Humanizing animals like apes doesn’t help either humans or animals, argues Markus Gabriel.
René ScheuPhilosopher and Managing Director of the Institute for Swiss Economic Policy (IWP)
The stone is what it is. The lion is what he eats. And the human? He is what he thinks he is. If man sees himself as a thunderstorm of neurons in a monkey’s body, then his brutalization is not far off, as we are seeing these days. If, on the other hand, he sees himself as a spiritual, free creature, then something could become of him again.
That is, in a nutshell, the quintessence of the new thoughts presented by the young star philosopher Markus Gabriel on the condition of man (can be read in his highly readable book “Der Mensch als Tier”). En passant, Gabriel disenchants a lot of certainties that have become dear about people, the environment and nature. A selection of fresh insights:
If man defines himself as animal + X (where X = reason, i.e.: man = animal + reason), that is quite unreasonable. Because the definition not only leads to an animalization of humans, but also to a false humanization of some animals.
This is exactly what the mainstream of animal ethics suffers from: Man ennobles animals such as monkeys, dogs or cows in which he believes he sees a caricature of himself (human-like animal = man – reason). On the other hand, he does not even consider other animals such as fish or insects as animals and exterminates them with a clear conscience.
Plants are even more remote from humans – but how does the broccoli-eating vegan know that they cause less pain to cabbage than to an insect?
The fashionable talk of the Anthropocene, the “earth age of man,” is a single hubris: Man has no special geological position on planet Earth. All his traces will one day be wiped away and gone.
Man’s destruction of the environment is not a problem for nature, as many environmentalists believe, but merely for the survival of mankind. Nature lives on anyway – until the sun explodes at some point.
Unfortunately for man there is no going back to nature – it is merciless and man is profoundly alien to it. Ecological merger fantasies are just as out of place as human megalomania.
The more man researches himself scientifically, the more puzzling he becomes at the same time. Man can never fully understand himself – and that hurts him.
As knowledge grows, so does the pain of not knowing. Man has to learn to live with it. What is needed is an ethic of humility.
Stark, Markus Gabriel.