Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Difference Between Humans and Animals, Part VIII

Pointed out by Tyler Cowen, I've come across not another difference, but a similarity. This comes from David Hume, an 18th century Scottish philosopher in his Treatise of Human Nature:
It is plain, that almost in every species of creatures, but especially of the nobler kind, there are many evident marks of pride and humility. The very port and gait of a swan, or turkey, or peacock show the high idea he has entertained of himself, and his contempt of all others. This is the more remarkable, that in the two last species of animals, the pride always attends the beauty, and is discovered in the male only. The vanity and emulation of nightingales in singing have been commonly remarked; as likewise that of horses in swiftness, of hounds in sagacity and smell, of the bull and cock in strength, and of every other animal in his particular excellency. Add to this, that every species of creatures, which approach so often to man, as to familiarize themselves with him, show an evident pride in his approbation, and are pleased with his praises and caresses, independent of every other consideration. Nor are they the caresses of every one without distinction, which give them this vanity, but those principally of the persons they know and love; in the same manner as that passion is excited in mankind. All these are evident proofs, that pride and humility are not merely human passions, but extend themselves over the whole animal creation.
Here's part one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven of this continuing series.


  1. I really despise elevated, romantic speech that anthropomorphizes animals' behavior. We have no way of knowing what those animals are thinking and why they do what they do. We only know what we'd assume if a human were behaving that way. To make assumptions about animals' motivations and rationale by comparing them to humans doesn't accomplish anything but to move us back into an outmoded, unreliable form of logic.

    Sure, it makes for great flowery speeches and idealizations, but it accomplishes nothing.

  2. Although I normally agree, I think there is something to what he is saying. For a real world example, watch this video on bird mating dances. Then watch this video on the India-Pakistan border.

    Although we are obviously more complex, but its clear animals naturally gesture how they feel.


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