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IN THE COMPANY OF ANIMALS / Vol. 62, No. 3 (Fall 1995)

Arien Mack, Editor

The original versions of the papers collected in this issue were given at a conference, In the Company of Animals, held at the New School for Social Research in April 1995 which was part of a multi-institutional collaboration organized under the auspices of Social Research.

The article focuses on the social contexts of technology in modern society. Technology has a central—but preponderantly facilitative rather than initiating—role in sustaining a historically unprecedented standard of living that most people have come to take for granted. It will be no less vital in attaining that standard, and making further improvements in it, for all humankind. Largely because technological innovation is tied to complex, expensive production processes and marketing uncertainties, it moves at a slower, more cautiously incremental pace than scientific discovery.

This article discusses the classification of the animal kingdom in the European-speaking world since the time of Aristotle and the effect of these classifications on man's current attitudes towards animals today. The author starts with the dominating role that Aristotle played in European civilization for an incredible length of time. Then she will go on to discuss how this dominance began to crack in the eighteenth century, and how it was finally broken apart in the nineteenth century, nearly 2000 years after Aristotle's death.

This article shows how to work with animals at liberty. According to the author, there already exist rigorous and elaborate descriptions and accounts of captive animals and free-ranging animals, but there is very little formal knowledge or, for that matter, acknowledgment of the kinds of knowledge people who work with animals at liberty have. The term at liberty here does not mean free. Indeed, an animal at liberty, whose condition frees her to make the fullest use of some or all of her power the person whose submission to discipline may, paradoxically, free him to otherwise unattainable achievements. In this article, the author offers several examples of trainers who work with animals at liberty.

This article considers the social aspects of the naming of animals in Eden. According to the author, the naming of animals in Eden is both a personal and an implicitly taxonomic one, in that the fauna in Paradise are unique specimens, the exemplars and templates for the species into which they are fruitfully to multiply. The issue of names of and for animals, and the ways in which they may or may not embody analyses of kind, might show up in a consideration of two versions of the topic, naively put, of animals in the bible.

This section of the conference continues the discussion begun in the first section of the shifting boundaries between human and animal beings. Where shall we draw the line between ourselves and them?

This article considers the issue of the kind and the degree of the difference between human beings and the rest of the animal kingdom. Animals constitute a single group in some sense equivalent to the group that includes only humans, and the significant distinction between the groups is that humans resemble god, and animals do not. Thus, as so often, distinction is inevitably invidious; and separation is inextricable from hierarchy. Corollary to this fundamental human/animal dichotomy is the notion that what is good in people reflects their closeness to god, and what is bad in them reflects their closeness to animals.

This article raises the question of why scientists were so out of step with the rest of Western culture in their attitudes toward hyenas. The author begins with a brief survey of the portrayal of hyenas in twentieth-century US culture and then considers the shaping of the hyena image over a span of several thousand years, contrasting European views with those of contemporary Africans. Along the way, the author will occasionally digress to compare views of the hyena with those of other animals, particularly the lion.

This paper offers some basic information about how the U.S. legal system deals with animals. This information is placed in historical context. The aim of the author is to use historical data to address the following question: Does the law treat animals as essentially inanimate objects, not possessed of important interests, and unworthy of protection in their own right? This question is important because many who view themselves as animal advocates answer it affirmatively. Some of these people believe that the law stands in the way of decent treatment of animals. Some blame the law for much of what they consider to be unethical behavior toward animals.

This text is an edited transcript of a keynote address given at the conference “In the Company of Animals” in New York City on April 6, 1995. “We all know the conclusion to that most famous of all poems about invertebrates—namely, Robert Burns's 'To A Louse'…”

The essays in this section represent explorations of variously fictive ways in which the representations of animals have been shaped and employed in human discourse.

This article looks at the reasons for the slow disappearance of beast fables as of September 1995. The term fabling beasts denotes the activity of telling stories in words about animals, sometimes with and sometimes without people, in order to point a moral that humans believe should hold throughout the natural world. According to the author, beast fables were once a more vital form of representation and they were once not reserved for children. In this article, he examines the views of several philosophers, including Socrates and Aristotle, on the significance of beast fables.

The anthropomorphist ascribes and traces human emotion and motivations to animals and nature; these modes of narration cause misconceptions in both science and literature.

Similarities and differences between us and animals have been a great focus of human interest for millenia, in cultures of the most various sorts. The title of this section is striking, though, in that it does not ask us to consider sameness and difference.

This article brings up the question of whether animals are conscious and explains why such questions matters. According to the author, there exists a curious tolerance of patent inconsistency and obscurantism and a bizarre one-sidedness in the treatment of evidence regarding animal minds today. The author pays particular attention to Thomas Nagel's famous paper What is it Like to Be a Bat? The author argues that scientists all rely on third-person behavioral evidence to support or reject hypotheses about the consciousness of animals.

Research of the past decade has served to underscore the close psychological relationship between humans, chimpanzees, and the other great apes. In his evolutionary theory, Darwin posited both psychological and biological continuities between animals and humans. Although the evidence for biological continuity has been strong for decades, the evidence necessary for affirmation of psychological continuity is recent.

This article raises the question of the ontological foundations of moral concern regarding animals. The author asks what the psychological conditions are that are presupposed in moral judgments and reactions. What has to be the case, psychologically, before people can treat something as morally significant? First, the author will put forward what seems to him to be the correct answer to his question, bringing out the true import of this answer. Then, he will look at some of the ways in which this answer can be blurred or misunderstood. Next, some mistaken answers will be contrasted with the answer he gives.

The three excellent papers in this session confirm the underlying truth of this conference—that a discussion of what we humans think about animals is inseparable from what we think about ourselves.

This article considers the myths of bestial masquerade and what they say about the ways in which humans have fantasized about their relationships with animals. According to the author, cultures throughout the world represent our deceptive relationships with animals as masquerades, which operate in both directions: in our rituals, humans often masquerade as animals, but in our myths we imagine that animals masquerade as humans. The most intense version of this universal theme is the tale of the bestial deception, the masquerade of an animal as a human in the most intimate of all relationships.

Hunting is by definition an armed confrontation between the human world and the untamed wilderness, and it has been defined and praised and attacked in those terms throughout Western history, from antiquity onward. If the human-animal boundary, and the parallel boundary between culture and nature, are as arbitrary a pair of constructs as evolutionary biology leads us to think, then the distinction between wild and domestic animals is equally arbitrary. If so, it makes good sense to see hunting as just another species of butchery.

This article focuses on the growth of the animal protection movement and its impact on science and scientists. As in the nineteenth century, protests over the use of animals in research, testing, and education have touched a responsive chord among the general public. Why is the public so sensitive about the use of a few tens of millions of animals in research when they do not object to killing hundreds of millions of pigs and cows and billions of chickens for our meat diet? Why is animal research considered so bad despite the public's high opinion of science?

This section presents a panel discussion on how society should treat animals. The panelists were asked to consider questions of animals as property and their treatment as objects; animal pain and suffering and societal attitudes towards them; and what conflicts arise when society treats animals as populations rather than individuals.


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