You can look at ducks and see a mother making sure all her little children are following her into the lake and are safe. Is it love? Why not? We call love a profound feeling but is it really? Isn't love a function that helps us take care of our young and survive as a species? An alien, who had never encountered our planet before and perhaps thinking they are the intelligent life while the beings on Earth are just 'responding to stimuli' wouldn't see the emotions humans feel. As ducks to humans, humans to these aliens. Ducks and humans alike would appear just to be going through the motions.
Perhaps it's the other way around from how you put it. All animals by default share the conceit you describe. It is not unique to humanity, and does not deserve the label of "human". The bear does not lament its catch, the whale does not wonder at the inner life of a fish it accidentally swallows. The uniquely human conceit that we engage in is the one we are both engaging in right now. The exercise of putting oneself in another's shoes.
By the definition of the word, doesn't that make our species special?
Neither do humans, of course. Do you stop and grieve for the chicken you just grilled and ate?
Obviously animals are capable of recognizing that other creatures have emotions, too--any dog or cat owner can tell you that. But clearly, like us, they don't always choose empathy.
Consider a dog which has been raised around cats, which might hunt a rabbit but not another cat.
Occam's razor says that most wild animals exhibit preference of what species they'll eat based on taste and availability of food, not because of ethics. I said most because I'm not a wildlife biologist and there always seems to be strange outliers, but I have a hard time believing an omnivore/carnivore, such as a bear, would willingly choose vegetation 100% of the time because of ethics when there's plenty of game of its preference to eat.
>Consider a dog which has been raised around cats, which might hunt a rabbit but not another cat.
Most domesticated dogs that were raised alongside cats won't eat them because they've learned that they're not allowed to. The ones that do attack children and other pets are frequently euthanized.
That's an absurd statement. While tempers of dogs vary from one to the next just like humans, I vehemently disagree to the extent that I'm hesitant to believe you've ever raised a puppy, or even have been exposed to many dogs for that matter. Plenty of pet dogs behave more like their wolf ancestors than others.
That's a separate issue from the one I raised, namely that animals display species-oriented preference in their dietary range, and that for some animals this preference can be emotionally/socially based.
If there is any species-oriented preferences outside of taste and availability, it's purely out of a symbiotic relationship that they benefit from. Wolves aren't going to stop hunting deer unless the deer somehow provide additional sources of food that the wolves realize only exists because of the deer's help.
The source is in Russian from a zoologist who studied wolves:
Some behaviors are instinctive, some are taught, some are the result of emotional conditioning (hence people taming and domesticating animals).
You agree with me.
And not just dogs. I have trained cats to become friendly to individual rats (I think instinct is too strong), and I have seen some species express either preference or disdain for other species. My personal analysis is that this has more to do with social and emotional conditioning, a true recognition of another animal as "friendly" despite not offering a symbiotic relationship, rather than directly as a result of behavioral conditioning with positive/negative stimulus.
I think a better indicator of the difference between us and pets is that we keep pets, and further, that we sometimes keep pets purely for emotional benefits. Incidences of non-humans keeping other animals as pets is extremely rare and seemingly limited to primates.  I think that says a lot about our psychology. But it's a little pointless to debate about whether other mammals experience meaningful emotions. They do. Meaningful emotions are actionable. That's why our emotions seem meaningful.
Isn’t that how humans operate as well? People keep pets that they get satisfaction from but we don’t eat our pets.
Then you have the debate of whether true altruism exists or whether people do even our most selfless acts because of the endorphin rush we get from helping others.
Your pet would eat you, if you had a stroke in your flat- lying helpless on the floor. All the nice moments, are just a function of the surpulus, that is provided by humanity via ecocide.
Not eating another human has nothing to do with the fact that we share a species and everything to do with the conscious psychological decision to have respect for the life of all highly cognitive beings which can live complex lives, and not arrogantly place my own need for survival higher than theirs...
But nuances aside, fundamentally I don't differ from the deer, birds, or squirrels in that I'm wired to do almost anything necessary to satisfy my hunger impulse. So I'm not sure how what you're saying makes any difference.
I did cry the first time I butchered a chicken.
You're doing that. Not paying 18 people away to do it for you.
And the chicken probably had a better life.
The butchering can certainly be more emotional that the killing... it might 10 seconds to grab an axe and swing and then at least 30 minutes to cut the skin and pull it off of the body, to cut the body cavity open and to slice out the internal organs. It feels different than say preforming an autopsy in biology lab... you might have this moment as I have where you realize that the story you tell yourself, that you're a killer with a higher purpose, is just that -- a story. It doesn't make the animal you murdered feel any better about the fate it met at your hand.
I would guess it is a significantly different feeling in cultures where a large portion of the population kill what they eat. Even here where I live, in rural Pennsylvania, people will often look at you like you're a sociopath if you tell them you killed and skinned and ate any animal other than a deer, and yet, the first day of hunting season there were often many empty chairs in school because dad wanted to take his kid out to celebrate a time honored tradition. Those kids don't often cry when they kill their deer, they often feel an overwhelming sense of pride. And then they pay a processor $50 so that they don't have to do the hard dirty work themselves.
We're certainly capable of it. It remains unclear whether other animals are capable.
It's possible to show empathy and respect without grief.
I keep engaging in morbid thought experiments to figure out how certain people feel when they commit certain acts and whether I would be able to do the same provided the circumstances are hard enough. A few examples:
if I could blink my eye and all the valuables and money of everyone in this room/house etc would suddenly be mine, how much would that be, and would I do it?
if I could blink my eye and everyone in that room/building would vanish from the earth would I do it?
if I could blink my eye and 2/3 of the earths human population would be wiped out by x/y/z would I do it?
if I would be forced to work in a concentration camp being tasked with horrid acts against humans ... maybe with the alternative of being killed myself or having my family etc (spin that further what if I didn't have a family and just my dog that would be sacrificed if I were to refuse) ...
the answers always terrify me.
We talk about it all the time. We have industries built around it. We write books about it. Maybe bears could read our books? Whoops! They can't read! Or tie their shoes, or set the dinner table. Maybe we're special after all ...
There are plenty of other examples of this, I’m sure; these two came to mind first because they were caught on video. What drives that behavior if not empathy?
Animals mostly follow their instinct, and it is absurd/dangerous to anthropomorphise their behavior.
Humans mostly follow their instinct, and it is absurd/dangerous not to zoomorphise their behavior.
Maybe he was just hungry... many big herbivores like cows and deer eat small animals gladly when available.
Maybe the leopard taking care of the gazella's calf after eating their mum is thinking "I'll save this tasty snack for later" and protects it from other predators for selfish reasons.
Our interpretation of what are thinking the animals can be wrong.
I would bet this bear actually would have eaten the crow, had that been its intention.
I'd think the leopard taking care of a calf is more likely to think it looks "cute" for similar biological reasons we do, and take care of it for that reason.
I would guess that a leopard in particular, if it wanted to store food, would be inclined to save it for later by just caching it (dead) in a tree.
I also think "instincts" manifest themselves through emotion / emotion is how we experience instinct.
We feel fear, love, etc depending on the situation, and then it's these emotions that drive us to act in the manner we do.
Our actions are moderated by language-enhanced reflection, which is were we're really ahead of other animals.
Other possibility would be that the bear was just annoyed by the crowing sound so maybe it was not totally an altruistic conduct. Not easy to evaluate because we lack the first and last part of the scene. How the crow ended in the pool? Maybe was trow there by the bear. We don't know.
> leopard ... would be inclined to save it for later by just caching it (dead) in a tree.
That would be the best way to attract the maximum of flies and predators. Cats are know to play with their preys when satiated keeping them alive as long as possible. It seems that they have a lot of fun with it.
When they do, it doesn't look like what the leopard was doing with the calf. They don't "play" in that sense, they just incapacitate the prey so it can't escape and "play" with it until it's dead. Definitely not what the leopard was doing.
Of course it can, but by resorting to this sort of interpretative relativism, you're bringing the debate no further. Of course we can never tell whether animals feel anything such as emotion, but at this level, so you can't of other humans. In other words, the interpretation of emotions as authenthic rich mental states is just as valid for animals as it is for humans.
I could think in some exceptions to this rule, but lets ignore the "never" and assume that this is true for now.
> B) but at this level, so you can't of other humans.
False. Even if I can't communicate with a slug, I can communicate fairly well with other humans, feel empathy and understand their feelings.
> C) In other words, the interpretation of emotions as authenthic rich mental states is just as valid for animals as it is for humans.
Causal phallacy. A is true, so B is true [in fact is false], so C is equally valid for A and B.
In fact neither A (of course we can't interpretate emotions of animals), nor B (we can't interpretate emotions in humans) justify C (therefore the interpretation of emotions is valid in both animals and humans).
You're right to be cautious about interpreting animal behavior, but you're inadvertently making the same mistake from a different direction.
You say also that I dislike something so this explains X. As you don't know me, you are not in the position to base your arguments on such claims. Ad-hominem fallacy
Am I "invoking" delayed gratification? where?
> Do you really think an animal is going to spend 20 minutes trying to get a tasty snack out of a barrel because it's hungry - and then set it aside for later once it has hold of the snack?
It depends on the context. If we can see the video we could discusse it properly.
Wild animals stopping what they are doing and running away when they realize there is an human around with a camera? I can see it. Yes. Definitely a very common behaviour.
put oneself in another's shoes is basically a definition of empathy...
As for empathy, it might be an inherent quality but I'm inclined to think that it's like most other things, you can cultivate it with practice and it manifests different ways in different people.
Of course, we can't know this.
It seems reasonable to speculate that other animals don't subvocalise in human languages, though that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't capable of thought.
1. It also seems reasonable to me to believe that dogs (some dogs?) might be capable of understanding some human language beyond simple commands. I typically have more luck with my two 2yo Border Collie cross if I explain to them why we're doing a new thing. More research is needed. Please deposit funds in my offshore bank account.
2. We could debate what is meant by thought, I believe that would be a distraction
Tell me your secret to understanding the inner minds of animals.
Seriously, any pet owner will tell you animals seemingly have feelings. They do things that don't make much sense outside of them showing love, hate, annoyance, etc. It's not scientific, but why would humans be so different from animals when we all came down a similar evolutionary line? You don't see great leaps in physical trait happening, usually, it's a gradual process, so I would assume that feelings gradually developed into what humans have now.
If my cats were human, they would both be in jail
One of my cats is pure breed, has never lived outside of a house, loves eating plastic, olives and chips but shows no care for fresh meat
The other one was a stray cat, she still hides food that she doesn't eat, because that's what she's been doing for the initial part of her life
In a way she adapted to live in a house, but she never learned that she's not been living in the streets for the biggest part of her life
So yes, they have their personalities, very different from each other
They get bored, they enjoy snuggles (until they do not and scratch you for no reason), but can they process their feelings beyond reaction?
I'm not really sure they do in a very complex way
Of course animals have no such conception of deeper emotions, at least in the same way that we think about them, but that doesn't mean that animals do (or don't) experience them. It just means our method of boxing up experiences into communicable terms probably doesn't match their own.
how can you possibly claim that?
I'm not saying they don't have these emotions, just that they probably don't have the same concepts surrounding them as we do. I could very well be wrong, but I'd have to find a non-human animal willing to discuss the topic with me.
i am sorry, but that doesn’t make any sense. a concept has meaning beyond its human definition. it isn’t like emotions didn’t exist until humans “defined” them.
i am sure there are animals willing to discuss it with you, it’s just that you (us) can’t understand them.
it is very possible that animals feel deeper emotional connections than we do. orcas showcase some very deep emotional states.
For example many languages define colors differently (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMqZR3pqMjg), but this doesn't mean that the different wavelengths don't exist. Cultures categorized them for the purpose of communication and it's only within the context of that categorization that you can understand the meaning.
Earlier I referenced "finger pointing at the moon" and this is exactly it. The word is the finger and the meaning is the moon, and we shouldn't mistake the finger for the moon.
> i am sure there are animals willing to discuss it with you, it’s just that you (us) can’t understand them.
I was half-joking, there are already animals that we can understand and communicate with. It's just a matter of finding them :P
> it is very possible that animals feel deeper emotional connections than we do. orcas showcase some very deep emotional states.
No doubt. Even visiting an animal shelter exposes some of the deep emotional state that dogs and cats can be in, and I'm sure that barely scratches the surface when considering all of the different species and circumstances.
I don't necessarily hold that belief, who knows what the birds and dolphins are jabbering on about.
We can clearly see or hear when most mammals are experiencing fear, joy, sadness, anger, etc.
They might not understand it intellectually, but I think we'd be hard pressed to argue that they don't feel it or understand that their emotion is in response to an event they experienced.
Occasionally, we can overcome the conceitedness. I think that makes us special.
Thanks for the clarification.
How do you know that certain animals do not do that. It is not like we can read their brains.
Here are a few I know of:
1- Several bird species maintain life-long bonds with their partners.
2- Some bird species have funerals for deceased birds.
3- Several animals (like Dolphins) can recognize themselves in the mirror.
4- My dog recognize when I'm angry.
You see the pattern. Humans are just more capable of sophisticated patterns than animals we compare to.
How about other creatures? I mean, if you want to claim supremacy, what would be your definition of supremacy? Number of humans? Mass?
> "It has been estimated by E. O. Wilson that the total number of individual ants alive in the world at any one time is between one and ten quadrillion (short scale). According to this estimate, the total biomass of all the ants in the world is approximately equal to the total biomass of the entire human race."
Ants beats us on the number scale but we are equal on the biomass front.
Obviously animals have simpler lives than we do but they have personalities, maybe equivalent to that of a 2- or 3-year old. One of my dogs is getting old and can't always find a ball that I throw for him. The younger one will sometimes find it and then bring it to him if she sees him looking; she'll drop her own ball, fetch the 'lost' one and drop it for him, then get her own and bring it back to me to me.
I didn't set out to teach that behavior, though the younger dog may well be imitating mine.
This unsupported statement has been made about so many things that we later found out many animals DO engage in.
Which is the point of the article. You cannot make that claim. You do not know what all the other animals are thinking.
Maybe the elephant is thinking, "You have everything you need. Why do you want to kill me for my tusks?"
Occam's Razor is not truth generating, it only says that you shouldn't make things more complex than is necessary, it doesn't say what is necessary; crucially the World, and humans in particular, are not logical or especially confined by necessities.
But that assumes facts not in evidence. Here's a fun example. One day I cooked too much food, ate some and set the other aside intending to put it in the refrigerator. Something distracted me while I was eating and I left the house, forgetting all about the leftover food.
I returned a little later and instead of my dog greeting me at the door with his tail wagging I walked in and dog is giving me his sad look. I have no idea why until I go into the kitchen and see the now-empty plate that had the leftover food on it.
Now I doubt this is guilt in the sense of moral remorse, it's likely just my dog worrying about getting caught taking my food. But he was definitely conscious of having taken something that was not given. The difference from his normal behavior when I open the door was an empirical fact, even though I can only draw inferences about what was going on in his head.
For this to be true we would first have to invent philosophy and philosophers, psychology and psychologists.
So, I'm convinced it constitutes a simpler explanation.
Take dogs, for example, we share something like 84% same DNA. Great apes 98.8% or so.
This starts to slide in to this idea I have about how people say "everyone is different". No, no we are not. We are way more alike than the cumulative sum of our differences.
It would be way simpler, in my opinion, to assume other animals, at least some of them anyway, are capable of most of the same emotions we are. Then we can work out to what extent we care.
They're are genetically very similar to us.
> There is no threshold at which we become greater than the sum of our parts; no inflection point at which we become fully alive. We can't define consciousness because consciousness does not exist. We humans like to fancy that there's something special about the way we perceive the world, and yet, we live in loops as tight and as closed as the hosts do—rarely questioning our choices—content, for the most part, to be told what to do next.
The idea that consciousness doesn't exist is very interesting, and I'm not poo-pooing it, however the argument that it doesn't exist because you can't identify an inflection point is an example of the grains of sand fallacy.
The Grains of Sand fallacy basically claims you can't say "there's no way adding one piece of sand would render a pile of sand un-liftable." This isn't true as I can lift a bag with one grain of sand and can't lift a bag with a billion grains of sand, therefore there has to be a point where I can lift the bag with N grains of sand, and can't lift the bag with N+1 grains.
I agree it's hard to identify an inflection point; but that doesn't prove that consciousness isn't real. If we define consciousness as something dead people don't have and an alive person has (or at least SOMEONE once has had), then there has to be an inflection point as people die.
What I take out of this is not that consciousness doesn't exist, but that generally when people use the word "consciousness", the thing they think they're referring to doesn't exist in nearly as substantial a way as they think it does.
We talk about ourselves as special and animals as fancy pattern matchers because we can't intuitively accept that consciousness isn't a binary phenomenon. If we accept that it's an emergent phenomenon with no clear boundary, there are only two possible conclusions:
* Panpsychism or dual-aspect monism, where matter is imbued with proto-consciousness; or
* "Illusionism" is maybe the best descriptor? Where consciousness exists but not in the way we think it does.
It seems possible that a group of people who see animals as subhuman would be able to exploit them more completely and may have an evolutionary advantage.
Similar to how animals who believe they have their own consciousness separate from a global conscious would fight harder for survival, and therefore have a selective advantage.
Doesn't mean either of those things are true, but animals who think that way may breed more.
It's also possible that humans who see other groups of humans as subhuman have done better in war times, and have therefore proliferated.
I wish more people would consider that we might have ingrained beliefs that are both false and adaptive. I think knowledge is power generally, but lies can be power in specific cases.
In all seriousness though I think humans have always thought of themselves as a higher form of life because we assume we’re sentient. And only sentient beings can experience physical or emotional pain, right? Even before the idea of sentience, we threw around words like “reasoning”. At some point humans must have rationalized away the notion that animals experience suffering because to this day we still enjoy our hamburgers and continue to leave out pets out in the cold.
Today's environment is an abnormality in history (e.g. individuals wanting to be herbivores) created by the excess of food and technological advances we have. Maybe this is the way to go, maybe it isn't, maybe either options are irrelevant anyway.
You only need desensitization once you are massacring animals on an industrial scale.
Are people likely to be desensitized by not being part of the process of getting the animal to the table? Possibly, but that is an ad-don to the points I made.
How this is not true of our artificial cities, dwellings, and infrastructure? And what do you mean by "abnormality"? Do you foresee human manipulation of our environment receding toward some less-manipulated baseline? It seems to me that people claiming voluntary herbivorism is "unnatural" (not your word per se) should take a look at everything else around them and realize that human life today is pervasively and inextricably intertwined with the "unnatural", which doesn't seem to cause people to raise any red flags about it.
I don't think it's an "abnormality" so much as a development, just as human civilizations continue to develop.
P.S. I have no judgement or animosity towards those who eat meat. Humans evolved to eat meat and it's a personal choice. But if you choose to, please consider taking an active role in the hunting and harvesting process.
The crux of the human condition is that we are aware of our own mortality. That's a profound awareness which breeds all sorts of irrationalities and fears in humans not found in ducks. If those are just the motions, then I suppose we may have gotten the short end of the stick perhaps?
But in all fairness, I think you are most likely referring to the "fight or flight" response mechanism found in living creatures. This is simply an unconscious reaction to stressful stimuli and doesn't signal a higher state of consciousness.
If you were a member of an alien species briefly observing the Earth 50,000 years ago, you'd probably use a similar argument that humans aren't conscious. Sure, they hunt, they play, and they show fear of danger, but that isn't substantially different from other mammals.
like humans, you can read so much in the micro-movements of a dog's eyes, nose, lips and ears.
while she has anxiety issues at home (probably abused before), my dog is a social butterfly when we're out. she knows who might give her treats and who might be a threat, approaching the former happily and the latter cautiously. she can get shy/awkward dogs to play with her while keeping aggressive dogs from getting too amped up. i still have a lot to learn from her.
Logic (based in conceit or otherwise) is just one of our tools for conditioning our reality into something that we find palatable. Another is willful ignorance. Ignore a thing and it doesn't exist. Easy.
Willful ignorance is a basic building block of "reality".
It's really quite hard to prove things like whether a duck is sentient or not, without talking to one.
While we still don’t have the capability to do full brain emulation for hardly any species, we are left with comparison studies.
These comparison studies should be as equally valid between humans as animals. We can only compare behavioral responses.
You can perform similar behavioral studies among people that don’t speak the same language for example. I admit it’s not easy with humans, given how interconnected we are culturally but it’s not impossible.
Most mammals would react to fresh corpses of members of the same species, most would feel what we would call sadness when loosing a member of tribe, parent etc. But feeling emotions towards bones? That's pretty complex IMO.
I've also read somewhere about instances of elephants "burying" other elephants via covering their bodies with leaves. I'll edit and add a source if I manage to find it.
But there's some nuance in here. For instance I'd completely agree that factory farming is inhumane, but I think that's in large part because those that operate such institutions have become so far detached from what it is that they do. If your business is butchering chickens, you should be at least occasionally involved in butchering chickens.
There's some irony though. If there was a chicken and rice shop, as you can find all across the developing world, with chickens running about outside - the same ones ending up on your plate, people would be incensed. Similarly imagine somebody in a not entirely rural area was raising their own goats and/or chickens for slaughter. Again, there would be outrage. People inadvertently drive invisible inhumane conditions by expressing outrage at visible humane conditions that they find distasteful.
If you don't mind me asking, what do you think is making you still eat animals, given that you are aware of their suffering?
How about animals we eat that are treated well? If a cow lives a happy life, is slaughtered as humanely as possible, and wouldn't have existed if not for our demand for meat, does that make that meat ethical? Maybe even more ethical than not eating it? (Of course this is an incomplete picture if you want to consider externalities such as cow farts contributing to climate change.)
If that's a general argument, then the same thing goes for humans, so it'd therefore be better to have a human child and eat it (if it's slaughtered as humanely as possible), than not having a child, right?
Whenever we argue this way about a non-human animal this way, it's worth considering whether we'd feel the similarly of about a human being with similar mental capacities. Otherwise it might just be our speciesism leading us into motivated reasoning.
Of course, part of the problem with the argument is the false dilemma between killing someone and them never having been alive. Additionally the assumption, that it's harmful for someone non-existent to never be brought into existence, is an odd one. If we accept it, birth control would be highly immoral, and rape could often be justified as being in the interested of a potential unborn child... which is actually what's happening here with farmed cows, because they're being forcefully inseminated non-stop, and you're arguing it's for the benefit of the unborn calf.
If we buy this premise, we'd also have to support a hypothetical cannibalistic farming industry rearing captive human children for food, because otherwise those children wouldn't exist.
Yeah, the Norman conquest. Other languages don't have this division.
With suffering and pain out of the way, this would boil down to the question if existing is more comfortable than not existing. The cow needs to exist in order that you can eat it.
Everything in this universe has the laws of nature as a resistance, and molds itself into a form to lessen this pressure (the easiest or viable way). life strives for a more comfortable life, which is also helped by bonding. Aren't emotions always connected to some kind of connection with something, a bond?
The core or main difference between the universe and life itself could be separation vs. union. The universe drifts apart, but life might eventually concentrate in one part of the universe as different species find each other.
1. “I have limited energy for activism, and I distribute it wisely”: statements like these are often untrue and a way to brush away an ethical question while continuing to appear ethical (“I fly on planes, flying on planes is bad for the planet, but X [droughts in Africa] is more critical, so I prefer to think about X than about planes”). One, willpower is probably not finite, as was found in a famous recent study (granted, I conflate willpower and energy here, but they’re quite close). Two, being vegan takes basically the same amount of effort/time/money as eating animal products for someone with no medical condition. Three (more subjective), veganism is a pretty safe bet when it comes to activism, it’s a low effort/high impact part of climate change activism, which is one of the most critical things you can pour your energy into
2. “Enabling mass action is more important than my individual behaviour”: not how the world works. In theory, you could argue for veganism, even become the most respected vegan philosopher, while at the same time eating a different animal at every meal. In practice, if you’re a “do what I say, not what I do” person, the probability that someone becomes vegan after listening to you would be pretty much 0. I also have trouble imagining why anyone would see someone like this as part of the vegan community and a worthy ally when it comes to mass action
3. “Individual action makes people think they’ve done their part and not partake in mass action”: this is untrue on many levels. Individual action is what mass action is made of and the end goal basically. Most people take the strength for political commitment from their individual everyday choices, I would even say that everyday choices are what makes political commitment inevitable. I have never met an activist who is committed only on a theoretical/group level
4. “Being vegan is a chore in America”: being vegan in a rich country is arguably the closest you’ll get to finding it easy
5. “Being vegan is less pleasant than not being vegan”: I can only assume you’re speaking about taste here, which I find weird from a former vegan. The imbalance between personal gustative pleasure and the suffering of species/ecology might be the most frequent discussion about veganism, and the one that demonstrates the most obviously to all involved that eating animal products is unethical (or at least neutral)
1. Willpower and energy are finite but not fixed. Being vegan is an additional expenditure of energy. Pretending to be vegan (or publicly being vegan enough) probably would be easy to do without spending much energy and also pretty much deals with #2, but that doesn't seem to be what you want.
2. As above, this is only really a reason to pretend to be vegan. But to your point, I don't begrudge any group for being that picky about who they want engaging in action alongside them. I'm not sure that's a winning strategy, but if it gets some people engaged in action, fine, I'll just run with the more "tainted" groups. Personally, I think these sorts of individual scorecard things are good ideas to apply to friends, bad ones to apply to political allies. Obviously you disagree.
3. Yes, people who strike together, engage in demonstrations or other direct action of course have to act as individuals also in order to do that, but you already seem to understand the distinction I'm drawing here based on the way you talk about it. From there, you just have look at the many successful leaders of mass action/positive political change who had checkered lives to put the lie to this blanket dismissal. It's cool that your friends are good people, but if you all still accomplish the same amount of structural change while eating steaks, I'd be equally happy.
5. It is less pleasant. It is unethical to prefer more pleasant things that come from an odious supply chain when it wouldn't require too much energy to sqitch. We agree, but this is also one of those things where #1 comes into play, as I imagine you aren't writing this from a self-sufficient commune in a hidden stateless island. If you are, awesome, but otherwise, you're implicated in a lot of unethical choices. Maybe some of which where I'm doing the ethical thing. But it really doesn't matter (beyond our ability to sleep at night) if neither of us are mounting real challenges to the structures that make ethical decisions hard and unethical ones easy.
There is a lot of truth in that. As it is now though, some meat eaters will say that businesses need to stop murdering animals, while people controlling and working at those businesses will say that they're only doing it because people buy it. It's an easy and convenient view to hold, because it let's everyone put the blame on someone else, while not having to do anything themselves.
I'm saying it is critical for anyone who cares about this to do something. Organizing to get laws changed, subsidies stripped/rerouted, and other structural changes takes effort from everyone who has a stake in this. We just disagree on what it is that is critical to do.
I think the debate pops up strongly now  because 1) our knowledge is near capable of synthesizing nutrients and 2) industrial based lifestyles have removed the ~fair side of survival eating. I don't think any human ever thought twice about eating an animal when his life depends on it.
 I've read a bit in a judaism book that the kosher idea comes from the mental struggle to rationalize taking a life to sustain your own. I know nothing about judaism so maybe the book was just fantasy.. but I found it very touching thinking that in previous eras people did think about this. Maybe (most probably even) other cultures expressed that sentiment in various ways (brainstorming but maybe wearing animal skulls or necklace or maybe prayers for the life taken). If people know more about that hit me up
The debate's been going on for quite a while now though. But yes, it didn't involve factory farms, antibiotics, dead zones or climate breakdown back then.
> Your pet also would eat other pets in a wild life settings.
To me that sounds a little bit like cherry picking. Do we take cues from pets in general? Couldn't that argument be used as a justification for doing a poop on the street or going around and sniffing other people's bums?
I think we're decoupling life too much. I don't think my system was made to be a pure intellectual being. Running for your food is probably the happiest healthiest act one can do.
This seems very unlikely because the stated reason to spare these animals is that they are unclean and eating them is bad for the eater, not the animal.
Regardless, there aren't many bears reading HN, so it would be a waste of time trying to discuss these issues with them here anyway.
I think it'll be possible for humans to discuss the ethics of eating salmon without necessarily getting the bears on board with their decision. Most humans tend to generally not involve bears that much in their day-to-day decision making.
Perhaps the overall utility of having a happy bear in your ecosystem beats not having a bear, or a starving one. Since we can't know for sure, the precautionary principle tells us to just let the bear be a bear. But it still sucks for the salmon, and therefore a human capable of forgoing the salmon clearly should at least consider it.
Alright, so your dog has some level of cognition – sensations, emotion, joy, pain. Perhaps less complex than a human, but nevertheless nonzero. Because whatever computations happens in its brain feel like something from the inside.
How about a frog? Less, but still nonzero.
How about a worm? Less, but still nonzero. But hey: we can already model a worm's nervous system . And if consciousness is just what computation feels like from the inside, then torturing the model worm creates real pain (or the worm-equivalent of pain, whatever that emotion is).
Something interesting to think about.
For example, it's widely accepted that pigs are extremely intelligent animals, capable of feeling pain and suffering to a degree more sophisticated even than young children.
And yet treating young children with the same level of disregard-for-suffering that we routinely, banally treat pigs with is considered a capital crime.
At a certain point, we'll have to resolve this societal cognitive dissonance. I strongly suspect it will end up being resolved with animals being granted a far greater degree of legal protection from pain and suffering than they have now.
But i agree with you that eventually we'll stop treating animals the way we treat them now, because growing meat in a lab will be cheaper, making majority of the people indifferent, and allowing the minority of the people who care to pass stricter laws (though i am not sure if that would work for fish, and for abolishing all the hunting).
Many hunter gatherer societies were ok with killing ill or unwanted children, because those who didn't do that didn't survive.
I don't know any vegans or vegetarians who refuse to acknowledge the reality of eating for survival - the issue is based on choice, and if you have the luxury of choice why would you decide to eat another sentient being.
> and if you have the luxury of choice why would you decide to eat another sentient being
It's not a completely equivalent choice, but also a little bit of inconvenience in the form of not eating the favorite types of foods or often having to take supplements (e.g. B12), and most people seem to have a healthy dose of selfishness. I personally am not convinced that farm animals are intelligent enough to justify the urgent action, instead of waiting until artificially grown meat becomes cheaper and resolves the issue in a natural way.
It appears that the majority of the World, setting aside the question of the the truth of the notion for now, believes that this is entirely solved as the child has a soul and the pig does not?
So, for most there is no dissonance?
However, considering the progress we've already made, I have hope that we can make more.
If hunting is the only thing you can do sane ethics system would allow killing the whale no matter how intelligent creature it is. And letting members of another tribe die instead of trying to share and risking members of your own tribe to die is a sane thing too.
But things change if you a member of a civilization that can produce as much food as it wants without killing anyone.
That said, I find the idea of game-theory as a "universal basis" of ethics intriguing.
Eventually you're going to have to decide what is intrinsically undesirable, which means understanding what your goals are before you ascribe moral value to some process. You can't say pain is good or bad without first understanding how it gets in the way of your goals.
Transcription factors (genes whose product activate or inhibit other genes) form regulation network that are equivalent in function to neural nets. There's also evidence of memory in single cell organisms.
However it emerges remains a mystery, but it’s possible that some configuration of them does not produce the consciousness affect.
For example, a million neurons is not enough to turn the lights on, but X amount is.
I don't find any of this intuitive, nor do I have answers to the ethical questions that follow (besides not eating animals, which I already don't). But I find it revealing how most people will fight tooth and nail to maintain that there is some magical threshold separating dead matter from precious, conscious life, without having given the topic much thought at all.
Elephants might ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_cognition#Death_ritua... ).
Of course, life in the wild is not pretty. Not many of the wild animals are apex predators in their respective territory, and thus their deaths are usually not peaceful, and being hunted, having close calls with death almost daily is a very integral part of their life, so they probably have an evolved way to deal with the psychological burden of this.
And that's probably what domestication changed.
I like that idea, but I don't understand how natural selection would favour animals that are less stressed about predators. Are you implying that the gazelle actually enjoys the thrill as it is running away from the lion?
If dread, stress, trauma, shock, etc. leads to worse survival outcomes than a more calm basic set-point, then that's likely to emerge.
For example animals that form herds stick to the herd even if their family member is isolated from it by predators. Because they gain nothing by trying to somehow save the isolated member. (Because that would probably lead to more of them getting mauled to death.)
Sure, these animals are pretty defensive, but after a point they let it go. Do they suffer from it? Yeah, sure, they have very similar stress response, but they rarely (to my knowledge) are traumatized by these encounters. (Because they probably don't ponder, they don't think about what that encounter meant. It meant nothing for them, it's just life in the wild.)
For example Sapolsky spent years observing baboons and took a lot of blood samples, and measured cortisol levels. And those animals lead a very stressful life. ( https://news.stanford.edu/news/2007/march7/sapolskysr-030707... ) But humans and primates are the exception probably. And probably the more cognition one can do the more things one can worry about.
So that's why they are supposed to be kept, raised and slaughtered in relatively humane conditions. (Eg. free range, and painless death.)
I can understand the logic of input 1 causes output 2 and output 5 to do something, providing the objective indicators of consciousness, but the internal experience puzzles me. Why do we feel? Why do our pain or pleasure receptors result in agonizing pain or pleasurous feeling instead of just throwing messages saying “you are experiencing 57% pleasure” or “pain at 25%”? Why do we see what is going through our visual system? Why are we conscious at all? Why aren’t we just autonomous? Systems of inanimate material seem to have this bizarre innate property where they create subjective ephemeral forces from objective inanimate atoms.
Which raises the question: do computers feel?
But this is different from dictionary definition of panpsychism, because this doesn't need to assign consciousness to simpler computations (rocks, buildings, simple cells).
And this indeed opens really interesting questions. For instance if you have a simulation of many people, is it ok to continue the simulation when they are killing each other? Is it ok to ever stop the simulation? Is it ok to create a model of a person you do not like and torture him? What if your brain is augmented with a powerful computer, and torturing happens literally in your imagination?
That necessarily follows, I think. The quantum processes in a rock are also a form of computation and, therefore, inhabited by some rudimentary form of experience we might call, dunno, "rockness". I don't see an easy way around it. Perhaps at absolute zero all experience stops?
I have no answers, but your questions are precisely why I find this fascinating to think about!
Kind of similar to the way how behavior of cellular automata changes between the predictable patterns and chaotic ones. (But i wouldn't bet all my money on it, only the half:)
Hm, reminds me of Permutation City. That's an interesting parallel I hadn't considered at all.
It surely is interesting to think about, at least as long as this Chinese Room way of thinking isn't used to dismiss or justify pain or suffering inflicted on other living beings.
But in case of the model nothing would exist if you didn't build the computer, and you can take snapshots to restore any state you want.
It seems like people in some way always understood this difference, because they were ok with god sending arbitrary tortures to them, and then granting them eternal life undoing the effect of the torture.
You can eat a healthy, fulfilling diet that meets all your nutrition requirements without consuming meat or dairy and contributing to animal suffering.
We have the choice to avoid imprisoning, mutilating, and killing animals to survive, by eating a plant-based diet.
I’ve been vegan for many years and have never felt better or happier. You can too.
Do you think other species have less of a choice because of their limited emotional response? If so, can you consider the implications? (rather than being the butt of the age old joke)
Carnivorous animals kill to survive, unlike all of us living in the modern world.
It’s not just the killing, it’s the whole process of enslaving, breeding, raping, mutilating animals just to serve our tastes. If you think I’m being melodramatic don’t take my word for it. You can see the terrible suffering inflicted on animal farms and slaughterhouses only a quick google search away.
It’s not necessary. We aren’t living in the bush having to kill another animal in order to live.
Wouldn't the logical straight-forward way of looking at it would be that because humans have higher abstract intelligence/thinking capabilities, they should obviously be less emotional than animals? All animals have is basically emotion (well dolphins and monkeys probably have some simple symbolic language, but nevertheless), while humans have both emotion, and also the logical apparatus, the thoughts, the prefrontal cortex to inhibit (that's its function in a nutshell - selective inhibition) the rest of the (emotional) intelligence, thus making the general operation of an individual less emotion-based, as compared to a generic animal?
Because non-human animals exhibit demonstrably less higher intelligence than us, we tend to assume also that their subjective experience is somehow less sharp or detailed or consequential than ours. Consider the way that virtually our entire civilization treats animals as disposable goods. We confine them in horrendous conditions, we slaughter them for food in brutal ways, we force them to do hard labor, and we even hurt and scare them for petty entertainment. Many people seem to assume that because animals don't cry or smile or frown or grimace like we do, they must not be feeling the emotions we associate with those faces.
If we all could believe that non-human animals could experience emotions such as fear, loneliness, loss, terror, shame, embarrassment, and joy just as richly and profoundly as we do -- and the article suggests that they do, indeed -- then what might we have to change about the way we regard and interact with them? I believe this is the question the article wants us to consider.
I'd imagine that the thinking goes that emotion requires self-reflection. Being depressed isn't really a thing if I don't even realise it's me that is depressed because I have no conception of self.
If there is no higher function that can decide to suffer pains then pain is irrelevant, reaction is not emotion.
This method is believed to be highly imperfect though as not all animals rely on visual perception as their main info channel. So some animals that do not pass the test may be self-aware, we just don't know how to research it properly.
It would surely seem many of human emotions are based on reflective properties and certain thoughts being at the basis of the subjective reality in which these humans consequently find themselves, in which it "makes sense" for the emotion to occur. We "think" ourselves into emotions about work, about our homes, about society, politics, video games, etc. etc.
I do think that there is a place for emotions though, even aside from those conditions: many times people feel certain emotions, but they don't know themselves that they feel it, or what they feel. This is evident in psychotherapy, a lot of the time the work itself is simply to get the person to understand what they are feeling. This would suggest that feeling of these emotions somehow exist, in some sort of lower level emotional substrate, before the symbolic consciousness has acquired a view of these processes. Such emotions and their substrate likely is present in animals as well.
It is logical to assume, that for any emotion to exist, there has to be some ground "intelligent"(on some level) understanding of a certain reality - if one feels sad, there needs to be something going on in the subjective reality of the subject (like being separated from a loved one), to which this emotion should be reacting, and this event needs to have certain properties and not others, and there needs to be something in the subject that understands this difference. But this understanding does not need to be based in symbolic intelligence, it surely seems like it can be hosted in the aforementioned pre-symbolic substrate, which animals seem to share with us.
A cat obviously feels and "knows" somehow when it is being separated from a loved one, be it another cat or a human. Assuming that the cat does not have much of a symbolic intelligence, the fact that it can still do that, it means that there is a system in the cat which can nevertheless track how close it is to a loved one. So if there this system, that could likely serve a purpose of being this substrate on which the emotions are reacting.
Thus developed symbolic intelligence is not strictly required for emotions to occur, assuming there is another simpler intelligence to track the subjective reality, and it sure seems like many animals do have this.
(Of course the open question is how "much" of these respective types of emotions is present in humans, because it would make a difference for whether we would think humans are more emotional in general than animals or not.)
A few conclusions:
A) Anything with brains has some kind of emotions. The bigger the brain the more developed emotions are.
B) Emotions in animals has nothing to do with "soul" or anything transcendental. It's just a way the animal brain works. Humans can feel empathy to animal emotions because they are also technically animals.
Thank you for sharing. Such an interesting thought.
One of the conditions of flow is that the individual focuses on that one thing and doesn't think about anything else.
Humans are constantly juggling several things in their heads at one time. When we brush our teeth, we think about how we're going to be late. When we play with our kids, we're also worrying about that problem at work or the unpaid bills.
But the lion does not need to do this. When the lion is hunting, they focus 100% on it. When it eats, it enjoys its meal, not having to worry about the next kill or food preservation. When it sees a sunrise, it can sit there and enjoy the sunrise, without pondering what it has to do in the next few hours.
This is an unpopular opinion, but the human intuition is not a good discriminator of consciousness: "Dennett (who argues that consciousness is unique to humans), claims that intuitive attributions of mental states are “untrustworthy”, and points out that “it is, in fact, ridiculously easy to induce powerful intuitions of not just sentience but full-blown consciousness (ripe with malevolence or curiosity) by exposing people to quite simple robots made to move in familiar mammalian ways at mammalian speeds (1995).”"
Personally, I'll be agnostic until consciousness is much better understood.
* Consciousness is a side-effect of the brain running "what-if" scenarios that include anticipating it's own actions. Self-awareness. This definition allows for non-human consciousness, but also doesn't take a stance on it, as it also allows for a range of awareness, rather than a binary state. (that said, I'll talk in binary terms for simplicity)
* Consciousness is calorically expensive - the brain shuts it down when it isn't needed, because it stops adding value then in terms of survival.
* Side effect: The primary job of consciousness is to figure out how to turn the unexpected into the routine, which in turn shuts down consciousness.
Result: We spend a lot of time NOT self-aware, then back-fill that we must always be self-aware when we consider that time (because we are self-aware during that consideration). Impossible to self-measure, but my personal guess is that we spend somewhere between a high number of minutes to low number of hours "sentient" each day.
Note: I'm using Self-aware/consciousness rather broadly here. Even if it's illusion, there's a state of having that illusion (or however to phrase that) and a state of not being aware that you aren't even considering...anything. (Dang it is hard to describe that without using language that assumes awareness).
Edit: On the other hand, when meditating deeply, one does not run what-if scenarios. Quite the opposite. Nevertheless, awareness is particularly strong in this state.
Definitely an aspect I'll consider more of. Thanks for the thought!
How does this agnosticism work in practice?
Does it mean that you don't worry about potential suffering and pain you might be causing others, or does it mean you try to avoid harming others even if they may not be concious?
On the other hand, if we recognize that the behaviors we witness in other animals can be explained as complex responses to stimuli, and accept that our own behavior can be similarly explained, but never the less also recognize that our own experience of being is real, that there is something here, then I think we are forced to consider that whatever that quality is it also exists in other beings.
And if that quality exists in other human beings, because they are like us, then how much like us must they be? If mammals display similar behaviors to us then is it not reasonable to infer that they also have this quality? And if even some lizards, say, exhibit a few of these qualities, do they not also potentially posses it? And if we accept that even things very different from us can experience reality in this way, then how unreasonable is it, really, to say that everything does?
Also depends on one's definition of emotion. Is fear an emotion?
Science does not need opinions. The question is worth asking, but this article does not seem to be backed by any kind of research or experiments.
Quoting the article:
> For the longest time, science has depicted animals as stimulus-response machines while declaring their inner lives barren. This has helped us sustain our customary “anthropodenial”: the denial that we are animals. We like to see ourselves as special, but whatever the difference between humans and animals may be, it is unlikely to be found in the emotional domain.
Isn't this just a strawman in service to an applause light?
The author has loads of science awards, papers etc https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frans_de_Waal#Awards
Even including an Ig Nobel prize for showing chimps can recognise each other from butt pics.
The human-specific part of mind is the rational part, planning, reflecting, self-correcting, etc. Animals never come close to humans in this regard.
It should be no surprise that animals have emotions similar to humans since the physiology of many animal brains is not incredibly different from human brains.
The discovery: https://www.smh.com.au/national/feeling-our-way-to-decision-...
It was hard to confirm the discovery because people with no emotion are rare, but some of it was arguably confirmed later through interviews with John Wayne Gacy who demonstrated much of the same behaviors but had learned to compensate and fake it for much of his life.
Going along with this human construct, I wonder what the boundaries are among humans and animals when it comes to "emotions". Are there certain emotions that animals have that we can't tap into and, therefore, never experience?
And to go further, what role do sensory organs have with emotions? Does access to certain sensory organs influence this? For instance, fishes have access to the lateral line system to help them sense pressure gradients and their surroundings. It could be that they have unique emotions.
But there are multiple actual definitions of words and very often "animal"1 = non-human "animal"2
Publication date 1873
I think animals are exactly the same. Of course, animals' brains never develop past that stage ruled by emotion.
As a result of this, I believe anyone can do a thought experiment to see the world as an animal sees it: just think of very early memories from right when you first learned to talk. That is what being an animal is like.
The sheer, mind-boggling rational and learning capacity needed to learn highly symbolic and abstract things like language and arithmetic means that babies are 'smarter' than adults.
(If by 'smarter' we mean the capacity for learning, mental models and abstract generalization.)
Equivalently, you could say our emotions are the subjective experience of our ancient animal instincts.
Humans have large egos, but aside from that we're not particularly special.
The easy part is pretending animals are like us, even if there's no rigorous reason to believe they are. The hard part is trying to figure out why the tiger isn't immoral for killing the gazelle.
Whether tigers hunting for survival is immoral seems entirely tangential to whether animals can feel.
You should look into the work of Jaak Panksepp. Watch his TEDTalk  for a quick overview but the really mind altering information you will find in his books. I highly recommend "The Archeology of the Mind" to everyone who wants to learn more how the concept of SELF is being created into the brain and the role primary affect plays in complex enough organisms (mammals, some social reptiles/birds).
 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65e2qScV_K8
There are what I'd call clear examples of animals expressing emotions. I'm not sure this one'd qualify.
The most intelligent animals feel/express the most sophisticated emotions.
To think otherwise would be clearly contrary to science (i.e. you believe in souls transcending to the physical world; OR you believe that a deity made an 100% equitative distribution of emotions among his creatures, from the worm to the dolphin).
This point is defended in Hofstadter's works.
Since when is 'emotion' is some sort of validation of personal worth instead of a condition you need to learn to live with?
Not really an animal lover, just think we don't really need consume animal meat to live longer/happier, there got be some other options.