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Animal Minds

Since Aristotle’s times, the peculiarities of animal mind have always been a theme of a controversial discussion. Philosophers argued on whether animals had a mind of their own or not. They have thought critically about the issue, giving explanations to support their well thought ideas. The discussion continues even nowadays and is evidenced by the numerous publications posted in the Internet and different printed issues, which in turn enable this theme to grow and become an entity by itself. Famous philosopher, Aristotle, defined humans as rational beings and his definition denied any thought or reasoning among animals. Aristotle argued that animals do not speak and thus are not capable of grasping any concepts, apprehend and put across anything. The Aristotle’s position triggered a heated debate later on among numerous philosophers. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the discussion reached its peak, involving Rene Descartes and David Hume.                                     

Descartes surpassed Aristotle’s explanation by presenting his extreme position. He notoriously denied any type of mentality i.e. thought, reason, and consciousness among animals. He labeled the animals as beast machines and argued that they are led by their reflexes and instincts during migration. Descartes also argued that lack of speech among animals expressed lack of thought. He finally concluded that animals do not have any kind of consciousness. Both Aristotle and Descartes did not consider animals’ mentality at all.

However, David Hume completely opposes Aristotle’s and Descartes’ theories and argues that animals do actually have a psyche of their own. By having a mind of their own they have reason and thought. He argued that the only difference between humans and animals was in their level of reasoning i.e. in the degree, at which their rationale acts. Hume argued that belief and reasoning are constituted by the lively images, which are not concerning the humans. He supports his arguments by saying that animals have some kind of consciousness.

Science, however, agrees with David Humes, supporting his theory that animals have their own minds and a way of communication. They remarkably well communicate among themselves and sometimes they even communicate with humans. It should be noted, that animal behavior is entirely determined by biological inheritance compared to humans. Thus, the distinctive roles of animals are genetically programmed and ingrained in their DNA. Unlike humans, they cannot invent or lack the ability to modify their social behavior. Animal communication is set on broader perspectives of cellular and neural levels; the cellular level is composed of the simple chemical reactions.

Consciousness can be attributed to animals, and this is proved by an interesting example of monkey. The fact that this animal possesses a mind is shown by its behavior in some situations. In the forest the monkey finds a nut on the ground. It picks this nut and knows that it cannot be cracked by bare hand, so it looks around for hard rocks but does not find one. Then the monkey leaves the nut lying on the ground and moves to another tree. Near this tree, it has broken another nut the previous day using a stone. It carries the stone to its new nut, breaks it and eats. In Africa, the chimpanzees were noticed to select suitable branches, which they carry around and poke termites nest when they find one. Obviously, these animals possess a mind of their own. By carefully studying the animal kingdom, scientists must identify some kind of cognition that is required to help identify and study the animal versatile behavior.

Another example of communication among animals can be presented by the apes in Africa, which learn how to use artificial communication systems. They are able to ask for what they want and what activities they want to be engaged in. They also answer basic questions on some pictures in the zoos. Thus, it is apparent that animals can communicate extensively with each other by body language and sounds. Obviously, they have their own language but cannot master, complex or use it in a verbal form. Animals are also capable of learning and communicating with humans. A compelling example is a dog, which when trained can understand and choose to obey or refuse human commands. Different domestic animals also serve as suitable examples of how humans communicate with animals. There is no words usage, but understanding between humans and animals is reached in some way.

There is a verbal as well as non verbal mannerism of communication among the different animal species in the world. The dolphins communicate with the slaps of their tails on water, scent making, visual signs, and postural gestures. Fireflies and peacocks use bioluminescence. Some species of birds use singing and chirping to communicate during mating and in case of looming attack.

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