Reasoning Animals?

Reasoning Animals?
steve
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#21 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 10, 2002 - 7:03 AM:

Reasoning-wise, this is not worth distinguishing from when you show a person a symbol w-a-l-k on a piece of paper and observe that they react by thinking it's time to take the dog for a walk.


well ok. i am surprised that you don't agree that there are major differences in being able to communicate with symbols that are not dependent on the here and now of when they were created. Reasoning to me depends obviously in the ability to abstract from the here and now. To reflect internally. Science is a good example of the fruits of such an ability.

For me it is the other way around. If animals have emotions, memory, sensory perception and there own goals then reason isn't required to explain their behaviour. Whereas a complete lack of any kind of symbolism by animals that has meaning without direct reference to the where or when it was produced would be difficult to explain if you give them reason.

The implications go a lot further than pure reasoning of course, like the way our ability to reason modifies and enriches the spectrum of our emotions because of its ability to predict and explain upon reflection, but there is obviously no point discussing it further.
Fire drill
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#22 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 10, 2002 - 1:18 PM:

Cat and can opener, dog and leash. This is not about reason or abstract symbols, Paul, this is about conditioned reflexes, as Pavlov demonstrated one hundred years ago. Using a dog and a bell...

F.d.
Baron Max
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#23 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 10, 2002 - 4:35 PM:

Originally posted by steve
Reasoning to me depends obviously in the ability to abstract from the here and now. To reflect internally.


Steve, can you prove that animals don't have the ability of abstract concepts? Or to reflect internally? Or even know of the passage of time?

I think thats the popular theory, but we're learning more and more about animals and their abilities. If you've ever watched a couple of squirrels playing with/teasing a dog in the back yard, to my way of viewing it, they're not only reasoning, but they're communicating as well. No two animals could possibly concieve of such "dog torture" without the ability to reason.

And, I might add, they also humor! ...yeah, they really do "laugh" at each other and the dog.

I think this is like many things with humans ..... they're too damned egotistical and self-centered to consider such things in other animals.

Baron Max
steve
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#24 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 11, 2002 - 3:34 PM:

no, baron, i wouldn't claim to be able to prove it by any means.

If you've ever watched a couple of squirrels playing with/teasing a dog in the back yard, to my way of viewing it, they're not only reasoning, but they're communicating as well. No two animals could possibly concieve of such "dog torture" without the ability to reason.


well as i said before i believe animals have emotions, memory, perception, language and intentionality and these are enough for me to explain their behaviour, so reasoning is redundant. Also if they could reason then why haven't they developed a whole load of other attributes and skills that we have such as writing, mathematics, science, art, vocal history and so on.

For example in the above example of the squirrels and the dog, i believe they are communicating and quite possibly laughing. (Language and emotion.) Play is also a part of many animals behaviour.

but there is a big difference between joint teasing of a dog and laughing, compared to joint laughing while reflecting on the teasing of the dog.

Animals do have some sense of the past (memory) and future (intentionality) , but no language that is divorced from the immediate. (space and/or time). This is why they cannot share laughter a day later about the dog. They have no language to express it. It is the difference between "i am laughing" and "how i laughed". The former doesn't need the symbolic language, grammar and tense because the laughter itself is immediate and therefore says it all in itself. We still use this with great power ourselves of course as when we give someone the look or a smile, which has a potency all of its own.

For me it isn't just that reasoning can abstract from the here and now, but i suspect that that is what it neccessarily does. I know we can reason while speaking but i believe that is because we are multi tasking. Generally reason abstracts and this is why it cannot in itself cope with the immediate. Thus science not only concieves of say block theories of time and space, universal conservation laws and so on, - it is stuck with them. Although the text of mathematics grows, everything that it concieves of is neccessarily unchanging. A word evolves into different meaniings with use and context, but would be rendered useless if its spelling or meaning changed from day to day.

But as i said above the consequences go beyond reason. We can have the emotion of guilt as a result of language, social interaction, emotion, memory and reason, but i don't believe it possible without the latter. So my belief is that we have a richer spectrum of emotions than the animals because we have reason and abstract language.

Art too. Peotry also uses the language needed for reason, but instead also evokes emotion. Emotion is in the now, and that is what is crucial to art. To pull us out of reflection and grab us into the now. I don't believe birdsong is music as we know it when it evokes emotion. To me it only has meaning for a bird in the immediate, and not as a recording, unless misinterpreted as real. There is a sense in which a recording doesn't change. If it did it wouldn't be a very good recording! Recordings are both products of reason, and aids to it. (Although i do believe that a bird can enjoy singing just for the sheer delight of doing it.)

So for me i rate the gestalt philosophical approach, that the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts and the addition of reasoning and abstract written language makes us 'take off' so to speak. For animals there is already a fantastically rich mix, and who knows, maybe some of them are on the edge of evolving these things. It would have to come though from a highly social species of course.
Baron Max
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#25 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 11, 2002 - 4:39 PM:

Originally posted by steve
Also if they could reason then why haven't they developed a whole load of other attributes and skills that we have such as writing, mathematics, science, art, vocal history and so on.


It seems to me, Steve, that the above would leave out a whole helluva lot of the human population on Earth, wouldn't it? smiling face

I would also point out that you're using human principles and attributes to judge those of other species. Each specie has its own characteristics and attributes, but you wouldn't judge the grizzly bear as lacking 'cause it can't fly like a hummingbird, would you? So aren't you judging the reasoning power of animals based on the limited knowledge of reasoning power of humans?

but there is a big difference between joint teasing of a dog and laughing, compared to joint laughing while reflecting on the teasing of the dog.


But, see, there again you're implying that they DON"T reflect on the teasing of the dog. I ask you again to prove that to me. ..and other such "positive" statements of "fact".

...but no language that is divorced from the immediate. ... This is why they cannot share laughter a day later about the dog. They have no language to express it.


Uhhhhh, got any proof of that? Or are you, perchance, considering only the English language as language? ;=)

Perhaps they use telepathy? Or some other communication of which we're unaware? Perhaps after dinner and just before bedtime, they spend time reflecting on the past and planning for the future. How do you know they don't?

I would suggest that any statements about animal reasoning is made with "extreme prejudice" and not from any source of scientific, documented evidence.

Baron Max
steve
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#26 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 12, 2002 - 6:01 AM:

I would also point out that you're using human principles and attributes to judge those of other species.


well yes. I am using reason. wink

but as i said it cannot be proved, and people on my side of the fence are in no more of a position to have to find a proof than those on yours. As far as animal rights are concerned, emotion memory, sensual perception and intentionality are more than enough to justify humane treatment.

Oh no! Have i opened up a can of reasonless worms? lol
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