Friday, October 10, 2008

Yes, Rational Animals are Animals

An article at New Scientist on Six 'uniquely' human traits now found in animals. I confess that I was rather puzzled on reading it; every single trait listed as a supposedly 'uniquely human' trait can be found attributed to non-human animals in some form by medieval and early modern Aristotelians -- although, of course, they wouldn't have had the range of accurate data in support of the attribution that we can have now. Was there ever really any scientific reason to think that any one of these was unique to human beings, or is it just that we were so deadened to the obvious (animals have emotions!) by Cartesianism and the like that we couldn't see it for centuries? Or is it just that we have become so urban that none of us spend enough time working with animals and so lots of people really are so silly as to think that dogs, cats, horses, pigs, birds, etc., are 'characterless'? Or is this just sensationalistic reporting in order to get people to read New Scientist articles?

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