Looking at animals as if they were clumsy people, we do it regularly

In the Norwegian Refugee Council On October 17, Ross Funk, professor of social psychology, wrote about our view of the animal world. Then comes the term anthropomorphism inevitably. Looking at animals as if they were clumsy people. For example, a cattle farmer, looking at his cows, says: “It’s like a five-star hotel here, they are taken care of, they are nice and warm inside: I’ll take part in that.” This is a very crude example, in which the observer is talking from his wallet and looking at his cows through a small, insignificant hole. There’s also the anthropomorphism you hear in the annoying commentary on nature movies. Crazy chatter in which ants, lizards, lions, squirrels, butterflies and deer are just like the rest of us full of worries and little plans. “She is safe with her mother now.” “Wow, that was kind of shocking.” “This is a very large grasshopper, you dare take it?” etc.

Animal behavior is so remarkable precisely because it is so different from us. I think a seagull sees the same fish as I do, a squirrel sees the same nut and a horse sees the same apple. And I think it’s because they do things with fish and nuts and apples that I would or could do, but then it stops.

Animals don’t live in time like us

Because I can’t believe a squirrel collects acorns for the winter. why not? Because animals don’t live in time like we do. How do you know that again? Given what they don’t do. If dogs live in time, they can see that they have years behind and years to come, they will see death in the distance. This is not the case, because if dogs lived in time, there would have been dog cemeteries, no, not current dog cemeteries. A funny offshoot of this personification can be found in the pension provisions for horses, circus bears, zoo lions, etc. They get “the rest they deserve after a life in which they have always been tortured.” The idea is nice, but the circus lion does not look back on his difficult life. And you don’t feel comfortable when “it’s finally over.”

This is the first alternative anthropomorphism. And it works both ways. Down: Compromising the human mind for animals states that they do not have. and above: by burdening the gods with our feelings. Xenophanes was already enraged by this ascendant anthropomorphism in 570 BC. He was disturbed by the way Homer and Hesiod bore the gods with all sorts of feelings and actions unbecoming of them. The question of the extent to which our biblical God is anthropomorphic, imbued with human qualities, is a fascinating subject, which we shall throw upon theologians today.

People like to isolate mathematics as inhumane

Now the second variant of anthropomorphism. This is more complicated because it was never given that name. These are states of mind that people like to consider that aren’t exactly human. It is as if in this we rise above the state of human existence, which is not possible, because we are human.

I mean spiritual pursuits that you will never find in animals: poetry – novels – historical research – biology – mathematics – physics – philosophy – music – building rockets – astronomy etc., where people especially like to isolate mathematics as inhuman in the sense that Number one would be there if people hadn’t asked it before.

This second alternative, I think, is nothing more than an indication of our escape from the animal kingdom. I would also like to keep calling the beloved stereo mathematics until we meet another being in the universe who does as well. Many people believe that these other organisms actually exist, but so far no indication has been found.

We do not call this second anthropomorphism, because it is a strange growth that does not seem to be an extension of what we find in all life around us. There is something to be discovered about him because he reveals things that animals cannot reach: poems and particles. It’s a very strange thing. But no, that’s what we are now. So far we have searched in vain among early humans for the origin of this unique sharpness within us.

Bert Keizer is a philosopher and physician at the Euthanasia Center of ExpertiseHe writes for Trouw newspaper weekly column About care, philosophy and the connections between them.

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