Thinking Animals

Thinking Animals: Animals and the Development of Human Intelligence

PAUL SHEPARD
FOREWORD BY MAX OELSCHLAEGER
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46ncb6
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Thinking Animals
    Book Description:

    In a world increasingly dominated by human beings, the survival of other species becomes more and more questionable. In this brilliant book, Paul Shepard offers a provocative alternative to an "us or them" mentality, proposing that other species are integral to humanity's evolution and exist at the core of our imagination. This trait, he argues, compels us to think of animals in order to be human. Without other living species by which to measure ourselves, Shepard warns, we would be less mature, care less for and be more careless of all life, including our own kind.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4234-4
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. xi-xx)
    Max Oelschlaeger

    Reader beware! Many reasons might bring one to these pages, such as a love of animals, environmental concern, or an interest in human psychology, but few are prepared for either the radical inquiry or the remarkable range of evidence and subjects brought together here. Published originally in 1978, this book foreshadows Paul Shepard’s The Others: How Animals Made Us Human, published in 1996, and is a necessary prelude to the later work. Yet on my reading, Thinking Animals is intellectually more radical and stimulating. Consider its central thesis: that animals profoundly shaped human intelligence, and by increasingly isolating ourselves from...

  4. 1 ON ANIMALS THINKING
    (pp. 1-37)

    A world where people are beginning to crowd one another intolerably is a world too small for animals. Until recent centuries, big clusters of people were widely separated. In the towns some animals, such as pets, sparrows, and cockroaches, thrived, but the realm of the wild birds and mammals was between towns. Now the planet is becoming a city. Animals that once lived on farms or simply away from civilization soon will no longer find space. They use “our” air, land, food, and water. If that nonhuman life is to continue, it will be only because it is purposely included...

  5. 2 THE MENTAL MENAGERIE
    (pp. 38-75)

    The human brain is an evolutionary experiment made possible by primate society and predator ecology. Its most unique feature is the opening of mind and thought to the whole of experience. Its dual origin combines the interiority and social purposes of monkeydom with the attention to otherness of carnivores. The strategy by which natural selection created such a brain was the infantilizing of the individual—that is, the extension of immaturity and specialization of the psychological processes of development.

    An imaginary, magisterial overseer of all animal life, looking at brains, might characterize them as screening and shunning devices for translating...

  6. 3 AMBIGUOUS ANIMALS
    (pp. 76-114)

    So far we have considered the natural species system as the model of concrete diversity and order. In nature animals do not grade smoothly from one kind to another, but form distinct groups of very similar individuals. Between species there is a gap that the animals themselves—and we—can recognize. We are order-making creatures and the natural world is a fit place for brains that grow by observing the adherence to kind and the clustering of kinds into groups.

    The world of ideas and social relations, however, is full of fuzziness. Our feelings, ethics, and morality are often gray...

  7. 4 IMITATING ANIMALS: THE CAST OF CHARACTERS
    (pp. 115-147)

    One of the traits of modern society under widespread reform is its conventions for classifying people. The young, in particular, object to the catchbins of race and sex, to typing people as liberals, capitalists, WASPS, hippies, or criminally insane. The criticism is justly based on the repressive effects of such labels and is supported by social theory. And yet the dream that there are as many kinds of people as there are people does not go down easily.

    Sliding through professions and geography, minimizing race and class, the yearning for androgyny and psychological environmentalism are all unsatisfying because they neglect...

  8. 5 PRETENDING THAT ANIMALS ARE PEOPLE: THE CHARACTER OF CASTE
    (pp. 148-212)

    G. B. Harrison, a Shakespearean scholar, once said, “A good department of English should include a diversity of creatures, like a good zoo, which is incomplete without its lion, giraffe, hippopotamus, and giant sloth, not omitting the indigenous fauna such as the viper and the skunk, who usually are also unbidden species in the collection. Personality is far more important for a teacher than an assortment of degrees and diplomas.”

    When we think of the teachers we have known, we immediately recognize their places in such a bestiary. Indeed, we can find such types everywhere in society. Classifying personality traits...

  9. 6 THE AESOP ACCOUNT
    (pp. 213-238)

    There is an island in our collective mental landscape—or seascape—with a fauna all its own, not of exotic species, or endemic forms, as the biologist would say, but having its own unique mixture. The island is the huckster’s sea-mount, a part of the archipelago of commerce, a coral strand of magazine ads where live the creatures of the adman’s bestiary. All sorts of exploring parties keep putting in to the beaches, but they never pay much attention to the animals or plants. Yet the advertising business spends surprising amounts of energy and money to sway the consumer by...

  10. 7 WHAT GOOD ARE ANIMALS?
    (pp. 239-262)

    The land-use patterns that developed with Western culture are typically concentric around villages. As it spread north into Europe from the Mediterranean, agriculture repeated a design on the land. It was composed of zones around each human settlement. Close in, vegetables for the table were grown and milk animals housed. Near the village gate were field crops and, at a distance, pasture lands and the forest fringes where wood was gathered. Beyond was wilderness. The effect of these rings of land around each settlement was that wild and domestic creatures existed in a graded, reciprocal series: with few wild things...

  11. NOTES AND REFERENCES
    (pp. 263-270)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 271-274)