Friday, March 29, 2013

Animal consciousness

On his blog today, Jason Rosenhouse has a longish post about an even longer article by John Jeremiah Sullivan. I read both and found them interesting. Each speaks about animal consciousness and the inability of humans to see and understand that consciousness. Though Rosenhouse quotes extensively from the article, he did not include the ending. Here it is: (bolding is mine)
In Michel de Montaigne’s excellent passage on animal minds in the “Apology for Raymond Sebond”, in which he writes about playing with his cat and wonders who is playing with whom, there is a funny and deceptively profound final sentence: “We divert each other with monkey tricks,” he writes. Meaning he and the cat. Both human being and cat are compared with a third animal. They are monkeys to each other, strange animals to each other. (The man is all but literally a monkey to the cat.) All three creatures involved in Montaigne’s metaphor are revealed as points on a continuum, and none of them understands the others very well. This is what the study of animal consciousness can teach us, finally—that we possess an animal consciousness.
Indeed. As Rosenhouse says in the article and I've long said on this blog, the difference between our consciousness and that of animals is only a matter of degree. We are all conscious.