By Stephen Walker
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Extra info for Animal Thought
Animals, even down to the very lowest, use some degree of this sort of understanding, which arises ‘from the habit of seeing one thing follow another’ (1915, p. 89). Clearly, this is a version of Hume, but Schopenhauer suggests that higher animals (mammals) not only have an understanding of learned perceptual associations, but also have a certain amount of a priori knowledge of causality. A young puppy, he says, is reluctant to jump off a table, because it foresees the consequences. Not everyone would accept this, since it tends now to be assumed that young mammals simply have an innate fear of depth, rather than a knowledge of the consequences of falling into depths, but the innate avoidance can reasonably be put down as a predetermined disposition and it may well be the case that the mammalian nervous system is extremely amenable to the formation of rules by which locomotion is linked with being in different places, even if such linkages are normally activated by experience—and this would certainly Count as a Kantian a priori.
Typical ‘gesture-signs’ are seen in the pointing of gun-dogs (and pigs can be trained to do the same thing). These are intentional acts of communication, inasmuch as the dogs expect their behaviour to influence human observers, and the natural behaviours may be artificially extended by training, as was apparently the case in Sir John Lubbock’s experiments on ‘teaching animals to converse’. Lubbock (1884) wrote words such as ‘bone’, ‘water’, and ‘pet me’ on cards and believed that his dogs became able to select cards according to their wishes.
But, like Locke and Hume, Schopenhauer interrupted his discussions of human knowledge with comments on the approximations to such knowledge achieved by domestic pets and lesser organisms in general. He was 35 more concerned than Hume with the details of the differences between human and animal minds, and few pre- Darwinian writers seem to have had as many things so say about relations between consciousness, memory, comprehension, deliberation and so on, although it must be admitted that consistency and accuracy were not among Schopenhauer’s strong points.
Animal Thought by Stephen Walker