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All: This article is not about souls. It's about elephants, humans, how we relate to elephants, how they relate to us, how humans relate to non-humans. It is erudite and beautiful. It uses the astonishing literature about elephants to ask about ourselves, them, and the world. "Soul" here is a trope for aspects of humanness that we may or may not have in common.

Usually we just edit titles that are triggering people. If I were to do that here, I might rename it "Elephants and Anthropomorphism". But when an article is this rich, moving, even profound, taking away its title would maim it. It bears a much better discussion than the thread has given it so far, so please let's talk about what's interesting.




Completely agree. A very long read, but superbly worth it. Wide-ranging, well-written, informative, thoughtful, and fluff-free. The "soul" in the headline is eye-catching but somewhat distractive from the rich contents of the article.

Btw. - and off-topically - almost shockingly for a magazine style publication these days: The New Atlantis pages stand on their own - they work ouf of the box, without any of the usual reliance on scripts and external crutches. I am hereby a fan.


please let's talk about what's interesting and stay off the metaphysics.

Most would agree there's a point at which moderation goes too far. I can't tell if you're making an appeal as a person, or making a decree as a moderator.

I read the article, and it's absolutely full of metaphysics. From the questions surrounding determinism and free will, to the questions of the moral responsibility of those in dominant positions, to the nature of love and pain and grief.

These metaphysical topics interest me, and apparently they interested the writer, even if they don't interest you.


That's fair, and if you want to respond to the actual article on that basis, as opposed to just reflexing on the title, there's certainly nothing wrong with that. I've taken out the bit about metaphysics from my comment above, since it isn't necessary. The point is simply that the article deserves a better discussion.

I'm making an appeal as a moderator person. When the delta between an an article's quality and the HN discussion's quality gets that severe, it's proven helpful.


At first I rolled my eyes at your point, but then I thought about it more.

And I realized that the fact is probably for most of HN the question of "Do souls exist?" is just more interesting to them than "Emotional bonds with 1 out of the X million species." And I realized there was a time in my life when those philosophical topics didn't seem exhausted.

That big gap between in ways of looking at the world ("Wow what a beautiful emotional article about connection" vs "Human connection is just some evolutionary detail, let's look at Objective Big Picture (TM)") is something worth minding; it can help us understand each other.


I agree. This article is a philosophical text delving into the mind, soul, consciousness, determinism, ethics, etc and the difference and similarities between humans and animals. It references Nagel ( "What is it like to be a bat?" ), Descartes ( Mind, Body dichotomy ), etc. The article pretty much addresses what first year philosophy majors discuss.

There are references to literature ( Pope ) and scientists ( Darwin ) and elephant researchers, but the central themes of this article is a philosophical one. The ethical and metaphysical questions that cannot be answered by science or emotions.


Don't let religion hijack the word. The word soul in non-religious meaning (which more than often is referring to an "immortal soul", or a soul independent of a body), is referring to your "you-ness", the fact that you are greater than the sum of your parts. It's referring to the program running on the hardware, rather than the hardware.

Cogito, ergo sum




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