and act accordingly. So I'm still not anticipating many deep ruminations on past actions from chimps.

Quote Originally Posted by With Strength I Burn View Post
said the cetaceans are just as intelligent as humans. The only reason we build cities and they don't is because of our arboreal heritage.
...although, The Illuminatus! Trilogy put forward the idea that chimps were as intelligent as humans but disinclined to reveal it, because they knew if they did they'd be immediately expected to get jobs. So there might be something there!
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Old 05-12-2015   #28
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Re: Animals

Well, we could look at it this way: Put the average man in a jungle and give him what he needs to survive: Let's see, a shelter, fire, a good weapon, good clothes, medicine, plenty of medicine, a supply of pure drinking water. Now do the same for an animal. Give them what they need which is...nothing.
And we're the superior ones, eh?

For humans, survival is a group effort. We build out of a sense of necessity, often to compensate for what we lack. Animals don't need all that baggage.

Does being the alpha predator on the planet make us superior? sure. Remember it the next time your rifle jams and the Tiger is ready to make his move. And remember there are bulls that can tell the man from the cape; for some inexplicable reason they just never end up in the arena lol.

So maybe I'm not being entirely serious...maybe. But next time one starts feeling so darn unique and superior, just think about it.

I dedicate this Post to my old and dear Friend, jonpi...who understands.

(Here it is, John; your wish was my command!)

Last edited by Druidic; 05-12-2015 at 03:50 PM..
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Old 05-12-2015   #29
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Re: Animals

#### it, I don't care what anyone says, I'm still a cat lover. Hell, I even own one of those "page a day" cat calendars.

I will admit to respecting their amorality, adaptability and pragmatism. What was that line Ash said about the xenomorph in Alien? Ah yes: "I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality."

"The Outsider must find a direction and commit himself to it, not lie moping about the meaninglessness of the world."
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Old 05-13-2015   #30
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Re: Animals

Quote Originally Posted by Druidic View Post
Well, we could look at it this way: Put the average man in a jungle and give him what he needs to survive: Let's see, a shelter, fire, a good weapon, good clothes, medicine, plenty of medicine, a supply of pure drinking water. Now do the same for an animal. Give them what they need which is...nothing.
And we're the superior ones, eh?

For humans, survival is a group effort. We build out of a sense of necessity, often to compensate for what we lack. Animals don't need all that baggage.

Does being the alpha predator on the planet make us superior? sure. Remember it the next time your rifle jams and the Tiger is ready to make his move. And remember there are bulls that can tell the man from the cape; for some inexplicable reason they just never end up in the arena lol.

So maybe I'm not being entirely serious...maybe. But next time one starts feeling so darn unique and superior, just think about it.

I dedicate this Post to my old and dear Friend, jonpi...who understands.

(Here it is, John; your wish was my command!)
I guess it depends on how one defines "superior" in this context. If you're judging by the ability to survive in the wild without assistance, then sure, other animals > humans.

If we're judging by "ability to do complex mathematics," or "ability to build a Hubble telescope," or "ability to come up with the categorical imperative," or perhaps "ability to think about whether bringing new life into existence is ethical or not instead of just following blind instinct," (and, yes, ability to streamline our predation of other animals), then maybe (some) humans > other animals.

Although we might agree that it's best to set aside subjective judgments about "superiority," since it does little but justify our preferences in company. ;)

I think it might be reasonable to state as fact that, given the evidence, humans seem to have developed a more complex mind than pretty much every other animal on this planet.

I'm open to evidence to the contrary, though.

I'm a misanthropic sort, and a lot of people I know are as well, so I'm not exactly inclined to give humans a pat on the back.

I think maybe because I'm that sort of person and know a lot of people like that, that I'm almost compelled to make a contrarian argument. In my milieu, speaking in favor of humans over other animals is an exception, not the norm.

I think people (particularly misanthropic/lonely/depressed sorts) tend to romanticize other animals, because we see through our own kind so well.

It's worth keeping in mind that lions and sharks, given robotic exoskeletons that allowed them to prey at will upon humans and all other animals, would quite possibly brutally trash this world even worse than humans. And there are unlikely to be many Kants or Ligottis among them. (It's also worth keeping in mind the image of sharks and lions in robotic exoskeletons, just because.)

Last edited by Jeff Coleman; 05-13-2015 at 10:53 AM..
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