Monday, December 24, 2012

Steven D. Hales & Sophie


In July 2009 philosopher Steven Hales and Sophie were guests here on the blog.

From the Q & A:
What was your inspiration behind the book "What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Dog?"

There’s a recent trend in philosophy to write books that try to bring our ideas out of the ivory tower, and aim to show the philosophical issues that underlie the most prosaic activities and interests. For example, Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s essay "On Bullshit" was a #1 New York Times bestseller, and Stanford philosophers Ken Taylor and John Perry host a philosophical radio show. And respected presses like Open Court and Blackwell have launched whole series of books devoted to popular philosophy. I’ve tried to make some modest contributions to this endeavor, and "What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Dog" is one. So my inspiration was to show pet lovers a way into philosophy, how the life of the mind is intimately connected with one’s life with dogs.

So what does philosophy have to say about dogs?

The classic dogs vs. cats joke is that dogs think, “my people keep me warm and dry, feed me good food, pet me, brush me, and play with me. They must be gods!” Cats, on the other hand, think, “my people keep me warm and dry, feed me good food, pet me, brush me, and play with me. I must be a god!” But what really goes on in our dogs' heads? Here's where philosophy of mind comes in, looking at questions like these: Are guide dogs for the blind literally an extension of their owner’s mind? Was French philosopher RenĂ© Descartes right in maintaining that dogs are mere automata, mindless, soulless, clock-like mechanisms without language or love? If our dogs think, then do insects think as well? If bees are just biological robots, then why aren’t dogs? There's ethical questions too: Do even dogs have a dignity that we must respect? Do our dogs really have moral rights, or is it just anthropomorphizing to think so? Why does Aristotle think that our dogs cannot be good dogs unless we are good masters? Is it wrong to shower our dogs with too many luxuries? Even logicians can get in on the act. In 1615 King James of Scotland and England (of King James Bible fame) hosted a debate on the use of logic by dogs. I'm not going to tell you who won.
Read the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

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