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Garbanza
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8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I've been reading a lot of stuff about animal societies lately, and the way people talk about them, it's as if each individual is just a biological repeat in slightly different circumstances, which is fair. So, for example, if one monkey is behaving differently from another it could be due to status or relationships or access to resources or whatever.

We don't talk about humans in this way. We talk about humans as if we each have these unique, internal traits that make us special. I'm wondering if that's just rubbish? That we all are, after all, more or less identical genetically, and any differences are minor and due mostly to circumstance.

But then, why the obsession about individual differences? Why do we invent all these traits and qualities to grade ourselves on when we're virtually identical with everyone else? Is it a useful thing for us to be doing or not?
sdavio
Posts: 1,798
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8/8/2015 4:18:38 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:
each individual is just a biological repeat in slightly different circumstances,

It seems like you're promoting either a kind of essentialism or a reductionist method but I think it's interesting and it'd be interesting to see how what you're talking about here would play out in action. It seems that the human sciences would love a set of principles which could ground this kind of standardized view but whether it's the marxist means of production, repressed memories or just reducing everything to behaviour or even just the human body, still there's very little predictive power in these theories compared to what we can do with animals / insects / objects. Understanding of human psychology is generally still very open ended and self-defined in my view simply because there isn't enough data to get beyond the realm of preference / opinion.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
derailed
Posts: 41
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8/8/2015 5:11:30 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:
I've been reading a lot of stuff about animal societies lately, and the way people talk about them, it's as if each individual is just a biological repeat in slightly different circumstances, which is fair. So, for example, if one monkey is behaving differently from another it could be due to status or relationships or access to resources or whatever.

We don't talk about humans in this way. We talk about humans as if we each have these unique, internal traits that make us special. I'm wondering if that's just rubbish? That we all are, after all, more or less identical genetically, and any differences are minor and due mostly to circumstance.

But then, why the obsession about individual differences? Why do we invent all these traits and qualities to grade ourselves on when we're virtually identical with everyone else? Is it a useful thing for us to be doing or not?

I'd be curious to know the animal-related books you're discussing. I believe there are books and researchers out there that describe animals on a more individualized basis. Those who have gotten close to a particular group of animals, such as Farley Mowat in Never Cry Wolf, came to regard each individual as unique. But the reasons for adopting a more generalized view as you describe probably have to do with speciesm or an idea of unique personhood based on a level of sentience (that might be limited to humans or the great apes at most). It may also be an extension of a scientific perspective that seeks a detached, objective sensibility - which might well be extended to humans if they were under study (which I think you can find reflected in anthropological and psychological studies).

It also likely has to do with limited communication abilities. We have limited ability to ask animals questions and interpret their answers - we can't get to know their intentions, desires, and thoughts in a way that we can with humans, so it's hardly to get to "know" them as unique selves. But, people who have pets or work closely with animals often swear that they have unique personalities.

Having said all that, I don't believe in a coherent and metaphysical sense of "self." Along the lines of David Hume's "bundle theory of self" (that our sense of self rises from a collection of thoughts and sensations rather than an ontological entity that can be proved to exist) and the Buddhist concept of no-self (that all sense of material separation is an illusion), there's no single thing we can point to and say "that's the self" or "that's me!" Can you name a particular trait that one person has that no one else ever in the history of humanity has had? Even if you could do so, why should a single thing define a person? Who I am is constantly in flux - and while certain things may remain somewhat constant, even those are always being revised and updated as well.

From a practical point of view, though, we must act on the idea that we are distinct. To not do so would result in widespread confusion - and obviously, in most cases, we recognize someone as an individual, even when we have only limited information (I could tell by your walk before I saw you, style of writing, etc.). While genetically we may be very similar, a very small difference could still have a large impact on our lives (as we can see with genetic diseases). Compounded by this, different circumstances make us different, so that even those with the same genetic markers can express them in different ways (as someone who has a marker for cancer but doesn't develop cancer, whereas another with the same marker does develop cancer). Even identical twins can be a lot more different than is commonly assumed (I recently heard an NPR program on this - for example, how people were shocked when one twin is straight and the other is gay). Those in similar circumstances also turn out differently - one person in an abusive situation can turn into an abuser themselves, while another might develop a more compassionate mentality.

Personally, I believe uniqueness is an overrated, unrealistic, and impractical standard to judge people on - and often leads to oppressive thinking that believes certain groups (according to ability, gender, race, ethnicity, etc.) possess those traits, while others don't. On the other hand, sameness is just as unrealistic. Uniqueness is not necessarily the same as difference. A sense of identity that embraces both commonality and difference seems the most sensible approach - stressing interdependence and interconnectedness while also not flattening individuality.
What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way. --Winslow Homer
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
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8/8/2015 6:51:04 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:

1. Are environmental explanations really that much better at explaining the difference? Differences in environment are often quite minor, and therefore face the same problem. Sure, sometimes there's abuse, neglect, or traumatic life experiences which can shape someone's personality in a unique way, but this is pretty rare. Siblings from the same family often have very different personalities from the time they were little, even when the parents treat them basically the same, send them to the same schools, let them interact with the same friends, etc. If our personalities are actually that sensitive to our environments then who's to say that small genetic differences could not also be the explanation?

2. Twin studies show that our personalities have a strong genetic component. Identical twins reared apart tend to turn out far more similar than would be predicted by an environmental hypothesis.

3. Human behavior is far more complex than animal behavior, which leaves more room for variation...there's simply more that can be different. In evolutionary terms, humans have a wider range of "acceptable behaviors" than most animals because we're not confined to a single way of life, since our intelligence allows us to adapt in real time. Moreover, the complexity of human societies are able to accommodate for a wider variety of personalities because there are more roles to fill, and more than one way to succeed at life. On the other hand, ant behavior is pretty much the same across the board; a unique ant is a defective ant, and will quickly be selected out of the population.

4. Humans are remarkably similar in many ways.
fazz
Posts: 1,617
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8/8/2015 6:58:34 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 5:11:30 PM, derailed wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:
I've been reading a lot of stuff about animal societies lately, and the way people talk about them, it's as if each individual is just a biological repeat in slightly different circumstances, which is fair. So, for example, if one monkey is behaving differently from another it could be due to status or relationships or access to resources or whatever.

We don't talk about humans in this way. We talk about humans as if we each have these unique, internal traits that make us special. I'm wondering if that's just rubbish? That we all are, after all, more or less identical genetically, and any differences are minor and due mostly to circumstance.

But then, why the obsession about individual differences? Why do we invent all these traits and qualities to grade ourselves on when we're virtually identical with everyone else? Is it a useful thing for us to be doing or not?

I'd be curious to know the animal-related books you're discussing. I believe there are books and researchers out there that describe animals on a more individualized basis. Those who have gotten close to a particular group of animals, such as Farley Mowat in Never Cry Wolf, came to regard each individual as unique. But the reasons for adopting a more generalized view as you describe probably have to do with speciesm or an idea of unique personhood based on a level of sentience (that might be limited to humans or the great apes at most). It may also be an extension of a scientific perspective that seeks a detached, objective sensibility - which might well be extended to humans if they were under study (which I think you can find reflected in anthropological and psychological studies).

It also likely has to do with limited communication abilities. We have limited ability to ask animals questions and interpret their answers - we can't get to know their intentions, desires, and thoughts in a way that we can with humans, so it's hardly to get to "know" them as unique selves. But, people who have pets or work closely with animals often swear that they have unique personalities.

Having said all that, I don't believe in a coherent and metaphysical sense of "self." Along the lines of David Hume's "bundle theory of self" (that our sense of self rises from a collection of thoughts and sensations rather than an ontological entity that can be proved to exist) and the Buddhist concept of no-self (that all sense of material separation is an illusion), there's no single thing we can point to and say "that's the self" or "that's me!" Can you name a particular trait that one person has that no one else ever in the history of humanity has had? Even if you could do so, why should a single thing define a person? Who I am is constantly in flux - and while certain things may remain somewhat constant, even those are always being revised and updated as well.

From a practical point of view, though, we must act on the idea that we are distinct. To not do so would result in widespread confusion - and obviously, in most cases, we recognize someone as an individual, even when we have only limited information (I could tell by your walk before I saw you, style of writing, etc.). While genetically we may be very similar, a very small difference could still have a large impact on our lives (as we can see with genetic diseases). Compounded by this, different circumstances make us different, so that even those with the same genetic markers can express them in different ways (as someone who has a marker for cancer but doesn't develop cancer, whereas another with the same marker does develop cancer). Even identical twins can be a lot more different than is commonly assumed (I recently heard an NPR program on this - for example, how people were shocked when one twin is straight and the other is gay). Those in similar circumstances also turn out differently - one person in an abusive situation can turn into an abuser themselves, while another might develop a more compassionate mentality.

Personally, I believe uniqueness is an overrated, unrealistic, and impractical standard to judge people on - and often leads to oppressive thinking that believes certain groups (according to ability, gender, race, ethnicity, etc.) possess those traits, while others don't. On the other hand, sameness is just as unrealistic. Uniqueness is not necessarily the same as difference. A sense of identity that embraces both commonality and difference seems the most sensible approach - stressing interdependence and interconnectedness while also not flattening individuality.

Exactly.
fazz
Posts: 1,617
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8/8/2015 7:06:43 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 6:51:04 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:

1. Are environmental explanations really that much better at explaining the difference? Differences in environment are often quite minor, and therefore face the same problem. Sure, sometimes there's abuse, neglect, or traumatic life experiences which can shape someone's personality in a unique way, but this is pretty rare. Siblings from the same family often have very different personalities from the time they were little, even when the parents treat them basically the same, send them to the same schools, let them interact with the same friends, etc. If our personalities are actually that sensitive to our environments then who's to say that small genetic differences could not also be the explanation?

A nuclear family structure is sort of a "human" argument: http://www.salon.com...

2. Twin studies show that our personalities have a strong genetic component. Identical twins reared apart tend to turn out far more similar than would be predicted by an environmental hypothesis.

Same thing.

3. Human behavior is far more complex than animal behavior, which leaves more room for variation...

You have only compared small units where differences have most visibility. In the macro-world, humans are pretty much the same.
sadolite
Posts: 8,838
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8/8/2015 7:16:50 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:
I've been reading a lot of stuff about animal societies lately, and the way people talk about them, it's as if each individual is just a biological repeat in slightly different circumstances, which is fair. So, for example, if one monkey is behaving differently from another it could be due to status or relationships or access to resources or whatever.

We don't talk about humans in this way. We talk about humans as if we each have these unique, internal traits that make us special. I'm wondering if that's just rubbish? That we all are, after all, more or less identical genetically, and any differences are minor and due mostly to circumstance.

But then, why the obsession about individual differences? Why do we invent all these traits and qualities to grade ourselves on when we're virtually identical with everyone else? Is it a useful thing for us to be doing or not?

The human brain is unique to all animals. Animals react the same way to everything, Instinct. The human mind will react differently to the same situation. It has the ability to reason possible courses of action that are better than animal instinct reaction to everything.
It's not your views that divide us, it's what you think my views should be that divides us.

If you think I will give up my rights and forsake social etiquette to make you "FEEL" better you are sadly mistaken

If liberal democrats would just stop shooting people gun violence would drop by 90%
sadolite
Posts: 8,838
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8/8/2015 7:18:44 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 7:16:50 PM, sadolite wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:
I've been reading a lot of stuff about animal societies lately, and the way people talk about them, it's as if each individual is just a biological repeat in slightly different circumstances, which is fair. So, for example, if one monkey is behaving differently from another it could be due to status or relationships or access to resources or whatever.

We don't talk about humans in this way. We talk about humans as if we each have these unique, internal traits that make us special. I'm wondering if that's just rubbish? That we all are, after all, more or less identical genetically, and any differences are minor and due mostly to circumstance.

But then, why the obsession about individual differences? Why do we invent all these traits and qualities to grade ourselves on when we're virtually identical with everyone else? Is it a useful thing for us to be doing or not?

The human brain is unique to all animals. Animals react the same way to everything, Instinct. The human mind will react differently to the same situation. It has the ability to reason possible courses of action that are better than animal instinct reaction to everything.

This is what makes one human better than another, how they react to their environment and how they deal with what is in front of them.
It's not your views that divide us, it's what you think my views should be that divides us.

If you think I will give up my rights and forsake social etiquette to make you "FEEL" better you are sadly mistaken

If liberal democrats would just stop shooting people gun violence would drop by 90%
fazz
Posts: 1,617
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8/8/2015 7:43:49 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 7:18:44 PM, sadolite wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:16:50 PM, sadolite wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:
I've been reading a lot of stuff about animal societies lately, and the way people talk about them, it's as if each individual is just a biological repeat in slightly different circumstances, which is fair. So, for example, if one monkey is behaving differently from another it could be due to status or relationships or access to resources or whatever.

We don't talk about humans in this way. We talk about humans as if we each have these unique, internal traits that make us special. I'm wondering if that's just rubbish? That we all are, after all, more or less identical genetically, and any differences are minor and due mostly to circumstance.

But then, why the obsession about individual differences? Why do we invent all these traits and qualities to grade ourselves on when we're virtually identical with everyone else? Is it a useful thing for us to be doing or not?

The human brain is unique to all animals. Animals react the same way to everything, Instinct. The human mind will react differently to the same situation. It has the ability to reason possible courses of action that are better than animal instinct reaction to everything.

This is what makes one human better than another..

Animals have like penus-measuring contests also: https://youtu.be...

and how they deal with what is in front of them.
fazz
Posts: 1,617
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8/8/2015 7:48:33 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 7:06:43 PM, fazz wrote:
At 8/8/2015 6:51:04 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:

1. Are environmental explanations really that much better at explaining the difference? Differences in environment are often quite minor, and therefore face the same problem. Sure, sometimes there's abuse, neglect, or traumatic life experiences which can shape someone's personality in a unique way, but this is pretty rare. Siblings from the same family often have very different personalities from the time they were little, even when the parents treat them basically the same, send them to the same schools, let them interact with the same friends, etc. If our personalities are actually that sensitive to our environments then who's to say that small genetic differences could not also be the explanation?

A nuclear family structure is sort of a "human" argument..

Oops, I didn't realize this was by some douchebag travel-writer.

http://www.salon.com...

^Sorry ignore this article.
Garbanza
Posts: 1,997
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8/10/2015 4:26:51 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 4:18:38 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:
each individual is just a biological repeat in slightly different circumstances,

It seems like you're promoting either a kind of essentialism or a reductionist method but I think it's interesting and it'd be interesting to see how what you're talking about here would play out in action. It seems that the human sciences would love a set of principles which could ground this kind of standardized view but whether it's the marxist means of production, repressed memories or just reducing everything to behaviour or even just the human body, still there's very little predictive power in these theories compared to what we can do with animals / insects / objects. Understanding of human psychology is generally still very open ended and self-defined in my view simply because there isn't enough data to get beyond the realm of preference / opinion.

I don't understand why that would be. All the methods of ethology are available for studying human behavior. For example, in consumer psychology it's a bit like that when they observe shopping behavior, but researchers rarely stop at that. They go on to talk about traits and types and so on.

it's interesting to me because I've just been thinking about learning by differentiation. The idea is that we categorize objects, and notice features of objects, as a result of the nature of the task we're engaged in with them. For example, children learn the important features of letters based on their task of distinguishing the letters from each other. Non-discriminatory features of the letters are not noticed as much.

So I think, when we notice other features and qualities of humans, we will notice particularly features that are necessary for whatever task we are engaged in in relation to those humans. For example, if someone is aggressive, we will avoid them. The task is more likely to be avoiding the PERSON rather than avoiding the SITUATION, and so it's more useful to think of aggression as belonging to the person. Maybe. Whereas with animals, our interaction tasks are more often related to the animals as a group or to the situation - if we get attacked by monkeys in the jungle, for example, we'll avoid the situation rather than those particular monkeys - and so we are more likely to notice non-individual features.

I feel like this aspect of filtering is not really considered when thinking about reality. I got into an argument with an engineering type the other day and he was arguing that humans make pyramids (like in Egypt) and those pyramids are real, and you can see and touch them, etc., My argument - which filled him with rage - was that surfaces and shapes are important to tasks we have with manipulating objects. We construct a sense of pyramid and surface because we need to move objects around. Rather than vice-versa. And so I think our ideas of identity and individual difference are constructed because of our needs as social animals, and are therefore probably not particularly real.
Garbanza
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8/10/2015 4:35:28 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 6:51:04 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:

1. Are environmental explanations really that much better at explaining the difference? Differences in environment are often quite minor, and therefore face the same problem. Sure, sometimes there's abuse, neglect, or traumatic life experiences which can shape someone's personality in a unique way, but this is pretty rare. Siblings from the same family often have very different personalities from the time they were little, even when the parents treat them basically the same, send them to the same schools, let them interact with the same friends, etc. If our personalities are actually that sensitive to our environments then who's to say that small genetic differences could not also be the explanation?

Yes, but I suppose any "difference" between humans is a constructed difference. So I'm not really talking about environmental/genetic explanations, but rather whether individual differences are emphasized or considered important at all.

3. Human behavior is far more complex than animal behavior,

To us, anyway.

which leaves more room for variation...there's simply more that can be different. In evolutionary terms, humans have a wider range of "acceptable behaviors" than most animals because we're not confined to a single way of life, since our intelligence allows us to adapt in real time. Moreover, the complexity of human societies are able to accommodate for a wider variety of personalities because there are more roles to fill, and more than one way to succeed at life. On the other hand, ant behavior is pretty much the same across the board; a unique ant is a defective ant, and will quickly be selected out of the population.

People used to think that sort of thing about "primitive" societies. Not to say that ants aren't simple, just that we assume they are.

4. Humans are remarkably similar in many ways.

Why remarkably?
Garbanza
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8/10/2015 4:38:23 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 7:48:33 PM, fazz wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:06:43 PM, fazz wrote:
At 8/8/2015 6:51:04 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:

1. Are environmental explanations really that much better at explaining the difference? Differences in environment are often quite minor, and therefore face the same problem. Sure, sometimes there's abuse, neglect, or traumatic life experiences which can shape someone's personality in a unique way, but this is pretty rare. Siblings from the same family often have very different personalities from the time they were little, even when the parents treat them basically the same, send them to the same schools, let them interact with the same friends, etc. If our personalities are actually that sensitive to our environments then who's to say that small genetic differences could not also be the explanation?

A nuclear family structure is sort of a "human" argument..

Oops, I didn't realize this was by some douchebag travel-writer.

http://www.salon.com...

^Sorry ignore this article.

Ugh. I tried to read that book once and it really annoyed me. All that evolutionary psychology stuff is just so annoying.
Garbanza
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8/10/2015 4:48:06 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 5:11:30 PM, derailed wrote:
I'd be curious to know the animal-related books you're discussing. I believe there are books and researchers out there that describe animals on a more individualized basis.

You're right. Ethology has just put out a whole issue on animal personality. Still.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com...(ISSN)1439-0310/homepage/virtual_issues.htm#Animal_personality_and_reproduction

It also likely has to do with limited communication abilities. We have limited ability to ask animals questions and interpret their answers - we can't get to know their intentions, desires, and thoughts in a way that we can with humans, so it's hardly to get to "know" them as unique selves. But, people who have pets or work closely with animals often swear that they have unique personalities.

Yes. Although I think people don't necessarily have direct insight into their own intentions, desires and thoughts. I mean, people interpret their own desires from clues they have from watching their own actions and from their general cultural beliefs about what people think and do.

Having said all that, I don't believe in a coherent and metaphysical sense of "self." Along the lines of David Hume's "bundle theory of self" (that our sense of self rises from a collection of thoughts and sensations rather than an ontological entity that can be proved to exist) and the Buddhist concept of no-self (that all sense of material separation is an illusion), there's no single thing we can point to and say "that's the self" or "that's me!" Can you name a particular trait that one person has that no one else ever in the history of humanity has had? Even if you could do so, why should a single thing define a person? :Who I am is constantly in flux - and while certain things may remain somewhat constant, even those are always being revised and updated as well.

From a practical point of view, though, we must act on the idea that we are distinct. To not do so would result in widespread confusion - and obviously, in most cases, we recognize someone as an individual, even when we have only limited information (I could tell by your walk before I saw you, style of writing, etc.). While genetically we may be very similar, a very small difference could still have a large impact on our lives (as we can see with genetic diseases). Compounded by this, different circumstances make us different, so that even those with the same genetic markers can express them in different ways (as someone who has a marker for cancer but doesn't develop cancer, whereas another with the same marker does develop cancer). Even identical twins can be a lot more different than is commonly assumed (I recently heard an NPR program on this - for example, how people were shocked when one twin is straight and the other is gay). Those in similar circumstances also turn out differently - one person in an abusive situation can turn into an abuser themselves, while another might develop a more compassionate mentality.

Personally, I believe uniqueness is an overrated, unrealistic, and impractical standard to judge people on - and often leads to oppressive thinking that believes certain groups (according to ability, gender, race, ethnicity, etc.) possess those traits, while others don't. On the other hand, sameness is just as unrealistic. Uniqueness is not necessarily the same as difference. A sense of identity that embraces both commonality and difference seems the most sensible approach - stressing interdependence and interconnectedness while also not flattening individuality.

I'm not sure about this idea of uniqueness or what you mean by it. Personally, I don't think uniqueness can exist in the absence of an observer who is judging the person/animal to be unique in a particular way. That is, the relationship between the observer and observed is what creates the uniqueness. But maybe you mean something else?
Garbanza
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8/10/2015 4:57:34 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 7:16:50 PM, sadolite wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:
I've been reading a lot of stuff about animal societies lately, and the way people talk about them, it's as if each individual is just a biological repeat in slightly different circumstances, which is fair. So, for example, if one monkey is behaving differently from another it could be due to status or relationships or access to resources or whatever.

We don't talk about humans in this way. We talk about humans as if we each have these unique, internal traits that make us special. I'm wondering if that's just rubbish? That we all are, after all, more or less identical genetically, and any differences are minor and due mostly to circumstance.

But then, why the obsession about individual differences? Why do we invent all these traits and qualities to grade ourselves on when we're virtually identical with everyone else? Is it a useful thing for us to be doing or not?

The human brain is unique to all animals. Animals react the same way to everything, Instinct. The human mind will react differently to the same situation. It has the ability to reason possible courses of action that are better than animal instinct reaction to everything.

If we reason and that leads to making a bridge, say, we can't expect that bridge to impress other species. We've created something that has only human significance. And I suppose all species do that - they create stuff that has intraspecies significance.
kp98
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8/10/2015 9:20:40 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I think we are lot more sensitive to differences between people than between other animals.

If you look down the street you will see fat people, thin people, good-looking people, ugly people, people with long legs and short legs, people with fat necks and thin necks... but if you look at a herd of sheep or cows they all look pretty much the same.

Which makes me wonder if people are all as similiar to a sheep as sheep are to people, and if sheep are as individual to sheep as people are to people.

Unless humans have greater genetic variation than other animals (which doesn't seem to be the case) then our apparent individuality and other animals apparent uniformity isn't real - it's an artficact of our sensitivity to small details when it comes to other people.
fazz
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8/10/2015 6:48:32 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 4:38:23 AM, Garbanza wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:48:33 PM, fazz wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:06:43 PM, fazz wrote:
At 8/8/2015 6:51:04 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:

1. Are environmental explanations really that much better at explaining the difference? Differences in environment are often quite minor, and therefore face the same problem. Sure, sometimes there's abuse, neglect, or traumatic life experiences which can shape someone's personality in a unique way, but this is pretty rare. Siblings from the same family often have very different personalities from the time they were little, even when the parents treat them basically the same, send them to the same schools, let them interact with the same friends, etc. If our personalities are actually that sensitive to our environments then who's to say that small genetic differences could not also be the explanation?

A nuclear family structure is sort of a "human" argument..

Oops, I didn't realize this was by some douchebag travel-writer.

http://www.salon.com...

^Sorry ignore this article.

Ugh. I tried to read that book once and it really annoyed me. All that evolutionary psychology stuff is just so annoying.

Yeah, your right about that much. A lot of psyhcologists were like oh no! f-that.. I am writing a rebuttall to the "dawn" book, but then after six months they just forget. The author is not even a real psychologist but a Para-psych, the type that writes X-files novels and such. Me thinks, evolutionary psychology is a dead end much like psychology itself. Why else would they back off from denouncing a clear hoax?
fazz
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8/10/2015 6:52:19 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 4:48:06 AM, Garbanza wrote:
At 8/8/2015 5:11:30 PM, derailed wrote:
I'd be curious to know the animal-related books you're discussing. I believe there are books and researchers out there that describe animals on a more individualized basis.

You're right. Ethology has just put out a whole issue on animal personality. Still.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com...(ISSN)1439-0310/homepage/virtual_issues.htm#Animal_personality_and_reproduction

^THIS PAGE IS BROKEN. NOT FOUND.

It also likely has to do with limited communication abilities. We have limited ability to ask animals questions and interpret their answers - we can't get to know their intentions, desires, and thoughts in a way that we can with humans, so it's hardly to get to "know" them as unique selves. But, people who have pets or work closely with animals often swear that they have unique personalities.
derailed
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8/10/2015 8:13:30 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 4:48:06 AM, Garbanza wrote:
At 8/8/2015 5:11:30 PM, derailed wrote:
Yes. Although I think people don't necessarily have direct insight into their own intentions, desires and thoughts. I mean, people interpret their own desires from clues they have from watching their own actions and from their general cultural beliefs about what people think and do.

Sure, everything we know about each other and even ourselves is based on interpretation rather than direct truth. And of course, people lie, even to themselves. Still, this is much more direct than what we can get from animals. My point is that a sense of individuality (or whatever adjective we want to apply - complexity, sentience, etc.) probably has more to do with our perception and communication rather than some inherent quality. I've gotten into arguments with psychologists who believe that they can "know" whether animals have self-awareness, sentience, and other mental properties based on their behavior. I say we can make educated guesses, but I believe these to be far more speculative than observable/knowable. It makes a lot of sense to believe that non-human apes have greater sentience than insects, for example. But we don't really "know" this. Now certain beliefs are necessary for practical reasons, unless you're going to live the life of an austere Buddhist monk and swear to not harming all life. However, I do believe that recognizing the limits of our knowledge could lead to less destructive tendencies.

I'm not sure about this idea of uniqueness or what you mean by it. Personally, I don't think uniqueness can exist in the absence of an observer who is judging the person/animal to be unique in a particular way. That is, the relationship between the observer and observed is what creates the uniqueness. But maybe you mean something else?

And I'm not sure what your question refers to - all I wrote was critical of using "uniqueness" as a standard of judgment. All adjectival means of comparison depend on human observation, of course, and cannot be said to be "inherent" properties. And that applies to notions of sameness as much as uniqueness. What we might consider sameness, a species with higher degrees of precision, perception, and measurement capabilities, might judge to be highly distinct.

My point in the last paragraph was that "uniqueness" is a common mainstream standard that doesn't appeal to me or hold up to logical scrutiny. However, "difference" is not the same as uniqueness - it's a way of acknowledging variation without needing to view individuals as absolutely singular. We need some concept of identity that allows us to distinguish between individuals as well as groups to recognize their value and contributions, while also not claiming them to be completely separate or higher/lower on a value scale. Difference fulfills this better than uniqueness does.
What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way. --Winslow Homer
derailed
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8/10/2015 8:34:50 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Also note that I'm only talking in terms of identity here - not judging behavior, usefulness, morality, etc. Aesthetic and ethical considerations are separate matters, and while I would similarly argue there is no "unique" aesthetic or ethical quality, hierarchical judgments are inevitable in those systems. The problem I see is that aesthetic and ethical judgments are too often connected with identity-based value judgments (which might involve standards of uniqueness or sameness). This ranges from the trivial to life-threatening. We might judge something automatically, for example, based on its "genre" (it's horror, romance, rap, country, etc. rather than "art"). Or we make aesthetic judgments based on physical features - fat people, people with facial scarring, etc. are automatically "ugly" because we assign that value to a group rather than on an individual basis. And of course that leads to all kinds of problematic social judgments, sometimes unconscious.

Here you see the danger of sameness - it isn't necessarily a positive value in and of itself. If all I believe all members of a group to be the same, and I think all members of that group are "bad," then obviously sameness does not work in their favor.

Even if such identity-based judgments were possible, there is no necessary connection between them and aesthetic or ethical values. The solution is not to view everyone as unique or everyone as the same, but to be more flexible and egalitarian in our ways of conferring value, and not attach those values to supposed inherent properties.
What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way. --Winslow Homer
sdavio
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8/11/2015 7:14:06 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 4:26:51 AM, Garbanza wrote:
At 8/8/2015 4:18:38 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:
each individual is just a biological repeat in slightly different circumstances,

It seems like you're promoting either a kind of essentialism or a reductionist method but I think it's interesting and it'd be interesting to see how what you're talking about here would play out in action. It seems that the human sciences would love a set of principles which could ground this kind of standardized view but whether it's the marxist means of production, repressed memories or just reducing everything to behaviour or even just the human body, still there's very little predictive power in these theories compared to what we can do with animals / insects / objects. Understanding of human psychology is generally still very open ended and self-defined in my view simply because there isn't enough data to get beyond the realm of preference / opinion.

I don't understand why that would be. All the methods of ethology are available for studying human behavior. For example, in consumer psychology it's a bit like that when they observe shopping behavior, but researchers rarely stop at that. They go on to talk about traits and types and so on.

If I understand, this would mean that rather than saying something like "This person has a tendency to get angry", we'd only use descriptions more like "All humans get angry generally in situation X."

I think what this comes down to is how much we know about a given thing. If we have a 'complete' understanding about something, then our description seems to become more universal, because we can 'zoom' our perspective to see the whole at once; where for more complex phenomena we still don't fully understand, we are only viewing a certain angle or edge of it at any given time. I can talk easily about circles because the concept of a circle is very simple, and thus I can effectively focus my mind on what is potentially every given instance of a circle in the universe.

For human beings, my understanding (my 'definition') of the concept is constantly challenged in that I'm always faced with a new angle of the object which I hadn't yet involved with the concept. If I 'close' my definition to the point of making universal statements about 'humans', I will be essentially leaving out a vast amount of information and, either limiting my discourse about them to very modest statements, or assuming that there will never arise any new situation to contradict my current definition.

This difference between new and old aspects of the definition encompasses the whole concept of "form vs content." The 'form' is just those aspects of the definition which I can 'enclose' in my mind without leaving anything out. That's why, given their simplicity, I can use concepts like geometrical shapes or numbers in such a way that they are nothing but form (eg, in the sense of numbers where someone might say that there are "no actual numbers"), while they can also be fully content in the sense that there can be a physical drawing of a circle which is 'a circle'. The content is the aspect of the concept which must remain 'open' because there are new aspects to find within it; with a circular tire, it has the form "circle" but its many spokes or the patterns on its edge constitute part of its "content" because they are in some way too complex for me to conceptualize without leaving something out.

Eg, the difference between a dictionary and an encyclopaedia is just the degree / nature of limitation in the description: the fullest description would be the 'actual object' which is just all of the possible information about it. For instance, the fullest "definition" of a 'bike' would be every moment of every bike in the universe.

it's interesting to me because I've just been thinking about learning by differentiation. The idea is that we categorize objects, and notice features of objects, as a result of the nature of the task we're engaged in with them. For example, children learn the important features of letters based on their task of distinguishing the letters from each other. Non-discriminatory features of the letters are not noticed as much.

Yeah, this is in Saussure's structuralism as "difference"; he says that for instance if a child needs to learn the concept "pink", it would be more useful to, rather than presenting a whole lot of different objects which are all similarly pink, it's better to show them a lot of the same object (eg teddy bears) in different colours, and point out the pink one.

This concept is interesting and really seems to, if it's true, challenge the concept of "universe" or even God (especially pantheism). If an idea is defined only by reference to what is excepted from it, then the striving for totality can never reach a satisfying end. This is my understanding of nihilism at the most basic level: there can be no concept of "substance" which is commonly underlying all objects because there is nothing we could point toward in order to differentiate it.

So I think, when we notice other features and qualities of humans, we will notice particularly features that are necessary for whatever task we are engaged in in relation to those humans. For example, if someone is aggressive, we will avoid them. The task is more likely to be avoiding the PERSON rather than avoiding the SITUATION, and so it's more useful to think of aggression as belonging to the person. Maybe. Whereas with animals, our interaction tasks are more often related to the animals as a group or to the situation - if we get attacked by monkeys in the jungle, for example, we'll avoid the situation rather than those particular monkeys - and so we are more likely to notice non-individual features.

I feel like this aspect of filtering is not really considered when thinking about reality. I got into an argument with an engineering type the other day and he was arguing that humans make pyramids (like in Egypt) and those pyramids are real, and you can see and touch them, etc., My argument - which filled him with rage - was that surfaces and shapes are important to tasks we have with manipulating objects. We construct a sense of pyramid and surface because we need to move objects around. Rather than vice-versa. And so I think our ideas of identity and individual difference are constructed because of our needs as social animals, and are therefore probably not particularly real.

It depends where we draw the line as to what constitutes 'reality'. It's sometimes easy to forget how recently religion was the driving force and that that is where the language and frameworks we're all using largely came from; so that a concept like 'real' is almost impossible to divorce from this religious concept of absolute totality. We thus see the label as preceding the actual instance (the universal as preceding the particular) which is really just the understanding preceding experience. If the "pyramid" precedes my individual experiences of it or purposes regarding it, then we necessarily end up with a kind of totalizing mindset. This is where many people are at now: It's impossible not to notice how many philosophies and ideologies work by setting up a kind of "circuit" of concepts within the mind which feed upon this concept of totality and mutually reinforce each other. If I have a set-in-stone paradigm of "reality" in such a philosophy then I can just subsume any new data into my given system of universals and never have to deal with substantially changing my perspective. So these people can simulate for themselves a kind of deification at the cost of turning their minds into a kind of auto-processing factory for information. The problem is that we can't just jump straight out of this language and invent a new one; the new paradigm needs somehow to evolve out of the old.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
Heterodox
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8/11/2015 8:01:57 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:
I've been reading a lot of stuff about animal societies lately, and the way people talk about them, it's as if each individual is just a biological repeat in slightly different circumstances, which is fair. So, for example, if one monkey is behaving differently from another it could be due to status or relationships or access to resources or whatever.

We don't talk about humans in this way. We talk about humans as if we each have these unique, internal traits that make us special. I'm wondering if that's just rubbish? That we all are, after all, more or less identical genetically, and any differences are minor and due mostly to circumstance.

But then, why the obsession about individual differences? Why do we invent all these traits and qualities to grade ourselves on when we're virtually identical with everyone else? Is it a useful thing for us to be doing or not?

I don't really know where you see this obsession with individual differences.
Garbanza
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8/13/2015 4:54:37 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 7:14:06 AM, sdavio wrote:
If I understand, this would mean that rather than saying something like "This person has a tendency to get angry", we'd only use descriptions more like "All humans get angry generally in situation X."

I think what this comes down to is how much we know about a given thing. If we have a 'complete' understanding about something, then our description seems to become more universal, because we can 'zoom' our perspective to see the whole at once; where for more complex phenomena we still don't fully understand, we are only viewing a certain angle or edge of it at any given time. I can talk easily about circles because the concept of a circle is very simple, and thus I can effectively focus my mind on what is potentially every given instance of a circle in the universe.

For human beings, my understanding (my 'definition') of the concept is constantly challenged in that I'm always faced with a new angle of the object which I hadn't yet involved with the concept. If I 'close' my definition to the point of making universal statements about 'humans', I will be essentially leaving out a vast amount of information and, either limiting my discourse about them to very modest statements, or assuming that there will never arise any new situation to contradict my current definition.

This difference between new and old aspects of the definition encompasses the whole concept of "form vs content." The 'form' is just those aspects of the definition which I can 'enclose' in my mind without leaving anything out. That's why, given their simplicity, I can use concepts like geometrical shapes or numbers in such a way that they are nothing but form (eg, in the sense of numbers where someone might say that there are "no actual numbers"), while they can also be fully content in the sense that there can be a physical drawing of a circle which is 'a circle'. The content is the aspect of the concept which must remain 'open' because there are new aspects to find within it; with a circular tire, it has the form "circle" but its many spokes or the patterns on its edge constitute part of its "content" because they are in some way too complex for me to conceptualize without leaving something out.

Eg, the difference between a dictionary and an encyclopaedia is just the degree / nature of limitation in the description: the fullest description would be the 'actual object' which is just all of the possible information about it. For instance, the fullest "definition" of a 'bike' would be every moment of every bike in the universe.

I don't really understand this. You seem to be assuming that complete knowledge exists, when it doesn't. Complete knowledge of "circle" doesn't exist because circles don't really exist, and so it's an illusion. I think you agree with me about this, and so I'm not sure what point you're making here.

Yeah, this is in Saussure's structuralism as "difference"; he says that for instance if a child needs to learn the concept "pink", it would be more useful to, rather than presenting a whole lot of different objects which are all similarly pink, it's better to show them a lot of the same object (eg teddy bears) in different colours, and point out the pink one.

This concept is interesting and really seems to, if it's true, challenge the concept of "universe" or even God (especially pantheism). If an idea is defined only by reference to what is excepted from it, then the striving for totality can never reach a satisfying end. This is my understanding of nihilism at the most basic level: there can be no concept of "substance" which is commonly underlying all objects because there is nothing we could point toward in order to differentiate it.

That's really interesting. I didn't know that about Saussure's structuralism, and you've made me really happy by telling me that. Thanks.

But actually, I'm trying to say something a bit different, which is that it's the TASK that drives the differentiation. The assumption of this is that there's approaching infinity ways of differentiating the world into parts, and we choose particular ways that are adapted to the tasks we complete as humans. In some ways this is flexible, as with children learning the letters, and adaptable. In other ways, it's biologically driven. For example, our visual systems are designed to preference edges of objects, particular types of movement and color, etc. The point I'm trying to make is that it's the TASK that comes first, and all understanding/cognition/emotion etc. is slave to the action, and even, in a sense, subsequent to it.

So I think, when we notice other features and qualities of humans, we will notice particularly features that are necessary for whatever task we are engaged in in relation to those humans. For example, if someone is aggressive, we will avoid them. The task is more likely to be avoiding the PERSON rather than avoiding the SITUATION, and so it's more useful to think of aggression as belonging to the person. Maybe. Whereas with animals, our interaction tasks are more often related to the animals as a group or to the situation - if we get attacked by monkeys in the jungle, for example, we'll avoid the situation rather than those particular monkeys - and so we are more likely to notice non-individual features.

I feel like this aspect of filtering is not really considered when thinking about reality. I got into an argument with an engineering type the other day and he was arguing that humans make pyramids (like in Egypt) and those pyramids are real, and you can see and touch them, etc., My argument - which filled him with rage - was that surfaces and shapes are important to tasks we have with manipulating objects. We construct a sense of pyramid and surface because we need to move objects around. Rather than vice-versa. And so I think our ideas of identity and individual difference are constructed because of our needs as social animals, and are therefore probably not particularly real.

It depends where we draw the line as to what constitutes 'reality'. It's sometimes easy to forget how recently religion was the driving force and that that is where the language and frameworks we're all using largely came from; so that a concept like 'real' is almost impossible to divorce from this religious concept of absolute totality. We thus see the label as preceding the actual instance (the universal as preceding the particular) which is really just the understanding preceding experience. If the "pyramid" precedes my individual experiences of it or purposes regarding it, then we necessarily end up with a kind of totalizing mindset. This is where many people are at now: It's impossible not to notice how many philosophies and ideologies work by setting up a kind of "circuit" of concepts within the mind which feed upon this concept of totality and mutually reinforce each other.

What do you mean by circuit of concepts?

If I have a set-in-stone paradigm of "reality" in such a philosophy then I can just subsume any new data into my given system of universals and never have to deal with substantially changing my perspective. So these people can simulate for themselves a kind of deification at the cost of turning their minds into a kind of auto-processing factory for information. The problem is that we can't just jump straight out of this language and invent a new one; the new paradigm.

I think I understand what you mean. Lately, I've been thinking of "reality" as a language thing, and when people insist that it exists, they're really just laying down an axiom, or a marker of assumptions or framework for the conversation. Which is okay. We don't need to assume that "reality" means the same thing every time it's used
Garbanza
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8/13/2015 4:56:38 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 8:01:57 AM, Heterodox wrote:
At 8/8/2015 7:20:00 AM, Garbanza wrote:
I've been reading a lot of stuff about animal societies lately, and the way people talk about them, it's as if each individual is just a biological repeat in slightly different circumstances, which is fair. So, for example, if one monkey is behaving differently from another it could be due to status or relationships or access to resources or whatever.

We don't talk about humans in this way. We talk about humans as if we each have these unique, internal traits that make us special. I'm wondering if that's just rubbish? That we all are, after all, more or less identical genetically, and any differences are minor and due mostly to circumstance.

But then, why the obsession about individual differences? Why do we invent all these traits and qualities to grade ourselves on when we're virtually identical with everyone else? Is it a useful thing for us to be doing or not?

I don't really know where you see this obsession with individual differences.

I think that noticing individual differences is a good thing, even when it's obviously constructed. Actually, I think that the perception of importance and uniqueness to individual people (i.e. human relationships) is the foundation of healthy mental functioning.
Garbanza
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8/13/2015 5:01:16 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 8:13:30 PM, derailed wrote:
At 8/10/2015 4:48:06 AM, Garbanza wrote:
At 8/8/2015 5:11:30 PM, derailed wrote:
Yes. Although I think people don't necessarily have direct insight into their own intentions, desires and thoughts. I mean, people interpret their own desires from clues they have from watching their own actions and from their general cultural beliefs about what people think and do.

Sure, everything we know about each other and even ourselves is based on interpretation rather than direct truth. And of course, people lie, even to themselves. Still, this is much more direct than what we can get from animals. My point is that a sense of individuality (or whatever adjective we want to apply - complexity, sentience, etc.) probably has more to do with our perception and communication rather than some inherent quality. I've gotten into arguments with psychologists who believe that they can "know" whether animals have self-awareness, sentience, and other mental properties based on their behavior. I say we can make educated guesses, but I believe these to be far more speculative than observable/knowable. It makes a lot of sense to believe that non-human apes have greater sentience than insects, for example.

Yes, but obviously concepts such as "sentience" are based on our knowledge of humans, with humans as a benchmark for what it means. So it would be definitionally impossible for a non-human to be more sentient than a human. Unless you can explain what greater than human sentience would be like?

But we don't really "know" this. Now certain beliefs are necessary for practical reasons, unless you're going to live the life of an austere Buddhist monk and swear to not harming all life.

Exactly. The task is everything.

However, I do believe that recognizing the limits of our knowledge could lead to less destructive tendencies.

I'm not sure about this idea of uniqueness or what you mean by it. Personally, I don't think uniqueness can exist in the absence of an observer who is judging the person/animal to be unique in a particular way. That is, the relationship between the observer and observed is what creates the uniqueness. But maybe you mean something else?

And I'm not sure what your question refers to - all I wrote was critical of using "uniqueness" as a standard of judgment. All adjectival means of comparison depend on human observation, of course, and cannot be said to be "inherent" properties. And that applies to notions of sameness as much as uniqueness. What we might consider sameness, a species with higher degrees of precision, perception, and measurement capabilities, might judge to be highly distinct.

My point in the last paragraph was that "uniqueness" is a common mainstream standard that doesn't appeal to me or hold up to logical scrutiny. However, "difference" is not the same as uniqueness - it's a way of acknowledging variation without needing to view individuals as absolutely singular. We need some concept of identity that allows us to distinguish between individuals as well as groups to recognize their value and contributions, while also not claiming them to be completely separate or higher/lower on a value scale. Difference fulfills this better than uniqueness does.

That makes sense. I think I see what you mean.
Garbanza
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8/13/2015 5:04:19 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 6:52:19 PM, fazz wrote:
At 8/10/2015 4:48:06 AM, Garbanza wrote:
At 8/8/2015 5:11:30 PM, derailed wrote:
I'd be curious to know the animal-related books you're discussing. I believe there are books and researchers out there that describe animals on a more individualized basis.

You're right. Ethology has just put out a whole issue on animal personality. Still.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com...(ISSN)1439-0310/homepage/virtual_issues.htm#Animal_personality_and_reproduction

^THIS PAGE IS BROKEN. NOT FOUND.


Sorry! DDO can't handle hyphens. It was just the most recent edition of ethology. I only put it because I went there to find an article to illustrate the idea that animals are not viewed as having individual personalities, and they had a whole edition on the individual personalities of animals. It was funny.
derailed
Posts: 41
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8/13/2015 6:30:41 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 5:01:16 AM, Garbanza wrote:

Sure, everything we know about each other and even ourselves is based on interpretation rather than direct truth. And of course, people lie, even to themselves. Still, this is much more direct than what we can get from animals. My point is that a sense of individuality (or whatever adjective we want to apply - complexity, sentience, etc.) probably has more to do with our perception and communication rather than some inherent quality. I've gotten into arguments with psychologists who believe that they can "know" whether animals have self-awareness, sentience, and other mental properties based on their behavior. I say we can make educated guesses, but I believe these to be far more speculative than observable/knowable. It makes a lot of sense to believe that non-human apes have greater sentience than insects, for example.

Yes, but obviously concepts such as "sentience" are based on our knowledge of humans, with humans as a benchmark for what it means. So it would be definitionally impossible for a non-human to be more sentient than a human. Unless you can explain what greater than human sentience would be like?

I don't think the quality of sentience is necessarily definitionally limited so much as normatively so. I don't see anything about its basic definition that requires humans to be the exemplar of this. If we take the basic definition that sentience is subjective perception, the ability to "feel" or "suffer" (to experience "qualia"), we can see that one cannot in fact speak to the degree of sentience in another being with any amount of certainty; it is, by definition, subjective.

Again, it makes a kind of sense to say that great apes have greater sentience based on our observations - but as you say, this is because we use humans as a benchmark. If we were to view things from the perspective of an insect, we might not experience "qualia" (suffer) in the same way that humans and great apes suffer, based on neural complexity. But insects rely much more on chemicals for communication than apes; who is to say that their experience of that (or interference with it) does not constitute just as "intense" an experience of qualia as our somewhat different way of processing information through neurons?

I'm just thinking through things here - obviously, I'm not saying I believe in treating bugs the same as great apes (or humans!). But it should give us pause in how we act toward all life. Although I'm not religious at all, it's sort of like the Jewish story of the 12 people who must not be hurt lest the world should end; no one would ever know who these people are, so you should endeavor to never hurt another, in case it's one of them.

As to a greater form of sentience than humans, that's easy. An alien species that had a greater capacity for processing information. For example, imagine a species that possessed clairvoyance or telepathy, and thus had greater access to the suffering of others. If you don't like the moral implications of that, you could also imagine a species that naturally processes information at a subatomic level.
What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way. --Winslow Homer
sdavio
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8/13/2015 7:48:42 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 4:54:37 AM, Garbanza wrote:
I don't really understand this. You seem to be assuming that complete knowledge exists, when it doesn't. Complete knowledge of "circle" doesn't exist because circles don't really exist, and so it's an illusion. I think you agree with me about this, and so I'm not sure what point you're making here.

The way I'm talking about knowledge is as a kind of gradation. The difference between 'circle' and 'human being' and 'justice' or anything else is in levels of acquaintance, and thus in how specific the definition can be. This isn't 'ultimate' knowledge in the 'realist' / theist sense of being totally undeniable. I wouldn't say that circles 'don't exist'; if you mean to say that an ultimate Platonic version of 'circle' doesn't exist, then I'd say that no such version of anything exists, which is why knowledge must be moved out of the realm of absolutes if we want to salvage the word..

That's really interesting. I didn't know that about Saussure's structuralism, and you've made me really happy by telling me that. Thanks.

But actually, I'm trying to say something a bit different, which is that it's the TASK that drives the differentiation. The assumption of this is that there's approaching infinity ways of differentiating the world into parts, and we choose particular ways that are adapted to the tasks we complete as humans. In some ways this is flexible, as with children learning the letters, and adaptable. In other ways, it's biologically driven. For example, our visual systems are designed to preference edges of objects, particular types of movement and color, etc. The point I'm trying to make is that it's the TASK that comes first, and all understanding/cognition/emotion etc. is slave to the action, and even, in a sense, subsequent to it.

I would see the two as co-existing, and even being in a sense impossible to completely separate. The difficulty we'd face if social science attempted to completely 'take on' your method is that, in order to move forward with the analysis, we'd somehow need to strictly delineate and identify those "subsequent" aspects of action which are considered reflective, and thus compromise the analysis, out and away from the pure realm of 'task'. Can we find anywhere a human task which is not already deeply involved with cognition or understanding?

What do you mean by circuit of concepts?

An ideology which consists of several concepts which are mutually-reinforcing and thus work together to solidify the world-view. A republican might think, "If there were less illegal immigrants, there would be more jobs," and "If there were more jobs, the economy would be better, and things would be cheaper, and there'd be less crime" etc etc, and so on until the list approximates a complete world-view, and this series of opinions would form a kind of 'web' into which all their opinions would fit. The web doesn't need necessarily to be derived from reality; all that matters is that each piece 'fits' with the others surrounding it.

It's like a 'circuit' in that it functions on an internal logic which is independent of the outside world. Any new data is filtered through that internal system to categorize everything to fit the already-accepted logic.

If I have a set-in-stone paradigm of "reality" in such a philosophy then I can just subsume any new data into my given system of universals and never have to deal with substantially changing my perspective. So these people can simulate for themselves a kind of deification at the cost of turning their minds into a kind of auto-processing factory for information. The problem is that we can't just jump straight out of this language and invent a new one; the new paradigm.

I think I understand what you mean. Lately, I've been thinking of "reality" as a language thing, and when people insist that it exists, they're really just laying down an axiom, or a marker of assumptions or framework for the conversation. Which is okay. We don't need to assume that "reality" means the same thing every time it's used

Totally agree with this part.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
Garbanza
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8/13/2015 12:05:48 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 7:48:42 AM, sdavio wrote:
The way I'm talking about knowledge is as a kind of gradation. The difference between 'circle' and 'human being' and 'justice' or anything else is in levels of acquaintance, and thus in how specific the definition can be. This isn't 'ultimate' knowledge in the 'realist' / theist sense of being totally undeniable. I wouldn't say that circles 'don't exist'; if you mean to say that an ultimate Platonic version of 'circle' doesn't exist, then I'd say that no such version of anything exists, which is why knowledge must be moved out of the realm of absolutes if we want to salvage the word..

I think I see what you mean. We do have an idea that you can know more or less about something, which means that there must be a kind of gradation. I think it's mostly a comparison, though. So I know I know less about philosophy because I can see you know more because of the way you cite philosophers and ideas. I know less compared with you, and one day I could know more, and my knowledge might resemble yours. Or, I suppose, I could know I know more than I used to, which is another type of comparison.

But I think the standard of knowledge is grounded against either task or relationship. So for example, if our task was killing lizards and you knew how to do it better, we would recognize "better" because of its link to the task. Whereas with philosophy, we recognize "better" because your ideas resemble those of authorities in philosophy, and your ideas resemble standards approved of generally so it's grounded in relationships. Otherwise, how would we know that you know more than me?

I would see the two as co-existing, and even being in a sense impossible to completely separate. The difficulty we'd face if social science attempted to completely 'take on' your method is that, in order to move forward with the analysis, we'd somehow need to strictly delineate and identify those "subsequent" aspects of action which are considered reflective, and thus compromise the analysis, out and away from the pure realm of 'task'. Can we find anywhere a human task which is not already deeply involved with cognition or understanding?

I suppose not, but I think it is impossible to find some kind of cognition and understanding that is NOT deeply implicated in task, because that is what they are FOR. So we perceive the shape and surfaces of objects because we have the task of manipulating them. Someone who works in a fish factory will be able to perceive qualities of fish and discriminate types of fish, and have quite different cognitive-emotional responses to fish than someone who barely interacts with them. Children learn by playing and interacting with people, which means that if they don't play and interact, they don't learn. Their minds don't develop. So I agree that you can't separate task and discrimination/cognition, and actually that's my point, that thinking and understanding ONLY exists in the context of task. Or maybe also relationships, although you can possibly categorize social interaction as a task as well.

But that's what got me thinking, because in ethology, nobody assumes that the gazelles have deliberately chosen the grassy plains because they are thinking about the possibility of leopards jumping out at them. That's just not really an issue. Gazelles graze on the plains away from tall vegetation. The lived experience of gazelles, how they feel about grass, vegetation, their cultural explanations for their routines of grazing, traumatic experiences in the past etc., is neither here nor there. They can't talk, obviously, but even if they could, all that stuff would be subsequent to the action of grazing on the plains. That is, we understand them by their actions.

What do you mean by circuit of concepts?

An ideology which consists of several concepts which are mutually-reinforcing and thus work together to solidify the world-view. A republican might think, "If there were less illegal immigrants, there would be more jobs," and "If there were more jobs, the economy would be better, and things would be cheaper, and there'd be less crime" etc etc, and so on until the list approximates a complete world-view, and this series of opinions would form a kind of 'web' into which all their opinions would fit. The web doesn't need necessarily to be derived from reality; all that matters is that each piece 'fits' with the others surrounding it.

It's like a 'circuit' in that it functions on an internal logic which is independent of the outside world. Any new data is filtered through that internal system to categorize everything to fit the already-accepted logic.

That makes sense.
Garbanza
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8/13/2015 12:10:59 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 6:30:41 AM, derailed wrote:
As to a greater form of sentience than humans, that's easy. An alien species that had a greater capacity for processing information. For example, imagine a species that possessed clairvoyance or telepathy, and thus had greater access to the suffering of others. If you don't like the moral implications of that, you could also imagine a species that naturally processes information at a subatomic level.

Yes, I suppose so.