Walking in the Paws of Others: Was It Love, Duty, or Sympathy That Motivated This Dog?

Or am I anthropomorphizing?

If the dog’s behavior was not triggered by a conscious impulse to love, duty, or sympathy, why did the dog cross the road?

I wonder if the dogs were even related.

Can a dog have Keatsian negative capability? Did the dog understand that, in helping, it was putting its own life in mortal danger?

And the retrieving dog did not just pull the injured dog to safety, but showed chivalric determination to absorb on its own body any further blows that might come from the oncoming traffic.

Think about the range and complexity of emotional life these behaviors imply for this particular dog. If a robot dog did these things unbidden, we’d say it had consciousness. It seems to me that this dog passes the dog-consciousness Turing test.

Then again, maybe it’s all just pack animal instinct on display, and the dog has not the least trace of a self accompanied by an inner emotional and conceptual life. Maybe all dogs are zombies, acting on range of the moment instincts without any inner life whatsoever—not even a flicker—and giving only the appearances of consciousness.

But, if this is true, why would consciousness have ever come on in any species at all (as it clearly has in us)? If everything evolutionarily important can get done by zombies, whence consciousness?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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4 Responses to Walking in the Paws of Others: Was It Love, Duty, or Sympathy That Motivated This Dog?

  1. Paradigm says:

    It makes for an interesting comparison to the 2-year old Chinese girl who was run over by a truck and everyone ignored her (warning, it’s very disturbing):

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