• Agustino
    11.3k
    I remember as a child that my dog, if it saw someone lying on the floor unmoved, would go to them and start barking at them and trying to pull them. The same if it saw someone falling to the floor without moving. Clearly his actions are only explainable to me if he had some sense that lying unmoving on the floor is dangerous. But why would it think this unless it feared that they were actually dead? If someone just lied on the floor but they moved, the dog would quite down and not act in any way.

    So are animals aware of death, and if so, do they fear death, the same as humans do? Or is fear of death a particularly human affair?
  • Janus
    8.1k


    I think fear of death is a matter of expectation. In order to fear death I think you must be capable of explicitly thinking "I will die", thinking it as an abstract proposition, so to speak. If an animal can have that kind of thought, then I think it can fear death.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Well can it have such a thought?
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    There was an interesting and touching story from 2012, when a man called Lawrence Anthony died in South Africa. He had been an elephant conservationist, and was nicknamed 'the elephant whisperer'. When he died, a group of wild elephants assembled around his house, and stayed for two days before dispersing. Nobody knows how they knew he had died. However I have read elsewhere that elephants in particular are thought to mourn their dead.

    I would think some of the other higher animals, particularly dogs, have some recognition of death, although I doubt that any of them truly contemplate the meaning of death in the way that humans are able to. I think the awareness of death and the transience of life is one of the peculiar attributes of humans.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    I think the awareness of death and the transience of life is one of the peculiar attributes of humans.Wayfarer
    But if they have some awareness of death, then to me they already know this. What they wouldn't be able to do, is to contemplate the meaning of death as you say. But that's already different from simply being aware of transience.
  • Janus
    8.1k


    Obviously I don't know for sure, but I would say 'probably not'.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Obviously I don't know for sure, but I would say 'probably not'.John
    Why? Most people would say probably not. Why is that?
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    Sure, well that's plausible. Higher animals - elephants, some birds, dogs, cats, primates - are 'beings', although again, they're not human beings. But I'm sure they experience a gamut of emotions. My dog, whom we rescued from a shelter, was a nervous wreck when he arrived here a year back, now he's a comfortable, secure and happy individual.
  • Janus
    8.1k


    Perhaps it's a human prejudice to think that we, as linguistic beings, are the only animals capable of abstract thoughts such as 'I will die'. Can we imagine any way in which such a thought could occur to a non-linguistic being?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Sure, well that's plausible. Higher animals - elephants, some birds, dogs, cats, primates - are 'beings', although again, they're not human beings.Wayfarer

    awareness of death and the transience of lifeWayfarer

    What they wouldn't be able to do, is to contemplate the meaning of death as you sayAgustino

    F. Nietzsche: "Consider the cattle, grazing as they pass you by: they do not know what is meant by yesterday or today, they leap about, eat, rest [...], fettered to the moment and its pleasure and displeasure [...] [This moment] is a matter for wonder: [...] nothing before it came, again nothing after it has gone"

    E.M. Cioran: "The regret of not being plants brings us closer to paradise than any religion. One is in paradise only as a plant. But we left that stage a long time ago: we would have to destroy so much to recover paradise! Sin is the impossibility of forgetfulness. The fall - emblem of our human condition - is a nervous exacerbation of consciousness. Thus a human being can only be next to God, whereas plants sleep in him the sleep of eternal forgetfulness. The more awake we are, the greater the nostalgia that sends us in quest of paradise, the sharper the pangs of remorse that reunite us with the vegetable world"
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    But we left that stage a long time ago: we would have to destroy so much to recover paradiseAgustino

    that is the precise meaning of 'the fall of man' IMO.
  • Buxtebuddha
    1.8k
    This has reminded me of a poem I had written a long time ago. Thanks (Y)
  • javra
    822
    Perhaps it's a human prejudice to think that we, as linguistic beings, are the only animals capable of abstract thoughts such as 'I will die'. Can we imagine any way in which such a thought could occur to a non-linguistic being?John

    No lesser lifeform has a narrative of what pain is, yet they all react to it the same way we do. So doing requires some degree of non-narrative thought on their part—this in terms of deciding between alternatives. I'd argue that choosing between alternatives is not possible without some type of forethought, i.e. best means of attaining a desired end (in conjunction with some type of memory—with which to form a contextual structure of limitations).

    At least one zoo-kept elephant has been known to enjoy placing pain on canvas. Octopuses are very efficient as solving puzzles. Other examples can be given. As to communication, our common associates, cats and dogs, will communicate by tail-waiving and teeth-exposure (among a number of other means, ear-direction, body-posture, etc.). These are communications that we as humans comprehend just fine though not of a spoken narrative—and, through anecdotal evidence, I know that dogs sometimes can even (try to) deceive via their communications. Communication requires thought, such as regards the interpretation of another’s intentions/state-of-mind. The only explanation for the aforementioned is that non-linguistic, abstract thought can and does occur, imo.

    Once this is accepted, then the difficulties reside in figuring out how. This “how” obviously will itself be on a cline of complexity—from less intelligent to more intelligent lesser life forms.

    But, as to awareness of death:

    Imo, no lesser lifeform suffers from an existential angst of what live and death signify. Many, if not most, are aware of when some other is alive and when it is no longer alive--as known via reactions. Some are aware of personal loss when another of their cohort dies, as is exemplified by signs of morning/depression/etc. And the instinct of self-preservation is built into everything that is alive—though it often enough doesn’t take the form of “my importance is greater than that of everyone else’s” (e.g. during parenting and within social species). And there’s certainly aversion to that which leads to death. Oddly, whether great apes are aware that they are mortal can be tested: this by attempts to communicate with them via sign language, etc. (Though I’m not comfortable with such attempts being recommended, this on ethical grounds.) But, as to contemplations of whether life in any way continues on after mortal death (or not), we do not have any indication of this till we arrive at Neanderthals (which buried their dead with flowers). This species of hominid, however, likely had more complex means of communication that the non-verbal communication of lesser-animal species: hence, they likely had some form of linguistic narrative.
  • javra
    822
    ↪Wayfarer
    Meaning?
    Agustino

    We certainly have a harder time forgiving and forgetting …
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Do you mind sharing the poem? :D
  • Buxtebuddha
    1.8k
    Do you mind sharing the poem?Agustino

    Yes, so no.

    tumblr_lre2zcvZKs1qeumowo1_500.gif
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Yes, so no.Heister Eggcart
    LOL Why hide it? :P
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    The quote from Cioran - I'm not familiar with that writer - is a meditation on the meaning of the 'myth of the fall'. It says that: 'the fall - emblem of our human condition - is a nervous exacerbation of consciousness'. That sounds reductionist.

    The more awake we are, the greater the nostalgia that sends us in quest of paradise, the sharper the pangs of remorse that reunite us with the vegetable world" — E M Cioran

    Right. The only way is 'down', regression back to non-being, falling back into the material womb of being. (You know 'mother' and 'matter' have the same linguistic root?)

    I looked him up in Wiki, he's nihilist, which figures. Sees nothing beyond.
  • Buxtebuddha
    1.8k
    LOL Why hide it?Agustino

    People steal.
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    And there’s certainly aversion to that which leads to death. Oddly, whether great apes are aware that they are mortal can be tested: this by attempts to communicate with them via sign language, etc.javra

    There was a really poignant story published about 4 years ago, about some high-flying academic who adopted a chimp and raised it as a human, convinced he could teach it language. He used to dress it and gave it meals at the table with his own children. After a few years he was getting nowhere and he lost interest. The poor creature ended up back in a lab in the midwest, with all these other lab animals. When a journalist found out, he went and saw him, the chimp was frantically signing, as if to say 'get me out of here'. He died not long after, it was a very sad story.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    :s Yeah if you actually bothered to read anything more from him apart from Wikipedia you may discover something different.

    But we left that stage a long time ago: we would have to destroy so much to recover paradise
    How interesting that your homeboy J. Krishnamurti would say precisely the same thing... destroy much (your conditioning) to recover paradise. Don't you see that you are just being biased?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    People steal.Heister Eggcart
    Common bruv it's just a poem, we wouldn't go through all the hassle of stealing :P
  • Buxtebuddha
    1.8k
    Common bruv it's just a poem, we wouldn't go through all the hassle of stealingAgustino

    46301.gif
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    Yeah if you actually bothered to read anything more from him apart from Wikipedia you may discover something differentAgustino

    It says he is nihilist which is all I need to know. It also comes through in that quotation.

    And I have noticed that discussions with 'Agostino' quickly degenerate into name-calling and ad homs.
  • Buxtebuddha
    1.8k
    No excuse not to read him. Judging a thinker upon how he is labeled is kinda lazy.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    I have noticed that discussions with 'Agostino' quickly degenerate into name-calling and ad homs.Wayfarer
    And I have noticed that discussions with you reduce to "he's a nihilist/materialist/atheist, dismissed". Really Wayfarer, you call this philosophy? Reading about Cioran on Wikipedia and taking that as sufficient to give you permission to dismiss him so that you can avoid engaging with his thought, merely because he's labelled as a "nihilist" there?

    Furthermore, there wasn't even a single ad hominem in my previous post. Not a single one. So on top of everything else, you're lying as well.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Have you read something by Cioran homeboy? :P I'm actually curious what you think of him if you have.
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    There was one quote presented, I looked up the origin of the quote, I read the entry. On that basis, not the kind of writer I'm going to study. Life's too short.

    William H. Gass called Cioran's work "a philosophical romance on the modern themes of alienation, absurdity, boredom, futility, decay, the tyranny of history, the vulgarities of change, awareness as agony, reason as disease".

    It simply doesn't interest me, and I don't see the point. Philosophy is supposed to be the cure, not the disease.

    there wasn't even a single ad hominem in my previous postAgustino

    I took 'Krishnamurti as homeboy' as a slight on both myself, and him.
  • Buxtebuddha
    1.8k
    Have you read something by Cioran homeboy? :P I'm actually curious what you think of him if you have.Agustino

    I haven't, though he seems like someone I'd like. What do you suggest I read first?

    Life's too short.Wayfarer

    Life's too long in my estimation!
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