Sunday, September 27, 2009

Talk About Hamming It Up...

From the reading I’ve noticed that Heidegger, along with many other Western thinkers of all sorts, really likes and subscribes to the idea that humans are special. Usually really special. The definition of “Da-sein” we used in class was “a being that has its own being as an issue.” It seems very evident to me that Heidegger only includes humans as qualifying in that category. This strikes me as a closed-minded or at least noticeably biased view. We touched on this a little bit in class, but we didn’t expound upon it that much. I see this belief asserted fairly often in one form or another, and I see it as kind of ridiculous. I think that being able to produce as a species iPods, 7-11’s and weapons of mass destruction has little bearing on our ability or lack thereof to contemplate our own existence. Now, I’m sure that trees don’t have much of anything akin to a consciousness, but I think it’s more reasonable to infer that other animals have some kind of cognizance of the fact that they are than that they don’t. We see animals of all kinds communicate in often incredibly complex ways, yet we don’t give much significance to what they might be saying, primarily I think because we have no way in hell of knowing most of the time. And we don’t like to talk about things we don’t know much about. There are plenty of other species that scientists and the like have determined through one method or another that they have a fairly high degree of intelligence—that lady in Africa taught sign-language to chimpanzees and gorillas, dolphins have been observed to play practical jokes on each other. If they are capable of that kind of sophisticated thinking, what precludes them from taking their own state of being into consideration? I would be really excited to talk to a giraffe about life or a goose about das-Man (das-Goose?). Something tells me that an elephant would make a decent philosopher. That would be so cool. I’m sure one of these days some scientist somewhere is going to figure a semi-coherent way to communicate with at least some animals on that level. I don’t know how it would affect my love of steak if a cow told me about having a bovine existential crisis. At very least I would raise an eyebrow and philosophize between bites of ribeye.


  1. It's interesting you bring up the idea of animals communicating. Sure, we don't know what they are saying or trying to relate to one another, but animals are busy. They are busy in the struggle to survive: to avoid prey, to gather food, to find shelter, etc. Humans on the other hand have a lot of free time. Its fair to say that we take our security for granted and we don't usually have to look out for prey. In this respect, we have time to contemplate our existence. How often do you contemplate your existence when you are trying to complete another task? Not often, I should say. Animals are constantly trying to do this that and the other. We never see a gang of squirrels standing under a tree smoking cigarettes and shooting the shit, however, humans do this all the time. Maybe its not that animals do not have the ability to contemplate their existence, but instead that they have yet to resolve the other big questions in their lives, like "how am I going to avoid this car coming at me" (and its not by doubling back). If I had to fight for my food and such, I would want to resolve my food source before contemplating why I am here.

  2. I don't know much about animal physiology, but it may have something to do with brain size. I don't know. But I think this speaks to our desire for communication with others like ourselves, but different. Aliens, talking animals, the whole thing, all point to our desire for speech with the other. I don't know whether animals can or will talk, but we have an inherent desire for them to be able to.


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