The emotional lives of animals

The Emotional Lives of Animals

– it is through our emotive suffering that we are able to bond with other animals who experience emotions as we humans do
– Pythagoras was the first “animal-friendly” philosopher – he suggested animals had a soul
– many anecdotes suggest animals are capable of grief (elephant graveyard; wolf packs & members being grieved/lamented by other members)
– Mark Bagoff’s research is cited as proving that there is hard-wired core in the brain of animals when it comes to the experience of grief – the amygdala & limbic system in the brain which human beings have & which other species also have – fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles – his experiments on rats have shown that the neo-cortex (higher order thinking & reconciliation of emotions) common to humans (PFC) is not needed by other species to experience emotions
– Plato talked about a “cosmic world animal”
– Aquinas – mediaeval philosopher who believed that animals lacked value because they lacked the ability to consciously reflect & therefore are less able to understand God (a completely immaterial spirit) & have therefore been placed on earth purely for the exploitation on Man
– Descartes – early modern period philosopher – stated that animals are machines responding to stimuli & this continues to be reflected in much thinking today
– mind & body are therefore distinct entities
– body cannot understand
– mechanistic view of the universe
– today, much of the focus on animals is whether they experience pain – physical pain (not emotional pain)
– Whitehead (a philosopher) suggests that reality is experiential
– he believes awareness/consciousness is everywhere
– he supports the Darwinian notion that the difference between humans & other animals is not of kind, but of degree (ie that the feelings, sensations & emotions of humans are in fact experienced by other forms of life & that the qualitative expression of feelings is indeed emotions)
– the idea is summarised as “the continuity of feeling” across all lives – that emotion links us all
– animals display a “will to life”
– Schopenhauer believed animals to be a valid expression of Nature’s will & are therefore are entitled to respect (based on Hindu philosophy)
– he believed suffering should be the basis of animal ethics
– what we believe regarding how animals feel, should inform how we treat animals
– that there is meaning to how and why another animal should live

– discussion notes how anthropomorphise & project human feelings onto an animal and how it behaves
– they argue behaviour can demonstrate how an animal feels
– animals have languages, just different to ours – clicks, sounds/vocalisations, facial outlines/shapes are remembered; non-verbal cues too
– science has moved dramatically in last 50 years – now accepts emotions

Dennet: the mind is a Cartesian illusion – conscious is just electrical signals etc., Neurobiological systems

Source: ABCRN | The Philosopher’s Zone | Podcast date: 29 June 2014


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