Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Pets

Rate this topic


iouswuoibev
 Share

Recommended Posts

I hope this isn't too off-topic. Are there are any people here who like/own pets? See the attached image for mine.

I've yet to see the subject of humans and animals brought into an objectivist context, so I'm curious to hear what others think. I myself like many sorts of animals, but I haven't been able to apply any objectivist principles to explain why this is the case. They obviously aren't a recreation of anyones value judgements, and they don't seem to reaffirm any of my values. The pleasure I get from an animal (please don't misinterpret that ;) ) has nothing to do with life-sustaining action. So how does objectivism explain this?

post-8-1087861679_thumb.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is a book I recently loaned out by a long-gone wise man written in an Objectivist mentality that actually talks about this. The man said that people get enjoyment out of animals because they respond to you as a person.

For example, you get home from work and your dog runs up to greet you, his tail wagging, a big 'grin' on his face, licking your hand, etc. You pet him and he responds to you. You play with him and he plays back. You want to sit and watch a movie and he snuggles up with you. The animal reponds to you as a person, which is why it makes you so happy-why you are so close to it.

Other animals, like your..hamster is it?...are more for a scientific/curiosity within people. "Oh mommy look at that snake! Watch it move around!" kind of thing. One gains enjoyment from watching life in and of itself-watching it exist, struggle, etc.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Personally, I like dogs and cats, but cats to a lesser degree.

With a dog (or 2) I have to put out a certain amount of money to feed it, occasional vet bills to keep it healthy, and some time here or there to groom it. Occasionally there is some inconvenience or expense in pet care if we want to travel. None of this has a significant impact on my lifestyle, or ability to provide for myself or my family. If it did, I wouldn't have a pet.

However, on the plus side I have a dog that will provide me some degree of security, or at least advance warning of people on my property, or as a crime deterence when no one is home. I have a companion during the days or nights when no one else is home. My dog greets me "happily" when I come home, almost never having a "bad day". My dog sees me as good for its life because the dog "knows" I will take care of it and feed it (which is why its happy when I come home ;) ) I can take the dog along with me as company (and security) for walks. I don't want to overstress the security issue, because I can take care of myself, but the presence of an 80-100 pound dog certainly discourages people from bothering you or breaking into your house.

I believe the personal (but objective) value I get from a pet is worth the value I have to give up.

VES

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see having a pet as being a reward. A couple of years ago, I decided that I wanted to buy a dog. I researched all over the net to find a breed that I liked. In the end, I found one - The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. But alas, they were very expensive, so I worked hard in my part time job to save up the money for the dog and to ensure that I had enough money left over for vet bills, free treatments, food, etc. To me, it was like buying a sports car or a really nice leather jacket.

Having a dog around gives me benefits - he barks at strangers, he gives me exercise, it's good when he goes to sleep at my feet - which keeps my feet warm and from time to time, they do really amusing things. (Like the day my dog got his head stuck in the lid of a trash can and ran around the house in confusion. Now he's quite afraid of all trash cans. ;)

In conclusion, I don't 'love' my dog or try to treat it like a human being like some people do, but he, without a doubt, adds to my life.

post-8-1087868189_thumb.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have horses, as well as other pets. I've never really thought of my pets within the context of Objectivism - probably because they aren't human and therefore are amoral.

I enjoy riding and do it as often as I can. Perhaps having a horse is different from having a dog or cat because it is recreational in nature, but there are ways that all pets are recreational. Animals respond to us, we all have witnessed it. We decide that certain responses have certain meanings. I.e. when a horse had it's ears back it is dismayed, or when a dog wags his tail he is happy or excited. Since animals don't conceptualize these things, aren't they just innate reactions without any thought? I think so. Still, we've assigned an emotional value to happiness or dismay which is uniquely human.

If I were to make a human being who I cared about and valued happy, I would feel good about it because I value them. And in the same like if I were to dismay that person, I would regret it. I think the reason most people are able to have relationships with animals is because they tend to treat their pets like they are human beings. This has given rise to the animal rights movement. This should be a red flag.

When I take care of my horses, groom them and care for them, it's like taking care of anything I own that I value. I, or in this case my parents, have worked hard to own these animals and I respect that they have a value and so I take care of the horses to protect and honor their value in the same way I would dry clean an expensive garment. It may feel nice for the horse to be groomed, but that's not the reason I clean him. It might be fun for the horse to jump over jumps, but I ride him because I am the one procuring the enjoyment. While their comfort is secondary, I wouldn't want to jeopardize it because I respect the fact that their existence (and my protection of their existence) give me enjoyment and add a recreational value to my life. So I clean them, spend time and money on them, and care for them.

It wouldn't be true to say I love my horses I suppose, although often I feel a strong emotional attachment to them. I think it would be more accurate to say that I enjoy the value which riding horses adds to my life, and that I respect the horse as the means to achieving that value. I appreciate the animal's virtue, or ability to serve his (truly my) purpose excellently.

I hope some of you will be willing to go riding at the conference in Virginia in a few weeks. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hope this isn't too off-topic. Are there are any people here who like/own pets? See the attached image for mine.

I've yet to see the subject of humans and animals brought into an objectivist context, so I'm curious to hear what others think. I myself like many sorts of animals, but I haven't been able to apply any objectivist principles to explain why this is the case. They obviously aren't a recreation of anyones value judgements, and they don't seem to reaffirm any of my values. The pleasure I get from an animal (please don't misinterpret that :) ) has nothing to do with life-sustaining action. So how does objectivism explain this?

It would seem you are trading value for value with the animal. Admitedly the animal is not rational, and cannot make a decision. This however I think does not preclude the previous statement. You are trading your time, attention, money, affection for the animals food, shelter, and healthcare. In return for your time, attention, money, you are recieving a simple pleasure.

I myself own ferret. His name is John S. Mosby. At one time I owned three, I gave one away because I could not pay enough attention to it, and one I had to put to sleep.

Let me say I am not a pet person. The only reason I even bought ferrets was because of a woman I lived with. This was during a part of my life that I like to think of as BIRAR. Or Before I Read Ayn Rand. We broke up, and I took the weasels because I was afraid she would not give them the attention that they required.

Owning pets can be a pain in the a** frankly. Vet visits, cleaning up sh*t, and the like. Although I have learned some valuable life lessons from them.

For example when my one ferret was dying, his name was Joshua L. Chamberlain, he developed problems walking about his cage. Next he got to the point where he could not make it to the litter box. In fact he could not even walk to the water bottle or the food dish. I took him to the vet, and was advised that I must hand feed him until the medicine began to work. This lasted for a week and a half. He did not get better. So I took him back to the vet, they advised me that they would have to do a $1000 exploratory sugery that "might" determine what was wrong with him, or it might kill him. I took him home without the surgery, and continued to hand feed him every day for another week. The whole time the poor weasel got weaker and weaker. I finally decided to euthanize him when I came home and found him lying in smeared in his own sh*t.

I asked myself would I want to live in this state? The answer of course was no. I learned a lesson the day I had my ferret put to sleep. I learned that simply being alive is not enough. One must have quality of life as well. I would do it for my ferret, I only hope that when the time comes someone has the same sympathy for me.

As an aside the one thing I can thank Bush for in my personal life is that two day sbefore I took Chamberlain to the vet I got my tax refund check. If it had not been for that rebate check the vet bills would have wrecked my personal finances.

I am not sure I will buy another pet when my last weasel dies. If I do I will buy a dog. A big dog at that, so my determination as to whether I will buy a pet will depend on wether I own enough land to own a big dog. I am thinking at least ten acres of land for a good sized dog to call it's own would be sufficient. If I have that I will buy a dog, if not maybe I will get a cat. With a last name like Morris the latter seems the most likely.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I absolutely love my Cat, Spatz. She is a daily joy. I'm disabled and unable to get out and about much so I have very little contact with others besides my husband. Having her about the boat is very life-affirming. It is also good for me to have to take care of her; it pushes me to Do Something when I'm not feeling especially well and am inclined to give into the feeling. (It gets tiring to always have to haul yourself about because you have no energy for physical activity and you know it will be painful.) And she calms me down and slows the flood of chemicals in my brain -- I can't begin to explain the value of that!

She's also a great little sailor, which is necessary since we live on a boat. She enjoys sitting on the prow of the boat when we sail, and she gets very excited when we run with the dolphins. Her antics brings a smile to everyone who sees her. Those who are on the bay for any length of time knows who she is -- we've heard that everyone calls her sailorcat.

:)

So Spatz is a very positive value to me. I love her for all that she is and all that she does and for the joy she brings me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Janet, you should post a photo of Spatz! She sounds like a really cure cat.

I have a black female cat, which stayed with my parents when I left home.

She is still happy to see me whenever I come to visit. Funny thing is... we never really named her. We just call her Cat.

When I have a cat of my own I will definitely take the time to name it. ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Eran: I would love to share a photo, but I am confined to WebTv which offers no means to do so. :( I have a great photo a friend took from his dingy, of her sitting on the bow of the dingy, very proud, like a figurehead.

She loves to go out in the dingy, especially with my husband when he goes fishing at night. She had to learn that she couldn't leap off of the boat to go after seals, though! Poor wet rag.

I noticed that a couple of you seemed to go to some effort to keep from saying that you love your pet. I'm curious as to why. Do you genuinely not love your pet?

I owned a horse once, and used to ride all the time. I loved her for every exciding ride she gave me. I even loved currying and feeding her. She was very smart, a very good cow pony (cutting horse). The man who stabled her for me ran cows and I rode her in two round-ups. It was fascinating to watch her work the cattle -- animal mind against animal mind. I was almost superfluous to the activity, she required so little direction.

One reason I like some animals is because I've always been curious as to what the limits are to a perceptual consciousness. In human's, emotions are a consequence of the integration of concepts. There are, however, primative emotions that are innate (such as fight or flight, fear of falling, etc.). But what are emotions (for lack of a better term? or is it the correct term?) in an animal. I know that my horse loved to work cattle. Her whole demeanor changed when I put on the bridle I used only when we practiced or actually worked. If she were human, I would say that she was excited and eager. My cat loves to go out on the water, whether it on the sailboat or in the dingy. When she sees my husband preparing the dingy to go out, she paces, jumps in and out of the boat, sits and stares at him, whining (What's taking so long!?). Now, I know that my interpretation of what I'm seeing is antropomorphic, but I wonder what is really going on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I noticed that a couple of you seemed to go to some effort to keep from saying that you love your pet.  I'm curious as to why.  Do you genuinely not love your pet? 

I think I genuinely don't, although the closest I came to that with a pet was King, an English Bull Terrier, who was in my life until I was 7 years old. I cried all day when he died. I can't say I'm enormously attached to my current pet or any other though. I feel empathy towards them, but it's very different to how I'd feel towards a human.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it was Leonard Peikoff who once described pets as "surrogate friends". I think that's a pretty insightful phrase. Pets... well, the best way I can put it is that they essentialize certain aspects of friendship, though that's not really a very accurate way to describe it. Bear with me.

Obviously you can't have a full-fledged friendship with a pet. But there are major commonalities between the owner-pet relationship and a friend-friend relationship. I'd say the two major values are intimacy and playfulness. (Obviously there can be others, as VES pointed out.) The psychological visibility issue which JR brought up is closely related to this, too. Dogs in particular, though cats to a lesser degree, can be quite sensitive to a person's mood, and will often demand the right sort of attention accordingly. If you're feeling sedate, they'll sit on your lap; if you're feeling energetic, they'll want to play. Sometimes they'll demand to play even if you aren't up for it, which can be great! ... or very annoying. :(

I think for some people there's also the "unconditional love" and "taking care of something" aspects of having a pet, though I think those tend to come from lack of self-esteem. (I wouldn't claim they always do, however.)

I'd post a picture of my cat, but I don't have one handy. Maybe I'll get one sometime... I could demonstrate his lick spot. (If I scratch a particular part of his back, he starts obsessively licking anything within reach. Himself, my arm, a sheet, my girlfriend's head when she's trying to sleep... it's very amusing.) ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anyone who thinks that all pets give their affection unconditionally has never had a cat. :)

When I said that I love my cat, which I do, I didn't mean that I love her in the same way that I love the humans I'm close to. The basis for my emotion is the same, though: I love what I value. The degree and/or kind of love I feel is related to the particular value.

And by the way, Matt, I do not love caring for my cat because I suffer from a lack of self-esteem. I am disabled and have a lot of pain, which I get very tired of sometimes. My cat makes me move to care for her, whether I feel up to it or not. That is something I value, because it keeps me grounded and reminds me not to feel sorry for myself, no matter how isolated I've become from the world. You have no idea how psychologically valuable that is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oldsalt,

I agree totally about pets and unconditional love. It's on the same level as those teenage girls who are determined to have children at 15 so there will be somebody who will love them unconditionally. ... Good luck! :)

As for the last, like I said, it's not always true. And I probably shouldn't have lumped the two together, because there is a genuine value in taking care of an animal -- and particularly so in your situation. It's just that I've heard some people think of it as a value in a bad sort of way. But enough on that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I noticed that a couple of you seemed to go to some effort to keep from saying that you love your pet.  I'm curious as to why.  Do you genuinely not love your pet? 

I'm still in mourning for a pet cat (of 10 years) who died over a year ago. Still think about her often and miss her, while I wrestle with the possibility of getting another one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In New Brunswick, Canada, yesterday a man gave himself up to police while in possession of three guns and 6,000 rounds of ammunition. He was going to start shooting at humans in a local park.....but decided to turn himself in and seek help instead.

The reason for his change of heart?

He met a very friendly dog and then decided that his killing spree was the wrong thing to do!

Crazy? Yes. But a lotta people in that park gotta love that dog!

Brent

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I love my cat.

I rescued her from the streets when she was a very sick baby of approximately 6 weeks of age. She bonded with me immediately, I paid the vet bills and nursed her back to health. She's been my constant companion ever since.

Kira isn't just a source of amusement and comfort to me, she's a highly intelligent being who is capable of communicating with me, albeit not on a human level. She's very in tune with my emotional state, as are most animals that are close to humans. She participates in my parties, she snuggles with me during those early waking hours, and she greets me by the door.

She accepts training easily. She doesn't have a litterbox because she uses the toilet. She walks on a leash. She doesn't claw my carpet, my curtains, or my satin sheets. I've played with her like a puppy, wrestling and biting, since she was a baby and she learned to restrain her teeth and her claws when playing with me, which I hear most cats don't do.

I've taken her on the NYC subways and busses as well as on a number of airplanes. I can tell she's scared, but she trusts me and her behaviour is exemplary.

I have excellent self-esteem, rightly. But there was a time not so long ago when my life really fell apart. Because of my emotional instability, I found that I was losing myself. I was a shadow of me--and the things that I'm proud of all but disappeared under the misery. When I felt that everything else was gone from my life, that sweet little creature was there with her *almost* unconditional love. I love her, so I wouldn't dream of neglecting her needs for food, water, play, and toilet flushing. So when nothing else brought me out from under the covers, there was Kira biting my toes so I'd feed her. And when I was crying, there was Kira licking my face with her tiny sandpaper tongue. At those times when it seemed too much, when I felt utterly alone, I could see that Kira still thought I was special. And that was *just enough* to pull me through until I could be those things for myself.

So she may not have concepts. She may not have opposable thumbs, and once in a great while I may have to clean up her hairballs. But she has a remarkably special place in my life, and I adore her.

kira_and_mommy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Circe: She's beautiful. I feel the same way about Spatz. Because of the nature of my disability, I live with almost constant frustration, both physical and mental. She has a way of soothing me like nothing else.

Hairballs? Never been a problem. This is probably because I brush her all the time. She loves it and it settles my brain down when I do it. It is a very sensuous activity for both of us.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Regarding "loving" one's pet--

Keep in mind that there are different kinds of love. One kind that is obviously unique and applies only to relationships between people is romantic love. But we can also use the word "love" to describe our emotional response to people in whom we aren't romantically interested, and, even wider, to anything that we highly value. We love things more or less according to our hierarchy of values. But I also think that there are differences in kind, not just degree, of love in certain contexts. For example, romantic love is different (and perhaps better) than the way you love your friends. The way you love your friends is different (and better) than the way you love your favorite food. I think the way you love a pet is somewhere inbetween those last two, both in degree and in kind, for a lot of the reasons that people already mentioned--e.g., the issue of "surrogate friendship." There are certain essential characteristics of your relationship with your pet that are in common with those of your relationship with your friend, but others that aren't. It's essentially different in that your relationship with your pet is not a rational (i.e., conceptual-level) one. On the other hand, your relationship with your pet is also essentially different from your relationship to inanimate objects in that your pet is a living thing that perceives and feels pleasure and pain.

So, to sum it all up: I love my dog more than I love chocolate ice cream (which I love a great deal), but less than I love my friends.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are certain essential characteristics of your relationship with your pet that are in common with those of your relationship with your friend ...

The most essential commonality is that a pet values YOU. It is a mutual relationship. As much as I love my home, it doesn't love me back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The most essential commonality is that a pet values YOU.  It is a mutual relationship.  As much as I love my home, it doesn't love me back.

Yes! That is exactly what I was trying to get at when I said "your pet is a living thing that perceives and feels pleasure and pain," but I couldn't quite find the right words. I felt like I needed to add something else there, and that is exactly it! Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...