Monday, October 24, 2011

On Critters

The conception that Hume wanted to root out  had its basis in religious belief.  Taking very seriously the saying that God created us in his own image, it saw us as hybrid beings, in this world but not entirely of it. … Animals are quite different.  They have no souls, but are just very subtle and complex machines, nothing more.   The really significant line comes between us and them, not between us and God.  Hume wanted to move it:  we are not inferior little gods, but somewhat superior  middle-sized animals.
--Edward Craig,  Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (2002), p. 26

We earlier alluded, with smiling approval, to the thesis of the intrazoological ontological gap, as articulated by His Holiness the Pope.  (It’s a long essay; just scroll down to the picture of the naked lady with all her ontologically discontinuous animal-friends.)  Yet, alarmingly, as evidenced by the passage above-quoted, this God-given gap threatens to be pried open (by those busy goblins, the atheists, ever wielding their picks) into something gaping

So, note:  It’s a gap, not a chasm.   Hamsters are not tiny machines (What idle demiurge would have made them?); they are furry little wonderballs.   (For the diffeomorphic significance of their rotundity, click here.)

True, back in the day, ourselves squatting in the rain  around our pile of dismal sticks, waiting for some bright-guy to invent fire,  we may have cut no very dashing figure.   (Though you’d have been a fool to place your bets on what otherwise seemed pre-eminent, the sabre-tooths and the mastodons.)  But things have changed a bit since then.

There is truly no excuse for Hume.    Granted, he did not have access to the extensive literature on (to take an example entirely at random) the Urysohn Metrization Theorem, but he had already, not merely the results of Euclidean geometry, endlessly interesting though these be, but the example of the Axiomatic Enterprise -- an insight worthy of the Lawgiver.

~     ~     ~

As to what animals are, I don’t know, though I’ve made a stab at it  here and here.  For the real answer, you would have to ask  St. Francis.

No comments:

Post a Comment