Have animals ever been arrested?

Can animals think? - A work on understanding, reason and rationality in animals

Table of Contents

I foreword

1. Exposure of the problem and methodological discussion
1.1. Problem
1.2. Content and methodological approach

2. Understanding, Reason, and Rationality in Animals
2.1. Mind and reason in the thought concept of philosophical thinkers
2.1.1. Animals at David Hume
2.1.2. Animals in Schopenhauer's concept of thought
2.2. Current state of knowledge
2.2.1. Do animals have brains?
2.2.2. Are animals, according to today's view, beings gifted with reason?
2.2.3. Do animals have rationality?

3. Thomas Manns Lord and dog - an idyll
3.1. First interpretive approaches and biographical references
3.2. Chapter I: He comes around the corner
3.3. Chapter II: How We Won Bauschan
3.4. Chapter III: Some News of Bauschan's Way of Life and Character
3.5. Chapter IV: The Revier
3.6. Chapter V: The Hunt

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

I foreword

In this foreword I would like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude to those who have accompanied the creation of this work and who have been of great help to me in an individual way.

First of all, I would like to thank the supervisor of this thesis, Prof. Dr. Roland Borgards. He always took the time to discuss interim results and to point out errors in the argumentation structure.

Special thanks go to Dr. Markus Wild, who helped me a lot. I was always able to turn to him with questions or difficulties, even though we don't know each other personally. His explanations made a lot more accessible to me, which was a great relief for me.

In addition, some people have taken the trouble to read individual chapters of the work or rough drafts and go through them with me. At this point I would like to thank Dr. Christian Zimmermann, Ms. Regina Dörner, Ms. Regina Demmer and Mr. Jörg Heblack insured.

I would like to dedicate this work to two very special animals: my cat Lou and my dog ​​Charly. I have never seen two clever animals. These two have hearts, minds, and reason.

1 Exposure of the problem and methodological discussion

1.1 Problem

We see a fox lurking in front of a rabbit hole. What might be going on in the animal's head? Did he see a rabbit crawl in or did he even hunt it before? Or is he sitting there and waiting, hoping a rabbit would leave the den? Is he even thinking anything?

What does a chimpanzee think when he reaches for a stone to crack a nut? How do rats always manage to choose the shortest route out of a maze? - Questions about the spirit of animals are extremely topical. The philosophy is increasingly focused on the animal. But the tendency to place animals in philosophical contexts as well as humans was already apparent in David Hume and Arthur Schopenhauer, who explicitly expressed themselves about animals in their work with regard to their understanding and reason.

But literature also sees the animal from different angles. In texts such as Kafkas Researches a Dog or A report for an academy, animals are not only viewed from their biological disposition, but they become literary figures, some of which can take on human traits. Other texts like Thomas Manns Lord and dog. An idyll. show the animal as naturally and unchanged as possible, in this case as a loyal companion of humans. Nevertheless, in this text, too, the dog is an artistically designed being and therefore not a pure image of nature.

In this work I combine the philosophical approaches with a perspective of knowledge from literature in order to get to the bottom of the question whether animals have understanding, reason and rationality. I will supplement the philosophical explanations with selected aspects of behavioral biology, as these represent the decisive basis for newer findings in the field of animal philosophy, the central question of which is: Can animals think? People think through language. However, animals have no language that we can understand. Ludwig Wittgenstein already emphasized: "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world".[1] But does this also apply to animals? Can't they really think because they don't have a communication system similar to ours?

Linguistic rationalism holds that speaking a language is a prerequisite for the existence of a mind.[2] That would mean that if animals cannot be proven to have a language, they also have no mind. Here language is seen as the sole basis of thought. Mentalistic rationalism, on the other hand, says that speaking a language is the condition of knowledge for the mind.[3] It differs from linguistic rationalism in that language is not understood here as a condition for the mind, but is the basis for its ascription. That would mean that animals could also think without language, but could not name this thinking because language is the means of knowledge.

Just HOW do you think? Do you think in pictures, signs or symbols? What is the current state of research? Can there be any reliable knowledge about the spirit of animals or will there ever be?

In the context of this work it is not possible to go into all types of animals. Therefore I would like to limit myself to the more highly developed animals. It is impossible to equate an earthworm or a beetle with a cat or a monkey, since, due to their neurological nature, the same mental achievements cannot be achieved. The following applies: when I speak of animals, I mean more highly developed ones. This applies with a few exceptions, which I will make explicitly clear, such as the ant lions or the honeybees.

I would also like to note that I do not have the floor animal will use. I would like to make an analogy to human of animal speak and thus join authors such as Markus Wild and Heini Hediger. The reason for this analogy is as follows: The German word animal has a different connotation than what is to be emphasized in this work. We know the word in the context of be happy or animal behavior. In the first case, you could animal by crazy replace in the second with unbridled. But if you are from animal thinking speaks, you definitely don't think so crazy or unbridled thinking. Furthermore, for the reasons mentioned, I consider this to be a form of respect for the mental abilities of animals. Ultimately, I think it is appropriate to introduce a new terminology for this new way of looking at animals.

Even if the dog is very popular in literature and a text with a dog plays a central role in this work as a literary example, I will not use the dog as an example of modern philosophy and behavioral research. It's not because there aren't any examples. At this point, the dog is unsuitable as man's best friend because it has been domesticated too much by man.

I would also like to note that the footnote in the examples cited can always be found at the end of the explanations.

A look at previous works shows that basically two positions have emerged:

(1) One ascribes understanding to animals, but not reason. This position is explicitly represented by Arthur Schopenhauer. David Hume is as we understand the terms today understanding and reason also a representative of this position, although he does not yet differentiate between these terms.

(2) Animals have both intelligence and common sense. Markus Wild, for example, represents this view.

However, I would like to add the second position: In my opinion, the understanding of animals is beyond question: animals can think! However, I can only ascribe reason to them if I make a further differentiation between reason and rationality. If I do not differentiate, I would have to deny the animals both, because the term reason would imply rational thinking. Through the differentiation one can undertake separate considerations, so that I cannot deny the animals the reason, in contrast to the rationality.

For a better understanding of the work, some terms should be clarified below:

understanding is considered in this work as a cognitive ability to react appropriately to a problem in a situation. This also implies flexibility in thinking. So you can use the term understanding also by the intelligence define. Intelligence therefore means to be endowed with understanding.

The Brockhaus gives a very general definition of language. It is understood as a “conventional system of signs for communication purposes”.[4] This includes both natural and artificial languages, as well as animal communication systems and generally sign systems that require an understanding of symbols. However, many independent fields of science deal with language and its definition. Linguistics understands language to include human forms of expression of thinking, feeling and willing as well as open symbol systems without analogy to other semiotic systems.[5]

Learn From a purely biological point of view, behavior is behavior that, in contrast to instinctive actions, does not take place through a genetically determined program, but is individually controlled by previous experiences.[6]

Under reason is traditionally understood as the ability to close. These inferences are causal in nature. However, in this work I would like to expand the concept of reason. I assume that there is more to sensible action than the ability to reason. That is why I would like to expand this term by three dimensions: future orientation, awareness and the ability to reflect. Only when all four abilities are taken into account can one either grant or deny reason to animals.

reflection is used in the work in two senses. A distinction is made between simple reflection and self-reflection. Simple reflection here means that one is able to learn, because this can only be done by reflecting on current behavior. However, self-reflection requires evaluating oneself, one's own actions and attitudes in such a way that they can also be criticized if necessary.

rationality is a complex interplay of several factors. On the one hand, it is the ability to create as much logical coherence and overall consistency as possible between thoughts, desires, drives, etc. On the other hand, it is also the ability to distance oneself from current thoughts, desires, drives etc. and to criticize them. Further characteristics of rationality are: receptiveness to good reasons and understanding. However, in order to understand the concept of rationality as distinct from reason and the interplay of characteristics, more detailed explanations are required. (→ see 2.2.3)

1.2 Content and methodological approach

The work is divided into two parts: For the first part, a humanities approach was chosen and on this basis I will discuss whether animals have understanding, reason and rationality. In the second part I would like to investigate the question of whether animals are ascribed these abilities in the literature.

The foundations of dealing with the problem of whether animals have understanding and reason are the work of David Hume and Arthur Schopenhauer as well as more recent works of animal philosophy, such as that of Markus Wild.

In order to discuss this question in relation to the current state of knowledge, I will go into more detail on the language and learning of animals.

Reason is then described on the basis of four criteria: the ability to reason, future orientation, awareness and reflection.

The rationality to be discussed is not justified in any of the literature I know, because reason is often equated with rationality. This chapter is therefore largely based on a correspondence between Markus Wild and me.

In this first part I will proceed inductively.

This part is followed by literary considerations. It is supposed to be based on the novella Lord and dog. An idyll Thomas Mann also investigated the question of whether animals have understanding, reason and rationality. As a representative of the animals, the dog is the focus of this work. However, other animal species are also included in the considerations by means of short inserts. Thomas Mann describes the experiences with his dog Bauschan and thus turns the biological animal into an artistic being.

Bauschan is Thomas Mann's dog. For this reason it is essential to place the work in a biographical context. Furthermore, it is not possible to separate understanding, reason and rationality from the work, because the dog is represented in a context (in an environment, in interplay with humans, etc.). Therefore, in addition to understanding, reason and rationality, the entire natural environment of the dog must be taken into account, in particular the depicted relationship between nature and culture.

After a biographical consideration and a general discussion of the novella, the chapters will be interpreted chronologically in order to maintain an overview. With this interpretation, Schopenhauer's conceptual concept as well as other connecting points from the first part will come into play again.

In conclusion, I would like to draw a conclusion in which I will once again summarize important findings of the work and try to give a well-founded answer to the question of the understanding, the common sense and the rationality of animals.

2 Understanding, Reason, and Rationality in Animals

2.1 Understanding and Reason in the Thought Concept of Philosophical Thinkers

2.1.1 Animals at David Hume

Hume distinguishes the terms understanding and reason not in his works - he uses them synonymously. In this chapter, the theory of understanding and reason is to be transferred into our current conceptual understanding. That is, the synonymous use in Hume should be abolished. It is therefore necessary to break free from fixed terms to a certain extent in order to understand how Hume's theory fits into our current understanding of understanding and reason is to be classified.

Hume devotes a chapter in each of the works to the mind and reason of animals Treatise on human nature and An investigation into the human mind. Mostly will An investigation into the human mind taken as a revision of his treatise. However, this is only partially correct, because some things have been added, whereas other parts of the treatise have been gathered and shortened.[7] Hume himself agrees in his announcement An investigation into the human mind:

Most of the main features and discussions of this volume have already been published in a three-volume work entitled "A Treatise on Human Nature" [...]. However, since it was unsuccessful, I realized the error he was making in getting it into print too early, and reworked it from scratch into the following, which, he hoped, showed some negligence in his earlier reasoning and expression are improved. [...] The author wishes that in future only the following statements should be considered as a representation of his philosophical views and principles.[8]

I will not comply with David Hume's request, because I still regard the treatise as his main work. In addition, the chapters About the sanity of animals Identical in both works and do not differ in their basic message. Therefore, the chapters are not to be differentiated, but to be viewed as a supplement.

Hume begins the chapter About the sanity of animals in the following words:

All of our judgments about facts are based on some sort of analogy (ANALOGY) which leads us to expect the same results from one cause that we have observed arose from similar causes.[9]

He is based on a causal approach that the same causes follow the same effects.

Hume's thesis of the chapter About the sanity of animals consists in the statement that animals think just like humans and also have reason.[10]

He justifies this by saying that animals, just like humans, learn a lot from experience and can therefore draw conclusions from causes to effects.[11] In contrast to humans, however, animals form similarity classes of impressions that produce a certain effect.This means that animals not only associate causes with effects, but also similarity classes of causes with similarity classes of effects. But he also says that these conclusions cannot be based on reasoning in animals.[12]

At first this statement seems to be contrary to the thesis. What Hume means at this point, however, can be described as follows: The basic question that he asks himself during his entire confrontation with the mind is the question of how we know that the same causes follow the same effects. One possible answer would be that this question arises from the term causality self-declared. Hume now says, however, that this knowledge is based solely on our experience. Animals are able to react to causes and effects, but they certainly do not come to the idea of ​​cause and effect through a pure understanding of reason. When Hume says that animals do not arrive at their conclusion by reason, it confirms his main thesis that this knowledge is due to experience alone. But since animals can draw causal conclusions on this basis, they have understanding. Thus, for Hume, the crucial difference between humans and animals in terms of learning lies in the way they learn. Animals are therefore not explicit causal learners like humans. Specifically, this means: We share with animals the fundamental ability to draw causal conclusions from habit and instinct, because our considerations are also based on habit and instinct as a prerequisite for the formation of causal conclusions. The difference is that people can explicitly formulate rules for the cause and effect complex. Animals, on the other hand, implicitly obey rules of causal inference. In short: the decisive difference for Hume lies in the reflection of the cause-effect complex.

But how can one imagine an animal as an implicit learner? - Animals capable of learning can learn to produce certain causes that lead to an effect. You can also come up with solutions to problems: For example, a monkey stacking boxes to get to a banana. In doing so, they combine means for a specific purpose. That is already causal learning. Yet animals do not worry about the relationship between cause and effect or means and end. In this sense, humans are explicit causal learners, but animals are not.

Markus Wild deals extensively with the question of what the reason of animals consists in Hume. His answer to this can be summarized briefly and succinctly: Animals are able "to draw causal inferences on the basis of their experiences and to be able to use this cognitive ability as a means to achieve certain purposes"[13]. According to Wild, what is remarkable about Hume is that he does not describe an independent cognitive faculty with understanding or reason, because for Hume there are only three cognitive faculties: memory, sensory perception and imagination.[14]

But how can one place Hume's theory of the understanding and the reason of animals in the tradition of philosophy? - With this theory one can speak of skeptical naturalism. We can safely assume that animals have a mind. That would be the naturalistic aspect of the theory. However, this spirit is outside of what is tangible to us, that is, we know that animals think, but not what they think.[15]

2.1.2 Animals in Schopenhauer's concept of thought

"Animals have understanding without having reason, consequently intuitive, but not abstract knowledge [...]."[16] This is the essential statement that Schopenhauer makes about the understanding and reason of animals.

Unlike Hume, in whom the terms understanding and reason are used with the same content, Schopenhauer stands in the tradition of Kant, who differentiates these terms.

For Schopenhauer, understanding is a cognitive faculty. Have sense therefore means wisdom'Lack of mind, on the other hand, means Stupidity, hence dullness in the application of the laws of causality.[17]

According to Schopenhauer, animals have understanding because they recognize objects and these, as motifs, determine their movements. However, in animals, as in humans, the mind is not evenly distributed. Some genera are therefore endowed with more intelligence than others. In both humans and animals, the mind follows a simple form: "Knowledge of causality, transition from effect to cause and from cause to effect, and nothing else."[18]

Reason, however, cannot be allowed to animals. The basis for this would be language, which is the property of man on earth. The term reason directs Schopenhauer from Hearing which means becoming aware of the thoughts conveyed through language.[19] Animals can only hear terms expressed through language, but this is not synonymous with hear may be used. Perception would therefore be the understanding of the language, which is inconceivable in animals, since they cannot master it.

From what has been said, the conclusion arises that animals only have vivid ideas, but humans, through reason, also have abstract ideas and concepts. Thus the knowledge of animals also stagnates at the level of perception. The consequence of this is that animals only move spiritually in the present: They have no ideas about the past or the future.

Since animals have no reason, they cannot acquire any knowledge either, because knowledge “is the abstract consciousness, the fixation in terms of reason, of what is generally known in other ways.[20]

The essential difference between humans and animals lies in the absence of abstract concepts in the consciousness of animals. This means that what has been seen or experienced is not stored as memory information, because that is what the term means Knowledge. Thus it cannot be used. Schopenhauer tries to make this difference clear with the help of a plant-animal-human relationship:

The animal is just as much more naive than man as the plant is more naive than the animal. In animals we see the will to live more bare, as it were, than in man, where it is clad with so much knowledge and moreover veiled by the ability to disguise that its true essence comes to the fore almost by chance and in places.[21]

Schopenhauer's approach is based on Kant's conception. However, the explanations at Schopenhauer are formulated more clearly and are therefore easier to understand. He himself says: "Kant alone confused this concept of reason [...]"[22]. Therefore, in modern animal philosophy and animal research, especially with regard to moral behavior towards animals, Schopenhauer's concept is preferred over the Kantian approach. The view that animals have understanding but no reason because they cannot call their own language that is similar to that of humans is still widespread today.

2.2 Current state of knowledge

2.2.1 Do animals have brains?

The answer to the question of whether animals have brains is quickly given: yes. But how do we draw these conclusions and how do animals think? These questions will be discussed in more detail below.

People think through language. Therefore, it must first be discussed whether animals have a language or, if they do not, in which categories they think. There is a widespread belief among people that they are the only ones in possession of the language. This not only results in an upgrading of humans, but also a reduction in animal communication.[23] If you look at the definition of language in the Brockhaus Lexikon, you will see that animals have language in a broad sense.

Dimond cites birds as an example to show that there are similarities between our language and the communication systems of animals: He describes bird song as a "form of complex vocal communication, which in some respects could be regarded as a counterpart to human language development"[24], because there are different group and family dialects and the sound pattern plays a major role.[25] As examples, however, he cites not only birds, but also dolphins, which have a wide range of sounds. "Like birds, they can whistle different melodies and sound sequences and utter clicks, the tempo of which varies greatly."[26] But Dimond also emphasizes that not all animal communication takes place on an acoustic-vocal level.[27]

Another aspect of language is the deaf-mute language. We attribute understanding to people who communicate using this form of language, even though they do not articulate the language. Various chimpanzees and other great apes have been observed to have a vocabulary of the American deaf-mute language that includes more than a hundred words.[28] They use this language not only to communicate with people, but also to communicate with other members of their own species.

Even if these examples can show that animals can speak one type of language, one must still note: The language of animals is in no way comparable to our verbal language!

Our language can have the past, present and future as its content. According to the current state of research, animals do not have a corresponding >> correct << language in this sense. They can "talk" to each other in their own way, but they cannot have conversations. Understanding among animals remains stuck to the concrete, while human language allows abstractions and is therefore more than just an exchange of information.[29]

For this reason, I agree with the majority opinion that animals should not speak of a language, but rather the terminology of understanding or communication.

This communication is of a symbolic nature. Symbolic communication can take place on two levels: semantic communication and symbolic gestures. Semantic communication has been well researched in monkeys, for example, because they occur in open areas and are therefore easy to observe. You could see that they differentiate between three types of alarm calls to warn their conspecifics:

(1) They emit a specific scream when a leopard or other large predator approaches.
(2) A completely different one when an eagle approaches.
(3) One that is markedly different from the first two when a snake approaches.[30]

Depending on the signal, they either hide high in the tree or in the vegetation close to the ground. That means: The sounds convey a certain content.

The symbolic communication takes place differently with the help of gestures: An example of this is the waggle dance of honey bees. They use this to convey to their conspecifics the direction in which they have identified a source of food and how far they have to travel to it. Here are the symbols on the gesture level. For honey bees this means that they communicate with the help of their entire body and that certain movements represent a certain symbol for, for example, the direction of the compass. Up to now, however, this form of communication has only been observed in these honey bees.[31]

In the analogy to humans who communicate by means of language and consequently also think with the help of language, one would have to assume that animals think in symbolic categories. Jerry Fodor assumes that there must be a language before language. He calls this Language of mind or Mental language.[32] By this mental language he understands a system of meaningful symbols in which humans and animals think.[33] The mental language should be illustrated with an example: Let us assume that a cat thinks that the mouse it was chasing has disappeared into a hole. According to Fodor's theory, there is now a symbol in the cat's head S.that has the said situation as its subject. The phrase “the mouse is in the hole” also refers to this situation. This sentence only expresses what the cat is already thinking in mental language. The symbol S. also follows, like the sentence, a structure. From this one can conclude that the system of mental language is just as structured as human language.[34]


[1] Wittgenstein, Ludwig: Logical-philosophical treatise. Tractatum logico-philosophicus. Brian McGuinness; Joachim Schulte (ed.). Frankfurt am Main, 1989, p.134.

[2] Compare: Wild, Markus: The anthropological difference. The spirit of the animals in the early modern period in Montaigne, Descartes and Hume. Jens Helfwassen, Jürgen Mittelstraß and Dominik Perler (eds.). Berlin 2006, p. 6.

[3] Compare: Ibid.

[4] F. A. Brockhaus GmbH (ed.): Brockhaus Encyclopedia in 24 volumes. Volume 20. Mannheim 1993, p. 696.

[5] Compare: Ibid.

[6] See: Dr. Höfer, Paul / Prof. Dr. Rottmann, Oswald: Lexicon Biology. Technical terms in biology. Freising 2002, p. 147.

[7] See: Streminger, Gerhard: David Hume. His life and his work. Paderborn 1994, p. 310.

[8] Hume, David: An Inquiry into the Human Mind. Herbert Herring (ed.). Stuttgart 1982, p. 15.

[9] Ibid., P. 135.

[10] See: Hume, David: Treatise on human nature. An attempt to introduce the method of experience into the humanities. First book: On the mind. Berlin 2004, p. 197.

[11] See: Hume, David: An Inquiry into the Human Mind. Herbert Herring (ed.). Stuttgart 1982, p. 136.

[12] See Ibid., P. 137.

[13] Wild, Markus: The anthropological difference. The spirit of the animals in the early modern period in Montaigne, Descartes and Hume. Jens Helfwassen, Jürgen Mittelstraß and Dominik Perler (eds.). Berlin 2006, p. 263 f.

[14] See: Ibid., P. 236.

[15] See: Ibid., P. 241.

[16] Schopenhauer, Arthur: The world as will and idea. Volume 2. Ditzingen 2005, p. 83.

[17] Compare: Schopenhauer, Arthur: The world as will and idea. Volume 1. Ditzlingen 2004, p. 60.

[18] Ibid., 59.

[19] Ibid., 80.

[20] Ibid., P. 100.

[21] Ibid., P. 238.

[22] Ibid., P. 39.

[23] Cf.: Dimond, Stuart S .: The social behavior of animals. Düsseldorf and Cologne 1970, p. 156.

[24] Ibid.

[25] See: Ibid., P. 156 f.

[26] Ibid.

[27] See: Ibid., P. 157.

[28] See: Masson, Jeffrey M./McCarthy, Susan: When animals cry. Reinbeck near Hamburg 1996, p. 50.

[29] Hagen, Wally and Horst: What animals have to say to each other. Forms and contents of communication. Hamburg 1991, p. 22.

[30] Cf .: Griffin, Donald R .: How animals think. An advance into the consciousness of animals. Munich 1985, p. 175 f.

[31] See: Ibid., P. 186 f.

[32] Cf.: Wild, Markus: Animal Philosophy for Introduction. Hamburg 2008, 81.

[33] Compare: Ibid.

[34] Compare: Ibid.

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