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Human Endeavour Includes thinking really hard...

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Old 2nd March 2012, 10:31 PM   #27743  /  #1
charlou
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Awareness of death in other species

In the wild, animals are around death all the time. I think many species must, in some way, be aware of mortality.

By the same token, are our pets, having led somewhat sheltered lives, so aware?

Would humans, if never encountering death, nor hearing of it, be aware of mortality?
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Old 2nd March 2012, 11:16 PM   #27760  /  #2
MSG
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Old 3rd March 2012, 01:47 AM   #27794  /  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elouise View Post
Would humans, if never encountering death, nor hearing of it, be aware of mortality?
I would imagine that the older they get, the more lethargic they'd feel and more weak. That may entail thinking that their body won't last. iow - the aging process may make one aware, and logically think that the aging process will continue until it cannot be withstood any longer.
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Old 3rd March 2012, 03:20 AM   #27802  /  #4
FedUpWithFaith
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I think dogs understand something about mortality and possibly even their own - though I'm not really sure to what degree. All I have to go on is some weak anecdotal evidence.

For 7 years we had two dogs, one a border collie/aussie mix and the other an aussie and they were very close. However, they were both very territorial about certain things including their food dishes, beds, and certain toys. They each kept their "own" toys near their respective beds.

The mixed dog got a disease and progressively got worse and worse. One day I saw him struggle to get up from his bed (a big pillow on the floor), pick up each of three toys near his bed, and then proceed to drop them in front of the other dog lying in his own bed. After the third toy was delivered he licked the other one on his eyes and ears and went back to lie on his bed. The aussie got up and went over and laid with the other dog and groomed him for about 20 minutes at which time I went to bed.

My wife awoke me early the next morning to find them both still together and the sick dog in severe distress. I took the sick dog to the vet where it was clear he had to be euthanized. The vets wrapped his dead body on a tarp I'd brought and I took him home for burial.

When I got home our aussie immediately came to the car to see his friend and when I opened the car he jumped in and pulled the tarp back to reveal the still body. I still tear up remembering his face, which I've never seen on a dog before or since. I can only describe it like dog sorrow. A watery mucous ran from his nose, something I'd never seen and he blinked his eyes in rapid bursts and laid his head low. I took the body to bury it in our field and the aussie stood by the whole time as I buried the dog. After I padded down the remaining soil, the aussie laid down next to it like a sphinx and remained there for over 2 hours. My sister reported that all of a sudden he got up and slowly walked back to the house. It took him a week to return to normal and during and after that time he slept in his friend's bed on occassion, something he would not have done before the death. I think he knew his friend wasn't coming back. He's 14 now and in declining health. I haven't seen any evidence he's aware of his approaching mortality. But it's hard to know what to look for.
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Old 3rd March 2012, 03:49 AM   #27807  /  #5
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That is an unbelievably touching story, FedUpWithFaith, except I believe it of course. A few hours ago I was going to opine that animals are incapable of anticipating their own death, but now that you told us about the handing over of the toys I'm not so certain at all. Yes, it is just an anecdote, and you describe it as a weak one, but it's quite persuasive until some neurologist / zoologist comes up with a plausible explanation why you misinterpreted that behaviour. Thanks.
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Old 3rd March 2012, 03:58 AM   #27810  /  #6
Jerome
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Death and life lives independently on and in us always.
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Old 3rd March 2012, 04:42 AM   #27816  /  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JEROME DA GNOME View Post
Death and life lives independently on and in us always.
Cute. I never took you for a new-ageist, but it shouldn't have surprised me that you are. You never made any sense in any of your other posts.
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Old 3rd March 2012, 04:43 AM   #27817  /  #8
Jerome
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dont worry about it, they are all passing fads
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Old 3rd March 2012, 05:33 AM   #27821  /  #9
FedUpWithFaith
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seraph View Post
That is an unbelievably touching story, FedUpWithFaith, except I believe it of course. A few hours ago I was going to opine that animals are incapable of anticipating their own death, but now that you told us about the handing over of the toys I'm not so certain at all. Yes, it is just an anecdote, and you describe it as a weak one, but it's quite persuasive until some neurologist / zoologist comes up with a plausible explanation why you misinterpreted that behaviour. Thanks.
Thanks Seraph.

I agree this is weak evidence and actually I think I have a more plausible explanation, but it's just not quite as emotionally satisfying.

Logan (the dog that died) was older than Cody (the aussie) and was the more dominant dog when we got Cody as a Puppy. But Cody got bigger when he grew up and took over the dominant role - though they occassionally fought over it (like when Cody got a haircut and looked smaller - LOL - we literally had to stop giving Cody haircuts). Now, I've had multiple dogs for years and I've gotten to know their "language' a little. Usually, it the dominant dog that does the grooming - which often occurs after a fight or other acts of "submission".

I believe Logan's (the aussie/border collie mix) actions could simply be an expression of weakness to Cody so that Cody would groom him. I had never seen Logan give his favorite toys to Cody before but I had seen him give other toys and items to Cody in submission. It's also possible he'd given his toys to Cody before and I just hadn't witnessed it. Before Logan's illness, Cody would occasionally take Logan's toys to assert dominance and sometimes this would lead to a fight. But that was very rare.

So it's possible that Logan was giving Cody an offering to prompt his grooming and Cody responded to his friend in distress, without either knowing anything about their impending mortality. I am pretty sure that later on Cody recognized Logan was dead though and responded with genuine canine sorrow. There are plenty of accounts of that sort of thing with dogs behaving that way with the death of close animals, dogs, and humans.

But as I said, I don't know. I have to be particularly careful because I am wont to think my dogs unusually smart and grant them ideas and feelings they might not really have.
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Old 3rd March 2012, 12:46 PM   #27850  /  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seraph View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by JEROME DA GNOME View Post
Death and life lives independently on and in us always.
Cute. I never took you for a new-ageist, but it shouldn't have surprised me that you are. You never made any sense in any of your other posts.
in fairness english isn't jerome's first language
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Old 3rd March 2012, 10:52 PM   #27907  /  #11
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Let me guess which language is his first.

American?
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Old 4th March 2012, 12:00 AM   #27911  /  #12
MSG
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I think it's Cobol
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Old 4th March 2012, 02:10 AM   #27927  /  #13
ficus
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FedUpWithFaith View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seraph View Post
That is an unbelievably touching story, FedUpWithFaith, except I believe it of course. A few hours ago I was going to opine that animals are incapable of anticipating their own death, but now that you told us about the handing over of the toys I'm not so certain at all. Yes, it is just an anecdote, and you describe it as a weak one, but it's quite persuasive until some neurologist / zoologist comes up with a plausible explanation why you misinterpreted that behaviour. Thanks.
Thanks Seraph.

I agree this is weak evidence and actually I think I have a more plausible explanation, but it's just not quite as emotionally satisfying.

Logan (the dog that died) was older than Cody (the aussie) and was the more dominant dog when we got Cody as a Puppy. But Cody got bigger when he grew up and took over the dominant role - though they occassionally fought over it (like when Cody got a haircut and looked smaller - LOL - we literally had to stop giving Cody haircuts). Now, I've had multiple dogs for years and I've gotten to know their "language' a little. Usually, it the dominant dog that does the grooming - which often occurs after a fight or other acts of "submission".

I believe Logan's (the aussie/border collie mix) actions could simply be an expression of weakness to Cody so that Cody would groom him. I had never seen Logan give his favorite toys to Cody before but I had seen him give other toys and items to Cody in submission. It's also possible he'd given his toys to Cody before and I just hadn't witnessed it. Before Logan's illness, Cody would occasionally take Logan's toys to assert dominance and sometimes this would lead to a fight. But that was very rare.

So it's possible that Logan was giving Cody an offering to prompt his grooming and Cody responded to his friend in distress, without either knowing anything about their impending mortality. I am pretty sure that later on Cody recognized Logan was dead though and responded with genuine canine sorrow. There are plenty of accounts of that sort of thing with dogs behaving that way with the death of close animals, dogs, and humans.

But as I said, I don't know. I have to be particularly careful because I am wont to think my dogs unusually smart and grant them ideas and feelings they might not really have.
It's fascinating that you would consider the above as more 'plausible' than what you SAW... or that Seraph would consider a neurologist (wtf!) and a zoologist would provide 'one'... It's indeed fascinating the degree of necessity of some people to deny their experience in order to fit some model where other animals are just dumb creatures.
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Old 4th March 2012, 03:44 AM   #27936  /  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MSG View Post
I think it's Cobol
No way. Any programming language requires a modicum of logic.
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Old 4th March 2012, 03:48 AM   #27937  /  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ficus View Post
It's fascinating that you would consider the above as more 'plausible' than what you SAW... or that Seraph would consider a neurologist (wtf!) and a zoologist would provide 'one'... It's indeed fascinating the degree of necessity of some people to deny their experience in order to fit some model where other animals are just dumb creatures.
Whereas you see things for exactly what they are? No need to interpret the sensual data? Lucky you.
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Old 4th March 2012, 04:03 AM   #27939  /  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seraph View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by ficus View Post
It's fascinating that you would consider the above as more 'plausible' than what you SAW... or that Seraph would consider a neurologist (wtf!) and a zoologist would provide 'one'... It's indeed fascinating the degree of necessity of some people to deny their experience in order to fit some model where other animals are just dumb creatures.
Whereas you see things for exactly what they are? No need to interpret the sensual data? Lucky you.
Not at all. My point is that FUWF interpreted the sensual data just fine. I don't see the need to deny his interpretation to fit a model which has no basis save unjustified prejudice.
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Old 4th March 2012, 04:16 AM   #27940  /  #17
FedUpWithFaith
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ficus View Post
It's fascinating that you would consider the above as more 'plausible' than what you SAW... or that Seraph would consider a neurologist (wtf!) and a zoologist would provide 'one'... It's indeed fascinating the degree of necessity of some people to deny their experience in order to fit some model where other animals are just dumb creatures.
I'm not denying my experience at all but I am resisting the temptation of my inner experience of my own thinking processes to enable me to anthropomorphize them onto my pets.

The fact that humans are animals and that other animals like elephants appear to understand their mortality enables me to believe that dogs might have some understanding of mortality. The anecdotal evidence I provided also supports it, but not strongly. I think the other explanation I gave is also consistent with my observations. However, supposing that dogs have minds of sufficient complexity to comprehend their own mortality begs Occam's a Razor a bit so that may weight the explanation against dogs having such capability.

I would definitely say that skepticism is the more logical position than credulity in this matter until more evidence is established.

I did a bit of online research on this and I think that dogs can recognizie death and can be bereaved when they recognize it in an animal they are close to. However, I haven't found any other evidence that dogs are able to infer their own impending mortality as opposed to distress from illness or accident. Dogs have been known to sacrifice their lives for others as well but I'm not sure that really gives much evidence either.

For me, the jury is out.
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Old 4th March 2012, 03:11 PM   #27957  /  #18
ficus
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FedUpWithFaith View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by ficus View Post
It's fascinating that you would consider the above as more 'plausible' than what you SAW... or that Seraph would consider a neurologist (wtf!) and a zoologist would provide 'one'... It's indeed fascinating the degree of necessity of some people to deny their experience in order to fit some model where other animals are just dumb creatures.
I'm not denying my experience at all but I am resisting the temptation of my inner experience of my own thinking processes to enable me to anthropomorphize them onto my pets.
So if you observe animal behaviour common to both humans and dogs, you must resist the 'temptation' () to conclude it is a common animal behaviour too both species, because that would be anthropomorphization (), but rather should search for another explanation, not common to both, because that would, for some unspecified reason be more 'plausible'.... Makes perfect sense - not -.

Quote:
The fact that humans are animals and that other animals like elephants appear to understand their mortality enables me to believe that dogs might have some understanding of mortality. The anecdotal evidence I provided also supports it, but not strongly. I think the other explanation I gave is also consistent with my observations.
Quote:
However, supposing that dogs have minds of sufficient complexity to comprehend their own mortality begs Occam's a Razor a bit so that may weight the explanation against dogs having such capability.
Absurd. First of all, parsimony is irrelevant, secondly, there is nothing parsimonous in the second explanation in regards to the first.

As for the rest of your post: Yes, skepticism is the best option... but that was not what you were projecting, nor Seraph, rather a desperate need to dumb down dogs...
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Old 4th March 2012, 07:01 PM   #27965  /  #19
FedUpWithFaith
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ficus View Post
So if you observe animal behaviour common to both humans and dogs, you must resist the 'temptation' () to conclude it is a common animal behaviour too both species, because that would be anthropomorphization (), but rather should search for another explanation, not common to both, because that would, for some unspecified reason be more 'plausible'.... Makes perfect sense - not -.
Well, first you seem to be confusing behavior with subjective experience or thinking. Two different animal species could have very similar behaviors yet be thinking completely different things - assuming either creature is even having a conscious experience in a manner similar to humans. Various bee species form groups before death. Do they "know" they're about to die?

Because humans are naturally prejudiced to interpret consciousness and thinking the way we do it we are naturally prone to anthropomorphization. That's why we have to resist the temptation. It is logical to believe that the closer other brains are to ours, the more sense anthropomorphization makes. However, we lack the knowledge to say much about this at this relatively high level of thinking/behavior.

So why default to your conclusion on the basis of one inconclusive observation? If I could find many more accounts of similar behavior indicating dogs awareness of their own mortality then I would be persuaded. But I haven't found it. Moreover, as a dog lover having had many generations of dogs, I have also observed deficits in their inferential and inductive thinking abilities that fly in the face of their understandling self-mortality. In all my years, I've only had one dog that figured out how to open the fridge despite knowing there are all sorts of desirable goodies in there. And if you think about all the observations, cognitive steps and inferences it takes to understand your own mortality it significantly dwarfs opening the fridge.

Quote:
Quote:
The fact that humans are animals and that other animals like elephants appear to understand their mortality enables me to believe that dogs might have some understanding of mortality. The anecdotal evidence I provided also supports it, but not strongly. I think the other explanation I gave is also consistent with my observations.
Quote:
However, supposing that dogs have minds of sufficient complexity to comprehend their own mortality begs Occam's a Razor a bit so that may weight the explanation against dogs having such capability.
Absurd. First of all, parsimony is irrelevant, secondly, there is nothing parsimonous in the second explanation in regards to the first.

As for the rest of your post: Yes, skepticism is the best option... but that was not what you were projecting, nor Seraph, rather a desperate need to dumb down dogs...
To take on your last point first, I have no desire to dumb down dogs. Quite the opposite. As a dog lover who considers each of my dogs to be part of the family I want to believe they are very smart and their cognitive and empathetic social behaviors support this. But it's very easy to fall into self-delusion on the basis of this love.

Parsimony is always relevant to discussions of complexity - which is the case here in the case of brains, behavior, and thinking.. So your unsupported statement deserves no consideration. Since the second statement is more consistent with what is known about dog behavior it is more parsimonious on that basis not to mention the complexities of brain and thinking you are presupposing.
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Old 4th March 2012, 09:35 PM   #27976  /  #20
ficus
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FedUpWithFaith View Post

Parsimony is always relevant to discussions of complexity...
meaningless word salad...

Quote:
which is the case here in the case of brains, behavior, and thinking.. So your unsupported statement deserves no consideration. Since the second statement is more consistent with what is known about dog behavior it is more parsimonious on that basis not to mention the complexities of brain and thinking you are presupposing.
Absurd and irrelevant. Typical poster of secularist websites who thinks parsimony is useful as anything more than a compositional tool (the OR meme, pathetic...). Sorry for the snark, but it's just too much of the same unreflective occam nonsense in site after site. The principle of parsimony simply points out that entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity. There is no unnecessary multiplication of entities, rather the necessary to fit your experience. The second statement adjusting to the common model does not make it more probable, it just means you are adjusting conclusions to the common model. Parsimony does not apply, basically, because an explanation being simpler does not make it more likely. The first explanation is just as likely as the second, except it fits better which what you observed, which makes it more likely.
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Old 4th March 2012, 10:31 PM   #27987  /  #21
FedUpWithFaith
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So, Ficus. If you had observed the same behavior as I gave for my dogs for two insects you would come to the same conclusion?
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Old 4th March 2012, 11:16 PM   #27992  /  #22
ficus
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If insect behaviour indicated awareness of death, why not?
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Old 4th March 2012, 11:35 PM   #28001  /  #23
Jerome
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Read my posts with the following stupid accent: Pleasant Living
Quote:
Originally Posted by ficus View Post
If insect behaviour indicated awareness of death, why not?
It does not, as they die they continue with same purpose.
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Old 4th March 2012, 11:50 PM   #28003  /  #24
ficus
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doesn't follow my statement, and it is an incoherent expression.
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Old 5th March 2012, 12:36 AM   #28014  /  #25
FedUpWithFaith
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ficus View Post
If insect behaviour indicated awareness of death, why not?
Awareness in what sense? How do you infer subjective internal experience from behavior? Are insects conscious? How do you know this?

Am I to infer that the dogs behavior might possibly have been a purely instinctual response of "awareness" rather than true conscious understanding of impending mortality?
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