Thursday, April 30, 2015

Animals and Decartes

This post is in response to Descartes Apology. I thought it was very interesting that he believed that animals had no thoughts and they lived on instinct. He wrote that he looked into how animals organs work and how that contributes to them not having any thoughts. I found this video on YouTube and I thought it relates to animals having thoughts. The video is also kind of funny. This dog has to have some thoughts going through his mind!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cross Cultural Animal Analysis

Throughout this class I have noticed that we have been studying stories about animals that span across cultures, and yet we are able to interpret the intended meaning by using those animals with ease. Whether the piece is from France, China, England, or Mesopotamia, we are somehow able to analyze and comprehend the meaning of the animals in similar ways. This is seen today as well with our most modern form of story telling, television and comics. Here's an example:

Cat Woman, who is a DC Comics villain/anti-heroine that is apart of the Batman franchise, illustrates a Western portrayal of a feline woman. She is seen as stealthy (she's known to be a burglar), conniving, and highly sexual (seen in her outfit and overall appearance as well as her sexual encounters with Batman in some of the comics), all things that we associate with cats. Of course we would be able to understand this, being Westerners ourselves, but this is seen in other countries portrayal of cats as well.

Black Hanekawa is an alter-ego of a character in the Japanese light novel turned anime Bakemonogatari. In this anime, Hanekawa represents the suppressed anxieties and evils within the character Hanekawa Tsubasa (again illustrating the conniving side of cats). She is also seen as being stealthy when she fights other characters and is overtly sexualized (her outfits primarily consist of just undergarments). We understand the portrayal of her as a cat and the association of these characteristics with it, yet it is from a vastly different culture than our own.

So what does this all mean? Could it be that we have a uniform symbolism associated with animals to unite us as humans, despite our differences? Does making animals inferior and reducing them to motifs that we can all understand a way to bring together the plethora of different cultures?
I wanted to share a certain fact with you regarding the parchment reading we had. The author brought up the Koran in the beginning and talk about camels and how your only supposed to drink cow milk and not camel milk. But the real purpose of this reading is that we really need to look into the book not just by what it contains but how it was created from certain animal skin, in this case the camel skin. Regarding the fact, in my hometown camels are very common and are found all over the place. If you hit a camel and kill it, the blood money you pay is more then the blood money that is payed when killing a human being. An animal is worth more then a human being, interesting right?

"Animals" by Maroon 5

            “Animals” by Maroon 5 appeared on my online radio and I realized it was suitable for the class agenda. In the music video, a woman enters a slaughterhouse, where a butcher becomes infatuated with the female customer. He begins to stalk and take photographs of her in the streets and in her home, even going as far to watch her in pouring rain. In another scene, he follows her into a nightclub, where he tries to initiate a conversation with her. She rejects his invitation, because she wants to spend time with her friends. He then fantasizes having sex with her and sings along to the song for the rest of the video covered in blood or socking dead meat in a meat locker.
            The lyrics of the song are quite striking through its use of animal imagery and metaphors. In its chorus, Adam Levine sings, “Baby I’m preying on you tonight / Hunt you down, eat you alive / Just like animals, animals, like animals-mals.” Levine employs the imagery of animals hunting their prey and uses it to allude to his “animalistic” sexual appetite for this woman. He continues: “Maybe you think you can hide / I can smell your scent for miles / Just like animals, animals, like animal-mals.” He uses animals’ abilities to smell in far-reaching places to refer to the fact that his desire for his lover is untamable and she can’t escape him. In Verse 2, he even states, “But don’t deny the animal / That comes alive when I’m inside you.” The speaker becomes a “wild animal” when he has sexual intercourse with this woman.
            In sum, the lyrics of the song, as well as the music video, portray the animal as fierce and untamed. It specifically represents the animal as wild, much like a wolf. Moreover, the man is compared to a wild animal, whereas a woman is considered a lesser being/prey.
            Any other thoughts on this video/song?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Psychology and Animals

Today in lecture, Professor Freccero started to discuss how Descartes distinct of Mind and Body in terms of animals paved a road for animal testing. She discussed how by Descartes claiming that animals have similar bodies but don't have thought, and therefore don't have a soul, it could be acceptable to dissect and experiment on animal bodies to learn more about humans. But this extends beyond the physical dissection of animal bodies to learn about organs. It also can be said that Descartes justified us manipulating animals to learn more about human behavior too. A specific example is the famous Pavlov's dog. Here's a picture to explain the overall concept:

Although this particular experiment was harmless to the dog in an ethical sense, it still illustrates manipulating this animal to do what we want it to for our own benefit (Pavlov's dog shows  Classical Conditioning, which is a technique recommended for parenting children). And this isn't the only experiment that manipulated animals. Harlow's Monkey experiments to test dependency were also conducted in the 1950s and these experiments illustrated a clear unethical manipulation of an animal for human benefit. (here's a link if you're curious about the study). Descartes gave justification for experiments that would have never been performed on humans at the cost of animals, both physically and psychologically.

Here's a little rumor for you:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

For Brianna, thinking about animality and make-up :)

"Animal Voices" Ted Talks

Hey guys, I just found a series of Ted Talks on Netflix called "Animal Voices" I thought would be cool to check out. There are 8 episodes and some seem pretty relevant to our class. For example episode 7 is called "Moral Behavior in Animals" which seems pretty relevant to what we are studying.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Bisclavret thoughts

Personally, I found this reading to be intriguing and easy to read through, as the medieval times are full of curiosity. What I got out of the reading was the theme of karma or the "what goes around comes around." The woman is portrayed as a fraudulent wife and the reader can only hope for justice. The fact that the woman betrayed his husband and that the husband was able to get revenge satisfies the reader in a way. This same kind of feeling is felt for tv shows or movies when the supposed protagonist ends up being victorious or gets their way with things.
Bisclavret teaches a moral to animals that in order for animals to interact with humans, they need to or at least seem to be domesticated by humans. On the other hand, humans such as myself see this as a form of precaution. It is amazing that this remains true today. This story still feels like an unrealistic fable because it just so happens that one person under the king cared that much for a werewolf that he was willing to keep an eye on the werewolf's actions and convince the king that he was a human.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Animal Redemption -- Specifically to section F (but open to all ;) )

In section you all provided a really insightful reading of the Bisclavret text, based on the domestication of the animal rather than his transcendence or redemption from animal-status into a respected human-status that outweighed even the full-human status of a peasant.

Thinking about our discussion tonight, I wonder -- is domestication possibly a mode of redemption (even if it's in a very mundane kind of way)? And if it is redemptive, is it redemptive for the animal or for the human who domesticates the animal, or both?



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What is an Animal?

The general definition of an animal is given by Webster ( as the following:  

  • a living thing that is not a human being or plant
  • any living thing that is not a plant
  • a person who behaves in a wild, aggressive, or unpleasant way

The full definition is given as follows:

Any of a kingdom (Animalia) of living things including many-celled organisms and often many of the single-celled ones (as protozoans) that typically differ from plants in having cells without cellulose walls, in lacking chlorophyll and the capacity for photosynthesis, in requiring more complex food materials (as proteins), in being organized to a greater degree of complexity, and in having the capacity for spontaneous movement and rapid motor responses to stimulation

The full definition takes more of a biological standpoint, whereas the general definitions agree that plants are not to be considered animals, but that humans may or may not be considered so. For my in class writing, the characteristics that came to my mind when trying to answer the question were the ability to move, to breathe, to reproduce, to seek out sustenance(not photosynthesize it). In some respects, my thoughts align with the full definition, but I did not consider single-celled organisms or insects to be animals; I believe the average person does not view the ants outside steadily at work in their anthill as animals. What is an animal? I suppose it depends on who one is speaking to and what kind of answer that person seeks. The simple one or the full and involved definition.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Animal Analogies in Makeup

In class Professor Freccero mentioned how the association of the feline with women could be an explanation for why women grow their fingernails in a long, claw-like manor. This can also be seen in makeup with the "cat-eye" look. With it, women make their eyes imitate the same shape that cat eyes tend to be, seen here:

 People constantly refer to how the cat-eye look is seductive and an easy way to look sexy, which makes it a very popular look for women. Could it be that it's considered to be seductive because of the way we view cats as nimble, independent, sensual, and mysterious, and these are also traits that we see as being "sexy" in a person? I'm also curious as to if these traits become associated to cats after the women-cat relationship came to be, or before (this leads into a question of why these traits become associated with cats)?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Animal Testing

I'm sure most of us are aware that animal's rights advocates are generally colored in favor of animal's rights. Sources against something like animal testing from extremely biased organizations such as the PETA are often guilty of using out of context or badly construed evidence and strong language in order to convey its ideologies.
Impartial sources are the best sources, and I think gives a fairly well-sourced set of arguments for both sides of the animal-testing debate.
I personally believe that animal testing is not only a right, but a moral obligation. Animal testing is largely responsible for saving the lives and reducing the suffering of countless millions of animals and people. It is also of immense utility in many other areas.

I fully support animal testing. Do you? If not, why not?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Sexual Politics of Meat, continued!

All right, y'all. As promised, here's my first contribution: An advertisement I found in Woodstock's Pizzeria in the fall.
The ALL MEAT ORGY to support men's health. What do you think of this promotion? Is it in line with Adams's work? If you find other advertisements that seem like good examples of Adams's argument (or examples of a counterargument!) please feel free to contribute below.


Thoughts on Carol Adams ideas from Sexual Politics of Meat

To expand on meat partitioning within poor households, our discussion brought up the point of biological differences as a justification for certain degrees of differential treatment. Katie, our TA, makes a counterpoint by asking us to consider (not verbatim) that maybe its the differential treatment that is creating these biological differences. While that may be true, the differential partitioning of resources between male and female members among neanderthal man has already occurred. The state of the matter is that males are biologically more capable in providing physical capital than females. I believe that generic men and women living exactly equal lifestyles, equal exercise diet, etc. will generally result in men growing to be more physically powerful than women. Of course, there are a myriad of other general biological differences. At this point in human history, sheer equality will result in unequal results. I'm not saying that we should enact discrimination in policy. No. If an applicant for, say, a job in the fields (not that a job in the fields doesn't leave much to be desired) is female and can perform just as well as the generic male, then there is no reason not to reject her if the employer is hiring. Performance over empowerment.  Sure females and males might share an abundant number of characteristics, but to use shared characteristics while ignoring differing characteristics is to be incredibly short-sighted.
Of course, this last sentiment also applies to animal equality. Humans may share many general characteristics with animals, but the general differences are significant enough to merit differential treatment. I think fairness should be valued over equality, and since most species, humans and non-humans, are generally evolved to treasure its own survival, fair treatment entails doing what is most conducive to both the survival and flourishing of our respective species since that is what is ingrained in all species - the desire to propagate the species. If other species would prey on humans if given the opportunity, humans are perfectly entitled to prey on other species (i.e. animal testing for bio-medical purposes, not treating animals like humans).
I mean, you could always poke the semantics of my vernacular. Vir might mean man and animals might include homo sapiens sapiens, but at the end of the day, such trivialities don't prove anything other than a desire to make a big fuss out of subjectively perceived 'problems' via vague correlations.