Posts Tagged ‘idle minds’

Why don’t dogs do philosophy?

June 30, 2021

Philosophy is a product of idle minds.

First and foremost, minds are concerned with survival and the basic necessities of staying alive. Breathing, escaping predators, food and shelter – in that order. Having experienced severe asthma attacks many years ago, I put breathing unequivocally first. When struggling for breath there is no other thing, no pain, no emotion, no other higher-order need which can, or does, occupy the mind. The entire focus of the brain and the body is solely on getting the next gulp of air. It is only after the basic physiological need are satisfactorily met that the mind has the time over to be idle. It is only then, and providing that the body is not so exhausted or under physical stress such that the mind does not embrace sleep, that the mind feels free to wander down non-essential – but interesting – paths. And that leads to philosophy.

The word philosophy originates from the Greek meaning for love of wisdom. In practice, it is the formulation of fundamental, unnecessary, unanswerable questions about life, existence, reality and everything. Having formulated the unanswerable question, philosophy then spends hours of thought, circular arguments, a mountain of verbiage, a flood of circumlocution and reams of paper in proposing unsatisfactory answers. The greater the number of paradoxes that can be introduced into an argument, the deeper and more profound is the philosophy. (Metaphysics is merely a particularly obscure – but not necessarily more obtuse – part of philosophy). There is no philosophical question which can not be put off till another time; which cannot be interrupted for more important survival tasks; which cannot be abandoned for a glass of wine. However, a glass or two can aid the production of even deeper, more incomprehensible answers to the unanswerable questions. There is no answer which needs an action to be taken. There is no philosophy which cannot be replaced by another. Philosophical questions may be about the fundamental nature of life but they are not questions which need answers for day-to-day living. There is no urgency or deadline for finding answers. A professional philosopher has no deliverables – or at least none which need to make sense. Philosophy is an occupation for minds which are free from the burden of resolving the basic physiological needs of the bodies they inhabit. Philosophy is an occupation for idle minds.

But this raises another philosophical question. (Unanswerable of course).

Domesticated dogs have found a sustainable solution for their basic physiological needs. They are protected from predatory threats, have food provided at regular intervals and are well sheltered from the elements. They are not used by their human master-slaves as food (except in Korea). They are generally well respected by their master-slaves in sickeness and in health. The solution does not come free. They have to accept the curtailment of many freedoms. Their human master-slaves control their movement, their diet, their friends and their breeding partners. Nevertheless, their minds are entirely and wonderfully free from the burdens of meeting their fundamental physiological needs. Their idle minds have all the time they could possibly need for unnecessary, unanswerable questions.

So why don’t dogs do philosophy?



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