Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What's Good for the Goose...?

Ian Ground offers the following précis of Frans de Waal’s thinking in his TLS review (May 26) of the ethologist’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? “We have in effect been Darwinists about the animal kingdom and creationists about the human head.” In discussing the question of animal mind Ground goes on to say “It has remained normal for philosophical accounts of mind and language to be completely ignorant of empirical discoveries about animals. And it is not uncommon for philosophers to deny that any non-linguistic animals ‘really’ have beliefs, are conscious or even perceive the world.” The subject as Ground points out is really anthropomorphism. We fail to understand animal mind since we look at it in human terms and he offers up the example of the equation of “self-consciousness” with “self-recognition”  demonstrated in the “sometimes acrimonious dispute abut whether animals recognize themselves in mirrors and have, it is inferred, something like a sense of themselves.” The most interesting part of this whole debate is the fact that humans not only experience confusion about the relationship with species who occupy a lower rung on the food chain. The failure to detach from a human form of understanding is equally demonstrated in the attempt to understand the person or thing occupying the highest run on that chain, ostensibly God. If there is such a thing as God, it is highly unlikely that he, she or it thinks or acts in any way that is “dreamt of” in our “philosophies.” Not only is it unlikely that God is an authority or parent figure who exists to answer prayers or requests, there is no evidence that the concept of a God is something that can even be envisioned by man, if you consider man’s relation to God similar to animals relation to man ie that of a lower order. Is God the first cause of all being? Even that, in the absence of divine revelation, neither beast nor man will ever likely be in a position to know.

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