Monday, 17 June 2013

The Monopoly On Reason

From as long ago as 400 BC, we have had philosophers telling us that the unexamined life was not worth living. In other words, we human beings had to apply reason when making all our choices and to guide all our words and deeds.

Indeed, reason is supposed to be the characteristic that distinguishes human beings from animals, which is why we have arrogated to ourselves the right to call ourselves "sapiens", the thinking ones.

What a revolution it must cause in our view of the world to see that animals can apply reason to overcome their instinct as well as we can!

This video of a young fox (scientific name: Vulpes vulpes) with its head stuck in a glass jar is breathtaking for what it says about the animal kingdom. Instinct would dictate that a fox must always run away at the approach of human beings. Yet this fox actively moves towards two humans to seek help. It is clear from its actions (not just its initial approach but its quiet submission as the man extricates its head) that it is suppressing powerful primal urges in order to achieve a desired result.

The cookie jar that held one smart cookie!

The usual, predictable outcome of a wild animal getting its head stuck in a jar is death by starvation. Unable to free itself and unwilling to approach humans, it would have absolutely no hope of survival (unless it was captured against its will and relieved of its torment by sympathetic humans).

A wild animal defying all stereotypes and all norms of expected behaviour is something that should by rights revolutionalise not just our view of the animal kingdom but also our view of what it means to be human. Homo sapiens is clearly not the only animal species capable of applying reason to solve problems.

Master fox, I dub thee "Vulpes sapiens".

[Update 19/03/2017: Two hopelessly entangled swans display the same good sense to approach humans for help.]
I'm sure these were called stupid as well as ugly ducklings when they were cygnets
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