39 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Sweet and funny, but no real thinking required.,
This review is from: When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals (Paperback)
"When Elephants Weep" is an enjoyable read despite being misrepresented by its cover details. If you're looking for an analysis of whether animals are capable of emotions, you'd better look elsewhere, but if you're after a series of amusing and touching animal anecdotes, you're in the right place.
The author makes no real attempt to objectively analyse animals' emotional states or capabilities and doesn't need to: he states in the foreword that that animals can experience emotion is "obvious", and that he is a vegetarian on the basis that he could never eat anything with eyes, since the eyes are too reproachful.
So I should clarify: had the book been represented as a collection of animal stories in the mould of Gerald Durrell, this would be a five star read: a cracking holiday book by a real animal lover that'll keep you laughing, crying and turning the pages. As a scientific analysis, even as pop science (and with apologies to the author), this is laughable: lacking basic evidence for its arguments, and scrupulously avoiding objectivity by taking a biased point of view and stating its conclusions in the foreword.
Fun, but disappointingly shallow.
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Initial post: 17 Mar 2011 21:44:03 GMT
Mr Tim Baugh says:
It is interesting to read this sort of comment, as it seems to be a good example of those in pursuit of dispelling myths and 'unscientific' approaches to many of the most pressing moral issues that challenge us as human beings, being busy energetically maintaining their own, shall we say, analytic qwerks. Demanding an objective study of emotion, or consciousness for that matter, is rather like demanding a description of what red smells like. The significant features of our emotional lives are subjective. Science is a study of the objective. What we need to do here is address the more fundamental question as to whether one can provide objective descriptions of the subjective. It is not clear how science could help us to answer this question. So dismissing someone who argues that it is obvious that animals feel emotion as unscientific entirely misses the point. Science, whilst it may be able to help in some ways with these questions (by showing, for example, that biochemical responses to stimuli in animals and humans are sufficiently similar such that one might assume that animals and humans have similar experiences in similar circumstances, which more and more studies are in fact showing), is probably unable to resolve them completely for us. It is down to Philosophy or similar disciplines to try to unravel this. And there is no unversal agreement on these deeply difficult questions to date. In the face of no objective answers to such questions, would it not, therefore, be better just to give animals the benefit of the doubt? Or might that be too inconvenient?
And if you are not 'aware' that animals have feelings, how can you be helped? I'm reminded of Louis Armstrong's reply to the question, 'What is jazz?'. He said something like, 'If you don't know now, you ain't never gonna get to know.'
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