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Posts Tagged ‘Descartes’

Scientists have long held that crabs are unable to feel pain because they lack the biology to do so, but behavioral evidence has recently shown otherwise. Now, new research further supports the hypothesis that crabs feel pain by showing that crabs given a mild shock will take steps to avoid getting shocked in the future.

From humans to fruit flies, numerous species come equipped with nociception, a type of reflex that helps avoid immediate tissue damage. On the other hand, pain, which results in a swift change of behavior to avoid future damage, isn’t so widespread. 

Gone are the days when animals were pushed aside as species far beneath us in terms of abilities. They were often called brutes. In the 16th century, philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes said animals were just automata: red-blooded machines without thoughts or wishes. Since then, animal-behavior scientists have realized that our furry brethren have rich emotional lives and even a rudimentary sense of right and wrong.

From elaborate elephant funeral rituals to the moral outrage of cuckolded bluebirds, here are some surprising ways that animals exhibit the very human emotions we associate with morality.

Elephants have some of the most elaborate group rituals of any animals. When a beloved member of an elephant troop dies, those left behind will mourn the lost individual by “burying” the body with leaves and grass, and keeping vigil over the body for a week. And just as humans visit the gravesites of their lost loved ones, elephants visit the bones of dead elephants for years to come.

 Those seemingly filthy creatures scampering in the sludge of subway stations or trashcans, rats have empathy for each other. In a famous 1958 experiment, hungry rats that were only fed if they pulled a lever to shock their littermates refused to do so, suggesting that the rodents have a sense of empathy and compassion for their fellows. Another study published in 2006 in the journal Science found that mice would grimace when their compatriots were in pain — but only if they knew the mouse personally.

Humans aren’t the only ones who experience jealousy. When male bluebirds are out foraging to provide for their mate’s nest, female birds may step out with another male. Cuckolded males will beat their straying partners when they return, ripping out their feathers and snapping their beaks, according to a 1975 study detailed in the journal Science.

Dolphins routinely show love for species not their own. Several dolphins have practiced random acts of kindness by rescuing swimmers from hammerhead sharks. A few generous dolphins have even guided stranded whales back to sea. But the cetaceans save most of their goodwill for others in their pod — just like humans, they have a you-scratch-my-nose, I’ll-scratch-yours ethic that demands routine kindness and generosity.

 

While empathy and compassion may be common in animals, guilt may be a uniquely human emotion. A study published in the journal Behavioural Processes in 2009 found that dogs’ guilty looks don’t signal remorse.

In the study, they told owners that their dogs had eaten a forbidden treat while the owners left the room. The catch? Only some of the dogs had actually eaten the treat. But the dogs wore guilty looks regardless of whether they had devoured the treat, suggesting they were reading their owners’ anger and reacting accordingly, rather than feeling true remorse. Of course, it’s still possible that dogs feel guilty about some things, but probably not for gobbling up that cake sitting on the countertop.(ack:LiveScience.com)

benny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spinoza, Baruch (1632-1677) Dutch
Philosopher

The greatest of the modern philosophers brought rational approach to the enquiry of great questions like God and human destiny. He laid the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment. His masterpiece Ethics never found light of the day in his lifetime. The reason was simple. He was excommunicated* for his heretical thinking from the Jewish community in Amsterdam and the odium of it had preceded his brief life; however stoicism of his race was in his blood as a result of persecution running through centuries, and made him think his own thoughts and make a living by an useful trade of polishing lenses. If he, despite all odds became the greatest ( Frederick Hegel on one occasion speaking to his contemporaries said thus: ‘You are either Spinozit or not a philosopher at all.’) it still owed to his Jewish identity. The fact that he was born a Jew was both a curse and a blessing.
All his works were put on the proscribed list (index librorum prohibitorum) by the Roman Catholic Church. He was greatly influenced by Bruno (1548-1600) whose dictum, ‘all reality is one substance’ naturally would make him oppose Descartes’ mind-body dualism. Bruno perished under inquisition and if the Catholic Church proscribed Spinoza the reason was obvious.
Spinoza’s thinking however latched on to an idea of Descartes that all forms of matter had a ‘homogeneous’ substance, and it propelled him in the direction his precocious mind was taking, and served as light clearing many dark recesses of doubts on way. In 1656 he was excommunicated on charges of heresy and the upshot of it was his father refused to receive him and his sister tried to cheat him out of a small inheritance. (He contested the case in court and won. He duly handed the bequest over to his sister.) Rejected by his family and friends, an assassination attempt on his life made him leave Amsterdam. He changed his name to Bernard de Spinoza and disciplined his life to extreme thrift. He was happy living within his modest means and many influential men of his day found him stimulating and his company congenial. Some of them offered help but he refused stipends and money saying, ‘Nature is satisfied with little; if she is, I am also.’
He finally settled in The Hague in 1670 economically secure and surrounded by rich and powerful friends who looked up to him with great respect.
As a person he was of middle size, his face pleasing, and skin somewhat darker and his hair curly and eyebrows dark and long stamping his Portuguese ancestry in his looks.
Spinoza chose not to found a sect and he founded none and yet philosophy after him was permeated with his thought. The great German polymath Goethe was converted after one reading of Ethics and also was cured of wild romanticism of his past. Spinoza supplied what his yearning soul had sought, dass wir entsagen sollen-‘that we must accept the limitations Nature puts on us.’
There is a statue of him at The Hague erected from public subscription collected from every part of the educated world. At the unveiling of it (1882) Ernest Renan made a moving speech at the conclusion he said thus.’ This man from his granite pedestal, will point out to all men, the way of all blessedness which he found; and ages hence, the cultivated traveler, passing by this spot, will say in his heart, ‘the truest vision ever had of God came, perhaps, here.’

*Excommunication
In 1656 the 24-year old Spinoza was summoned before the elders to answer the charges of heresy. One of the sticking points was his doubt regarding the belief in another life. The Synagogue was concerned such a view, contrary to the essence of Christianity would seem inimical to the community that had welcomed them into their midst. For their security in the host country the Dutch Calvinists had to be appeased and no cost was to be reckoned too little. The same mindset that had prompted Caiaphas to say about Jesus was alive in the elders of his time. (‘It was expedient that one man should die for the people’- Jn.18: 14) If the Synagogue had not spared Jesus or Uriel a Costa it was not going to spare the young Spinoza either.
The young skeptic was offered $500 in annuity for his silence and outward loyalty to the Synagogue and his faith. He refused.
On July 27, 1656, he was excommunicated with all the somber formalities of Hebrew ritual. During the reading of the curse, wailing of the great horn was heard and lights were put out one after the other, indicating the quenching of spiritual life of the man under curse. Spinoza took it under quite courage. He did not join another sect for comfort and determined, as he was to seek his own salvation. The form of the Synagogue and shape of elders that guided it was a mode far from the ‘substance’ of God that moved him. Mode pandered to circumstances and compromised wherever it suited while his soul was ever fixed. His life was his proof to his thought.
(ack: Will Durant- The story of Philosophy: Pub. The Washington Square Press-1964)

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There is a Cosmological Principle that states Cosmos is isotropic meaning that the universe looks the same way in all directions and is homogeneous that is has roughly the same smooth mixture of material.

 Consider the Copernican Principle that states no place in the universe is preferred (that is, the universe has no “starting point”).

Scientists have tested carefully whether these assumptions are valid and and agree that it is so.

Let me also quote Descartes who said,” cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am)”. In a nutshell wherever I am that is the centre of my universe. Of course much of universe is beyond my ken. The least I can achieve in this world is to know my world, my mind and watch out my steps.

I am monarch of all I survey, My right there is none to dispute; From the centre all round to the sea I am lord of the foul and the brute. ” 

benny

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Descartes said, ‘I think therefore I am’. Is thought all that defines man of his being?
Self of man is rooted in the very consciousness of his or her world. Even in the womb a child is conscious of a world, which is part of another world. Its floating world is kind of a reality. It may not think or know of a far wider world lying beyond. Even so it is in development, a growth process beginning and end of which no one may determine for certainty. A newborn enters the world with little control over its body and having no thinking faculties so to speak. Is not the baby still a being in its own right?
Ability to think alone does not define the essence of a being.
2.
With great advances in our understanding of physiology we may now put the origin of thoughts, movements as belonging properly in the realm of physiology. Similarly a foetus linked to its mother by an umbilical chord while within the womb is a matter of physiology. But what makes it draw air in its lungs the moment the umbilical chord is cut off  belongs to something else. What gave it a foreknowledge of a world that must be breathed in?
A baby has already certain experience of the outside world and it is picked up through the medium of its mother. By the same token we are conscious of a world, an inner world through the medium of our corporeal bodies.
Thinking only gives a handle to what impressions we may have of other worlds. It cannot however prove its existence or disprove it.
benny

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