Monday, April 08, 2013

A Thinking Dog's Man

I was working in my study when the rumbling in my tummy convinced me that it was time to take a break from work. So I pushed my chair back, got up and started walking towards the kitchen. And promptly tripped over my sleeping dog, Nawab.

"Ow! Watch it clumsy" said the lethargic canine opening a sleepy eyelid.

"Wouldn't happen if you kept sleeping under people's feet all day" was my quick retort as I made my way towards the fridge. But Nawab was up now as he followed me to the kitchen and the sat down and cocked his head to the side.

"What are we eating now?"

Great! Most people's dogs follow them but mine has to carry on a conversation too. Though at times, just because my canine companion speaks to me, sometimes I forget that he is not human. Is Anthropomorphism a Sin?

"Umm I am having a snack, you'll be lucky if you even get a few crumbs this time. Don't you look at me like that." It's one thing to suggest that a talking dog is simply hairy little human because no hairy human can convey the hurt look a dog can give, especially when denied a snack. Big googly eyes that load you with guilt, suddenly you feel like an overweight Sumo wrestler snacking in front of a starving child.

"Damn you! There you can have just one little piece then. OK, one more but nothing after that." Was I treating this dog as if he was a four-footed person in a fur coats? I'd been delving into articles about research in canine behavior and the consensus was that scientists were frowning upon the use of words like 'personality' or 'intelligence' when it came to describing doggy behavior. Anyone caught doing that was not a rational scientist but most likely a woolly headed human who was busy tickling the subject's ears and going "oosa tickly-pickly boy now, kitchie, kitchie, kitchie....". Now that would be a career limiting move in the world of canine psychology.

"You know," I told Nawab, "I was reading canine researcher Stanley Coren, PhD, of the University of British Columbia. He has reviewed numerous studies to conclude that dogs have the ability to solve complex problems and are more like humans and other higher primates than previously thought. He says, and I quote from his interview now, 'We all want insight into how our furry companions think, and we want to understand the silly, quirky and apparently irrational behaviors [that] Lassie or Rover demonstrate. Their stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity are reminders that they may not be Einsteins but are sure closer to humans than we thought.' And while I think you may rank higher, but as per Dr Cohen, according to several behavioral measures dogs' mental abilities are close to a human child age 2 to 2.5 years."

"You've lost me" said Nawab, "What are you trying to get at?"

"Well I think if behaviors and abilities of dogs are apt to be similar to that of a 2 ½ year old human, then I forgive you your constant hankering for food and your addiction to reality TV shows," said I grinning at him.

"Did you know that Spinoza holds that God has neither intelligence nor will; yet he attributes thought to him, and speaks of the infinite intelligence of God. But it is obvious that these two assertions contradict each other flatly. However it must be said that according to Jewish and Catholic theology God has not discursive understanding, which needs reasoning and analysis in order to arrive at its ends; they attribute to him intuitive understanding. So Spinoza's God is not the 'author of nature,' but nature itself. Now there is indeed reason in nature, but it is unconscious. The spider weaves its web without the slightest notion of geometry; the animal organism develops without having the faintest conception of physiology and anatomy. Nature thinks without thinking that it thinks; its thought is unconscious, an instinct, a wonderful foresight which is superior to intelligence, but not intelligence proper. By distinguishing between cogitatio and intellectus, Spinoza foreshadows the Leibnizian distinction between perception and apperception, or conscious perception."

I stood still with my mouth wide open as Nawab edged closer to me.

"So to sum it all up, similarly I see no connection between a hankering for food and an addiction to reality TV", continued Nawab, as he took the snack from my hand and sat down to eat.