Sunday, April 07, 2013

Nietzsche on "Animals and Morality" (in Daybreak)

Consider this as an appendix to the previous post. At first glance, Nietzsche's remarks below will seem to vindicate Bekoff (and similar thinkers), and in an important way, it does. But note also the hints at Nietzsche's critique of morality in order to see the point of my complaint: that what can--but perhaps isn't often--different about moral reflection in humans (as far as the empirical evidence indicates) has its precise roots in the kind of reflective criticism of "social morality" and its norms that is represented by Nietzsche's passage. Thanks to Sean Meighoo (Emory) for bringing my attention to this wonderful passage (in his presentation at the Beastly Morality Conference):

"§26 Animals and morality. – The practices demanded in polite society: careful avoidance of the ridiculous, the offensive, the presumptuous, the suppression of one’s virtues as well as of one’s strongest inclinations, self-adaptation, self-deprecation, submission to orders of rank—all this is to be found as social morality in crude form everywhere, even in the depths of the animal world—and only at this depth do we see the purpose of all these amiable precautions: one wishes to elude one’s pursuers and be favoured in the pursuit of one’s prey. For this reason the animals learn to master themselves and alter their form, so that many, for example, adapt their colouring to the colouring of their surroundings (by virtue of the so-called ‘chromatic function’), pretend to be dead or assume the forms and colours of another animal or of sand, leaves, lichen, fungus (what English researchers designate ‘mimicry’). Thus the individual hides himself in the general concept ‘man’, or in society, or adapts himself to princes, classes, parties, opinions of his time and place: and all the subtle ways we have of appearing fortunate, grateful, powerful, enamoured have their easily discoverable parallels in the animal world. Even the sense for truth, which is really the sense for security, man has in common with the animals: one does not want to let oneself be deceived, does not want to mislead oneself, one hearkens mistrustfully to the promptings of one’s own passions, one constrains oneself and lies in wait for oneself; the animal understands all this just as man does, with it too self-control springs from the sense for what is real (from prudence). It likewise assesses the effect it produces upon the perceptions of other animals and from this learns to look back upon itself, to take itself ‘objectively’, it too has its degree of self-knowledge. The animal assesses the movements of its friends and foes, it learns their peculiarities by heart, it prepares itself for them: it renounces war once and for all against individuals of a certain species, and can likewise divine from the way they approach that certain kinds of animals have peaceful and conciliatory intentions. The beginnings of justice, as of prudence, moderation, bravery—in short, of all we designate as the Socratic virtues, are animal: a consequence of that drive which teaches us to seek food and elude enemies. Now if we consider that even the highest human being has only become more elevated and subtle in the nature of his food and in his conception of what is inimical to him, it is not improper to describe the entire phenomenon of morality as animal."

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