Tom Bethell and human exceptionalism: Only humans can be arrogant
|March 10, 2017||Posted by News under Animal minds, Intelligent Design, Mind|
The accusation of arrogance is self-defeating on its face. Only humans are capable of arrogance or of seeing themselves as superior to other animals. Animals cannot rise to that level of abstraction. Do cats or dogs think themselves superior to humans? (Well, dogs don’t, but I’m not so sure about cats.) The criticism of arrogance itself rests on human exceptionalism.
Yes. The remark about cats is a joke, obviously. Some cats appear haughty to us because we read our own feelings into their way of carrying themselves. This is the error of anthropomorphizing: “to ascribe human form or attributes to (an animal, plant, material object, etc.).”More.
Bethell, author of Darwin’s House of Cards: A Journalist’s Odyssey Through the Darwin Debates, is right, of course. The cat in the accompanying photo is showing watchfulness, not arrogance (as a human reading its facial expression might suppose). A cat’s sense of hierarchy is devoid of abstractions like arrogance; it turns on defensible physical position and territory.
Note: A cat can stare at another cat from a given position for hours in such a way as to make a statement (something like: I am here in this spot and I am watching you, and I am not leaving… your next move might start a fight… ). Hierarchy can thus be established with few dangerous fights, leaving more time for the serious business of hunting and napping. It is one reason cats are hardly an endangered species.
Human exceptionalism in brief: We can see it from the cat’s point of view but no cat ever saw it from a human point of view.
See also: Nearly 50% Americans now think humans arenot special
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