Options

What is the human soul?

1234568»

Posts

  • Options
    zakkielzakkiel Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Does anyone here really, truly believe that animals may have a mental life comparable to humans, or is this one of those positions you adopt for the purpose of a debate and then never bother with in real life?

    zakkiel on
    Account not recoverable. So long.
  • Options
    IloroKamouIloroKamou Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    zakkiel wrote: »
    Does anyone here really, truly believe that animals may have a mental life comparable to humans, or is this one of those positions you adopt for the purpose of a debate and then never bother with in real life?

    Have you ever owned a pet?

    IloroKamou on
    "There are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts."
  • Options
    zakkielzakkiel Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    IloroKamou wrote: »
    zakkiel wrote: »
    Does anyone here really, truly believe that animals may have a mental life comparable to humans, or is this one of those positions you adopt for the purpose of a debate and then never bother with in real life?

    Have you ever owned a pet?

    Too many to count. I'm especially fond of German Shepherds.

    zakkiel on
    Account not recoverable. So long.
  • Options
    ViolentChemistryViolentChemistry __BANNED USERS regular
    edited January 2008
    zakkiel wrote: »
    Does anyone here really, truly believe that animals may have a mental life comparable to humans, or is this one of those positions you adopt for the purpose of a debate and then never bother with in real life?

    Comparable in what sense? Comparable in complexity? Probably not. Comparable in realness? Most definitely. Comparable in intrinsic value (i.e; the value native to it being there, not value that specific content brings)? I don't see why not.

    ViolentChemistry on
  • Options
    IloroKamouIloroKamou Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    zakkiel wrote: »
    IloroKamou wrote: »
    zakkiel wrote: »
    Does anyone here really, truly believe that animals may have a mental life comparable to humans, or is this one of those positions you adopt for the purpose of a debate and then never bother with in real life?

    Have you ever owned a pet?

    Too many to count. I'm especially fond of German Shepherds.

    Then would you agree that it seems, from pure observation alone, that they are capable of memory, emotions, and basic reasoning? When they bark at you because they are hungry, or want to play, or need to go outside to do their business, does that not illustrate an interspecies attempt at communication? Without any further research at all it seems they have a mental life comparable to humans. Now I'm not saying that dogs are going to be doing advanced calculus or building skyscrapers any time soon, but is that really the benchmark for basic intelligence?

    IloroKamou on
    "There are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts."
  • Options
    trillianjoytrillianjoy Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    I believe there is a part of us that is immortal. I think it evolves in parallel with brain development and experience. I feel like it’s a kind of squishy energy that somehow links up with (and is affected by) our brain processing. There’s this crazy British researcher, Rupert Sheldrake, who’s been pretty much black balled by the mainstream scientific community, but he has some neat experiments on ways that consciousness seems to occasionally occur outside of the bounds of time and space, or link our minds up with other minds. Some favourite studies include the sense of being stared at and how pets know their owners are coming home. His explanatory mechanism is kind of speculative crap (he refers a lot to what he calls “morphic fields”) but his data are neat. The hit rate on guessing whether someone is staring at you is a lot higher than 50/50, even when guarding for peripheral sound and vision cues. And there is some awesome video of one of his pet experiments where they take a pet owner out on the town and as soon as they tell her that they’re taking her home, her dog (miles away) jumps up and runs to the window. His theory on psychic powers is that the mind is kind of linked up with itself through time—he has a study on people who reported dreams or premonitions of 9/11 before it happened.

    http://www.sheldrake.org/homepage.html

    trillianjoy on
    Home again, home again, jigitty-jig.
    http://joyfulinternets.blogspot.com/
  • Options
    Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Okay, I'll go out on a stupid limb and say that I think we're far more adaptive to a changing environment than most other animals. This seems like a somewhat subjective judgment, but human society makes for a far, far more fluid environment (probably another subjective judgment) than many other animals' environments, and we thrive in it. Perhaps, to wax a little poetic, that is the environment that we have adapted to- our own society. Interspecies competition within the human race has yielded an enormous amount of interpecies social complexity that, as far as such a thing can be measured (it probably can't, so another subjective judgment) than any other animal.

    Anyways. Re: Thread topic: The Darwinian anthropologist Jerome Barkow has written, "It is possible to argue that the primary evolutionary function of the self is to be the organ of impression management (rather than, as our folk psychology would have it, a decision-maker)."

    Loren Michael on
    a7iea7nzewtq.jpg
  • Options
    GlalGlal AiredaleRegistered User regular
    edited January 2008
    I think the word you're looking for is (having a) culture. We're pretty terrible at adapting to physical changes in the environment, but make it up by being awesome liars.

    Glal on
  • Options
    Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    I think "society and social complexity" works better, as it can be (subjectively, maybe, I dunno) scaled, where culture just seems to fall down the rabbit hole of cultural relativism whenever I talk about it in a similar sense.

    It's probably just semantics though.

    Loren Michael on
    a7iea7nzewtq.jpg
  • Options
    Not SarastroNot Sarastro __BANNED USERS regular
    edited January 2008
    Okay, I'll go out on a stupid limb and say that I think we're far more adaptive to a changing environment than most other animals. This seems like a somewhat subjective judgment, but human society makes for a far, far more fluid environment (probably another subjective judgment) than many other animals' environments, and we thrive in it. Perhaps, to wax a little poetic, that is the environment that we have adapted to- our own society. Interspecies competition within the human race has yielded an enormous amount of interpecies social complexity that, as far as such a thing can be measured (it probably can't, so another subjective judgment) than any other animal.

    This I will give you, but perhaps only as individuals. I can't think of any other animals which can individually adapt to as many environments and situations as humans can, even within one generation. Intelligence has a lot to do with this, because we are fairly poorly adapted physically to most conditions compared to animals, but the use of knowledge and capacity for innovation can allow us to survive in even extreme circumstances.

    As far as adaptive to changing environments as a species goes, I'm not quite so sure; this is mostly because our adaptation remains fairly general rather than some animals/insects which adapt to an extremely specialised degree to particular environments. This can happen just as quickly as those environments tend to change (cataclysmic change such as meteors, supervolcanic eruptions and nuclear war aside)

    But if I knew more about insects, I suspect I might challenge your assertion there too - I understand the toughest insects can live pretty much anywhere with only slight adaptations.
    zakkiel wrote:
    Does anyone here really, truly believe that animals may have a mental life comparable to humans, or is this one of those positions you adopt for the purpose of a debate and then never bother with in real life?

    Depends what you mean by mental life. I don't think your dogs are looking at you and using trigonometry to calculate the trajectory of hand to food dish, but emotions, observation, thought, communication, all these things are fairly evident. We are just uncertain to what degrees.

    More to the point, I am totally convinced that some animals see/feel/sense things that we cannot, or have forgotten how. That would be my basis for arguing that they may well understand a whole shitload more concepts than we do, but because we cannot comprehend those concepts (ie echolocation, sixth sense) we can't judge them. Precisely the same may well be true of animals looking at us and wondering about [whatever description dogs have for us doing trigonometry]; but still this disproves the Podly "intelligence makes us definitively superior" position. There may well be things that are superior to intelligence, but since we only recognise the primacy of things we can concieve, intelligence is the superior concept to us.

    I suspect this argument would be a whole lot more acceptable to some people here if instead of animals, we used a hypothetical race of space-faring aliens who demonstrated a whole ton of concepts we couldn't concieve, simply because there would be an easier assumption of superiority from the space-faring aliens bit. Part of the reluctance to accept that animals may see things we do not comes from a very ingrained social idea that we are inherently superior to animals; for example, you don't see Podly's kind of reasoning from woodsmen/hunter types or native cultures, the latter in fact often worship certain animals as superior beings or god/spirit forms. There is a socially constructed view of 'civilisation' behind all this - I just don't see why our civilisation is demonstrably more special than an army ant colony.

    Not Sarastro on
  • Options
    Not SarastroNot Sarastro __BANNED USERS regular
    edited January 2008
    The hit rate on guessing whether someone is staring at you is a lot higher than 50/50, even when guarding for peripheral sound and vision cues. And there is some awesome video of one of his pet experiments where they take a pet owner out on the town and as soon as they tell her that they’re taking her home, her dog (miles away) jumps up and runs to the window. His theory on psychic powers is that the mind is kind of linked up with itself through time—he has a study on people who reported dreams or premonitions of 9/11 before it happened.

    http://www.sheldrake.org/homepage.html

    Have to say, the circumstancial evidence for a lot of this stuff is pretty convincing en masse. Don't necessarily agree with the explanations, but that something is going on which involves more than pure chance seems rational. Just because we cannot explain it, doesn't mean it isn't real.

    Also, the fact that animals seem to be a lot more sensitive or responsive to some of these impulses than humans would be an example of things they might instinctively understand which we do not - can even argue that perhaps intelligence gets in the way of understanding some things. It is not a new idea that rational, intelligent ways of thought also often deny that which cannot be explained rationally within the bounds of current knowledge. Many great discoveries have initially been ridiculed as flights of fancy.

    You could argue the opposite, that we are imposing our own imagined ideas of 'psychic' and 'sixth sense' on coincidence, but both the above average hit rate of people experimenting on these phenomenon, and particularly their similarly above-coincidence observable occurence in animals (ie not a purely human phenomenon) would suggest that there is something there.

    Sadly, it's also an area (ghosts and psychics olol) where there are so many flakes and fakes, and have been for hundreds & thousands of years, that serious experimentation happens slowly or not at all.

    Not Sarastro on
  • Options
    GlalGlal AiredaleRegistered User regular
    edited January 2008
    I think "society and social complexity" works better, as it can be (subjectively, maybe, I dunno) scaled, where culture just seems to fall down the rabbit hole of cultural relativism whenever I talk about it in a similar sense.

    It's probably just semantics though.
    Probably, though with society there's some wiggle room as relating to animals that form groups and relationships not simply hierarchical (like elephants, and probably dolphins, large apes and others also).
    Wiki wrote:
    Society is sometimes contrasted with culture. For example, Clifford Geertz has suggested that society is the actual arrangement of social relations while culture is made up of beliefs and symbolic forms.

    Glal on
  • Options
    Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Okay, I'll go out on a stupid limb and say that I think we're far more adaptive to a changing environment than most other animals. This seems like a somewhat subjective judgment, but human society makes for a far, far more fluid environment (probably another subjective judgment) than many other animals' environments, and we thrive in it. Perhaps, to wax a little poetic, that is the environment that we have adapted to- our own society. Interspecies competition within the human race has yielded an enormous amount of interpecies social complexity that, as far as such a thing can be measured (it probably can't, so another subjective judgment) than any other animal.

    This I will give you, but perhaps only as individuals. I can't think of any other animals which can individually adapt to as many environments and situations as humans can, even within one generation. Intelligence has a lot to do with this, because we are fairly poorly adapted physically to most conditions compared to animals, but the use of knowledge and capacity for innovation can allow us to survive in even extreme circumstances.

    As far as adaptive to changing environments as a species goes, I'm not quite so sure; this is mostly because our adaptation remains fairly general rather than some animals/insects which adapt to an extremely specialised degree to particular environments. This can happen just as quickly as those environments tend to change (cataclysmic change such as meteors, supervolcanic eruptions and nuclear war aside)

    But if I knew more about insects, I suspect I might challenge your assertion there too - I understand the toughest insects can live pretty much anywhere with only slight adaptations.

    Agreed WRT individuals as opposed to species. I'm pretty sure there are microorganisms that far outpace us (and insects) in a variety of adaptations.

    I think a follow-up point, and this plays into my comments on society and social complexity, is that we are far more able I think, again, at an individual level, to learn from the mistakes and fortunes of others and make the appropriate corrections to our own behavior than most other species. I guess that would be memetic evolution via natural selection, then?

    Loren Michael on
    a7iea7nzewtq.jpg
  • Options
    Not SarastroNot Sarastro __BANNED USERS regular
    edited January 2008
    I think a follow-up point, and this plays into my comments on society and social complexity, is that we are far more able I think, again, at an individual level, to learn from the mistakes and fortunes of others and make the appropriate corrections to our own behavior than most other species. I guess that would be memetic evolution via natural selection, then?

    Actually I remember reading a while back that certain insect colonies learn from the mistakes of individuals within the colony pretty much instantaneously, and thereafter do not appear to forget. Test was along the lines of taking an object & triggering it to exude (I think) an unpleasant pheremone or chemical when an ant touched it, all other ants nearby avoided it. But the really interesting bit was they then put an identical object straight afterwards in a different place on the other side of the colony, and all those ants avoided it too.

    Not Sarastro on
  • Options
    Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Fair enough, thesis shot.

    Again though (or maybe I didn't say this earlier), I think it's not necessarily a single unique quality, but rather a combination of qualities and scale of capabilities. The difficulties of measuring that sort of thing make it pretty much fruitless to discuss though, I think.

    Not that establishing metrics of why we're super awesome isn't kind of a masturbatory discussion to be having, anyways. We have nukes!

    Loren Michael on
    a7iea7nzewtq.jpg
  • Options
    Not SarastroNot Sarastro __BANNED USERS regular
    edited January 2008
    Indeed, I think the whole topic is interesting but ultimately unproveable. What I object to is people claiming that we are obviously No 1. because of [insert bollocks], because it is far from obvious, and usually seems to me to be a way of overestimating our own abilities and underestimating that of nature. If you look at the number of inventions or ideas inspired by the natural world, or the consequences when we run roughshod over it with factories, buildings and farms, this arrogant lack of humility isn't a good thing.
    Not that establishing metrics of why we're super awesome isn't kind of a masturbatory discussion to be having, anyways. We have nukes!

    Tell that to the cockroaches :wink:

    Not Sarastro on
  • Options
    Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    In Michigan, I had no experiences with roaches.

    In China, I have found that standing water slows them down enough for them to be naturally selected by the heel of a shoe.

    In conclusion, roaches have no soul.

    Loren Michael on
    a7iea7nzewtq.jpg
  • Options
    QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    I think...I'm going...to cry.

    See whole pages of arguments demonstrating that we can't prove what we don't know; this is essentially no different to "can't prove a negative". We cannot prove that animals don't understand more concepts that us, because we don't understand animal concepts. Whatever wonderful and infinite variety you think technology has, whatever glowing and congratulatory tones you describe it in, you do not know that animals don't understand a thousand times that because you do not know what animals understand.

    You say there are things that we understand that animals do not understand. Similarly, you can only claim by observation to know the things we understand, which animals also understand. This does not preclude the possibility of things animals understand that we do not understand.

    You cannot estimate quantity of something you don't know exists.
    We can't prove anything for sure, therefore we cannot draw conclusions based on the evidence before us? You sound like a creationist or something.

    Of course I don't know for sure that my cat lacks as rich a conceptual language as me. Judging from his inability to use, invent, or even acknowledge technology and his communication restricted to a few meows and body movements, however, I think that is a perfectly reasonable conclusion to draw. I'm skeptical, but not too skeptical.

    Qingu on
  • Options
    QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    IloroKamou wrote: »
    Then would you agree that it seems, from pure observation alone, that they are capable of memory, emotions, and basic reasoning? When they bark at you because they are hungry, or want to play, or need to go outside to do their business, does that not illustrate an interspecies attempt at communication? Without any further research at all it seems they have a mental life comparable to humans. Now I'm not saying that dogs are going to be doing advanced calculus or building skyscrapers any time soon, but is that really the benchmark for basic intelligence?
    I'm not sure anyone on here is arguing that animals do not have a mental life that is broadly comparable to humans as you've described.

    What I and others are claiming is that human beings are rather clearly capable of grasping more concepts than other animals. How much more precisely is certainly a matter of debate, but the difference is what accounts for the complexity of human technology and culture vs. the simplicity of animal technology and culture*.

    *And many of the most social animals, such as birds and insects, flock based on instinct, not learned cultural behavior (like chimps do) so it would be disingenuous to bring them up.

    Qingu on
  • Options
    QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    More to the point, I am totally convinced that some animals see/feel/sense things that we cannot, or have forgotten how. That would be my basis for arguing that they may well understand a whole shitload more concepts than we do, but because we cannot comprehend those concepts (ie echolocation, sixth sense) we can't judge them.
    More or better senses =/= more concepts. Bees can see ultraviolet light; moths can smell miles away. While this may provide such beings with a broader base of concepts, their brains do not appear to be capable of layering and abstracting these base sensory concepts to form new ones.
    I suspect this argument would be a whole lot more acceptable to some people here if instead of animals, we used a hypothetical race of space-faring aliens who demonstrated a whole ton of concepts we couldn't concieve, simply because there would be an easier assumption of superiority from the space-faring aliens bit.
    How would you determine that space-aliens a more complex array of concepts? My guess would be by looking at their use of technology and communication.

    I wouldn't assume that a race of insect-like aliens driven solely by instinct demonstrated more concepts than us.
    Part of the reluctance to accept that animals may see things we do not comes from a very ingrained social idea that we are inherently superior to animals; for example, you don't see Podly's kind of reasoning from woodsmen/hunter types or native cultures, the latter in fact often worship certain animals as superior beings or god/spirit forms. There is a socially constructed view of 'civilisation' behind all this - I just don't see why our civilisation is demonstrably more special than an army ant colony.
    While I agree that there is the danger of assuming animals are less valuable because we eat them, hunter-gatherer societies did not actually believe animals were superior to humans, they thought animals (and also rocks) had immortal spirits which needed to be respected.

    And there is no objective measure of "specialness" to compare our civilization to an ant colony. There is an objective measure—a somewhat crude measure—of the ideas humans and ants are capable of grasping—technology. Whether or not this makes us "superior" in whatever sense, I don't really know.

    Qingu on
  • Options
    Not SarastroNot Sarastro __BANNED USERS regular
    edited January 2008
    Qingu wrote: »
    We can't prove anything for sure, therefore we cannot draw conclusions based on the evidence before us? You sound like a creationist or something.

    No, I'm arguing that you are overestimating the conclusions that you can draw based on some assumptions about what a 'concept' is. Your assumptions are based on a perspective that is unalterably human, and as such you cannot determine that there are not other forms of concept which you cannot, pardon, conceptualise.

    That is the point of the Nagel article: we just cannot know. We should admit that, and also that it allows the possibility that animals may see more than us.

    To your other post, while senses clearly don't equal concepts, equally clearly, our senses fundamentally influence our concepts.

    Not Sarastro on
Sign In or Register to comment.