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At Salvo: The language barrier with animals is not a “cultural construct”

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Trying to ignore it has sure made asses out a lot of smart people:

The dawn of naturalism (the belief that nature is all there is) as science orthodoxy fostered a new conviction: if nature is all there is, then humans are just animals in nature, and reason and making moral choices are not unique and do not signify anything unique about humans (perhaps they are even illusions).

This intuition formed two branches of ideas. One branch recasts human activity in animal terms. That perspective has become obligatory in the sciences and has infiltrated popular culture, where hundreds of books like The Naked Ape (1967), Dinosaur Brains (1989), and The Ape That Understood the Universe (2018) have spread the new way of seeing ourselves.

The other branch recasts animal activity in human terms. That is, if human intelligence is an accidental outcropping of the animal world, a sufficiently diligent researcher may expect to find the same intelligence in many other animals. But, so the argument runs, we are too prejudiced to see it. It follows that, with some effort on our part by way of reparation, some animals can be taught to communicate with us as intellectual equals.

Denyse O’Leary, “Why Scientists Can’t Talk to the Animals” at Salvo 51

It didn’t work out so well for the animals that got roped in.

See also: The real reason why
only human beings speak. Language is a tool for abstract thinking—a necessary tool for abstraction—and humans are the only animals who think abstractly. (Michael Egnor)

One Reply to “At Salvo: The language barrier with animals is not a “cultural construct”

  1. 1
    Silver Asiatic says:

    The dawn of naturalism (the belief that nature is all there is) as science orthodoxy fostered a new conviction: if nature is all there is, then humans are just animals in nature, and reason and making moral choices are not unique and do not signify anything unique about humans (perhaps they are even illusions).

    This point does not get address adequately by those who promote it. Scientism is presenting this claim as if it has no significant consequences. “We had the Christian/theistic view for a while, but now we have Darwin and we continue to progress and things are getting better.”
    But the change in perspective is so radical that almost nobody can take it seriously or follow the consequences.

    This intuition formed two branches of ideas.

    Excellent analysis and insight.

    Supposedly, rationality is just another “biological feature”, like having longer toe-nails or colorful plumage. We received the rational power merely to be able to survive and reproduce more successfully. We don’t owe God any gratitude for this and we don’t have any special responsibility to use it. There’s no special status for humans.

    with some effort on our part by way of reparation, some animals can be taught to communicate with us as intellectual equals

    That’s the other side of the argument and the term “reparations” seems exactly correct.

    The two branches of thought leave a third, middle ground that will be a problem-area.

    Carnivores
    Animals as pests
    Animals as pets
    Experimentation on animals

    Carnivores are already held suspect and are probably getting some ridicule and hatred from vegans by now. Among Gen Z, veganism is a necessary skill-set for a young man trying to get a date for Saturday night.
    As for animals as pests … humans as pests? Humans as pets?

    The problem with Egnor’s traditional Aristotelian approach is hardly that it is deficient. It gets the behavior exactly right. But it crushes the idea that we are just beasts among the beasts. Human life has not been and never will be as simple as that. A science for which such a view is orthodoxy is destined to suffer many more frustrations and disappointments in its efforts to humanize animals.

    Aristotle teaches that man is unique as a “rational animal”. So rationality (reason) tells us that virtue is better than vice, and having the powers of intellect confers a responsibility on humans to use those powers well. So, truth is greater than lies. Charity is greater than theft. Pure love is greater than lust. Faith is greater than despair. Humility is greater than arrogance.

    Having the possibility of virtue, therefore, sets humans on a higher standard than animals.

    Animals cannot perform virtuous acts. They cannot perfect their behavior. They cannot commit moral evils or sins. A squirrel does what squirrels do, not better or worse than any squirrel that has ever lived.

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