Thursday, June 15, 2017

What Dead Animals and Dead People Have in Common

You look at a dead animal, which has been hit by a car, whose brains and innards are now rotting in the road. You stare into the lifeless eyes. There's a huge ongoing debate about the nature of animal consciousness. Certainly animals have feelings, but are they tantamount to our own? Thomas Nagel wrote a famous essay entitled “What it is Like to Be a Bat?” What's becoming increasingly apparent, at least from an anecdotal perspective, is that there’s a huge span of possibilities, with animal consciousness compromising many different forms. There’s a reason why dogs are man’s best friend and it may be because their intuitive and empathetic natures perfectly compliment the raciocinative elements of the human condition, providing an extra dose of what’s missing. We anthropomorphize certain other animals because they actually partake of qualities that are recognizably human. Thus the  television series Flipper and Mister Ed, respectively about dolphins and horses. Have you ever seen a book or movie about a snake? Yes there was the delightful Charlotte’s Web about a spider, but the charm of that children’s tale derived from E.B. White’s imbuing an insect with it wouldn't normally possess. If you’re a carnivore you don’t think or like to think about the intelligence of pigs. Getting back to that rabbit, deer or squirrel, one thing is certain. You and it have something in common at the moment of impact. At that moment, the lights go out and all sensation of the world, however it comes to either of you, stops being processed by the brain.

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