Self in Animanls and Humans

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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one_awakening
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Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by one_awakening » Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:09 am

Some animals do have a sense of self, but most don't. Why do human brains create the sense of self? Is it just something that comes with increased intelligence? Does intelligence reach a point where it is able to detect what it perceives as a self?
“You only lose what you cling to”

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Kim OHara
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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by Kim OHara » Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:45 am

We're not going to be sure until we can talk freely with animals (one or two apes using sign language is a step in that direction but not enough for this purpose) but it seems that a sense of self comes almost automatically with a certain level of intelligence. For instance there's the mirror test - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_test - and a cute alternative developed for dogs - https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2 ... 111355.htm.
Among a range of other animals there's also quite sophisticated tool-making, and some very human-like cheating, shaming and misdirection. I find it hard to believe that these can exist without some kind of sense of self, others, and agency.
What it means for me is that the dividing line between "human" and "animal" looks quite blurry when you look hard.
In pure biological fact, of course, all humans are animals - merely one species of ape - although we have spent most of our history denying it. You know ... "God made animals and then made people," and so on. And Linnaeus, 2000 years later, put people into his classification scheme but put them way out on their own, as unrelated to the rest of the world as possible.
Anyway, if we're animals, it shouldn't be too surprising that other animals share some quite complicated skills and abilities with us.

:namaste:
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binocular
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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by binocular » Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:59 am

one_awakening wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:09 am
Some animals do have a sense of self, but most don't.
How can you possibly know that??
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Nwad
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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by Nwad » Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:25 am

I think it depends on social organisation of being. IMO social beings have more conditions to develop self-view.

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Circle5
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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by Circle5 » Sun Mar 18, 2018 12:26 pm

There is a certain amount of inteligence required for that to develop. There exists the feeling that "this is mine, this is myself". Based on the appearence of that feeling, the opinion that there is a self will develop. The reasoning being "why did this feeling appear ? There must be a self, otherwise why would such a feeling appear in the first place ?".

The organism requires a certain amount of ability to process information in order to 1) recognize that feeling and categorize it like that and 2) be able to make that reasoning described above and therefore even develop the opinion that there is a self.

In absence of such intelligence, there will be no such things arising inside the organism. Also worth noting humans below age 2 also do not have a sense of self arising in them.
"Well then — knowing in what way, seeing in what way, does one without delay put an end to the effluents? There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — assumes form to be the self. That assumption is a fabrication. Now what is the cause, what is the origination, what is the birth, what is the coming-into-existence of that fabrication? To an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, touched by that which is felt born of contact with ignorance, craving arises. That fabrication is born of that. And that fabrication is inconstant, fabricated, dependently co-arisen. That craving… That feeling… That contact… That ignorance is inconstant, fabricated, dependently co-arisen. It is by knowing & seeing in this way that one without delay puts an end to the effluents.

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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by justindesilva » Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:30 pm

one_awakening wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:09 am
Some animals do have a sense of self, but most don't. Why do human brains create the sense of self? Is it just something that comes with increased intelligence? Does intelligence reach a point where it is able to detect what it perceives as a self?
Feeling of self is nothing but arises from moha or ignorance. With moha we are no better than animals who cannot develop wisdom as of their nature.
Paticca samuppada is a process which we humabs and animals undergo in common. We humans are fortunate to develop wisdom (pragna) to overcome moha or ignorance. Until and unless we can get rid of moha , we will in common with animals will feel " self"

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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by cappuccino » Sun Mar 18, 2018 4:48 pm


dharmacorps
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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by dharmacorps » Sun Mar 18, 2018 4:54 pm

one_awakening wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:09 am
Does intelligence reach a point where it is able to detect what it perceives as a self?
The teachings of the Buddha seem to be predicated on the ability of humans to detect what it perceives as a self, and see through it. For animals, it does not seem possible to progress in this way on that subject-- but there are some references to the good conduct of animals being causes for being reborn as humans (Jataka tales). That is why a human birth is precious, you have freedom to practice well. Animals' existences are too wrapped up in pure survival to be able to practice.

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DNS
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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by DNS » Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:38 pm

I think scientists sometimes put the bar too high for what it means to have self-awareness. The mirror test and others are good, but how about just the mere pursuit of self-survival? I know some of that is instinctual, but we humans have that too. If an animal is being attacked, he/she definitely seeks survival, an escape route and seeks to continue living. This can be out of self-awareness that they exist and want to continue to exist and that they are aware that they want to continue to exist (maybe, not 100% sure though).

I am sure though that it is definitely a blur between humans and animals with the primary difference being intelligence. Even among humans (let alone comparing to animals) there are vast differences in intelligence levels, for example severely mentally deficient humans and say the intelligence of Magnus Carlsen (who while blindfolded can play against several fairly strong chess players in a simul exhibition and defeat them all).

For those of you who may not be familiar with blindfold chess simuls:
Carlsen is blindfolded and plays about 10 strong chess players
His opponents can all see their boards and where their chess pieces are located
Carlsen must memorize the placement of all the pieces, the positions, etc of all 10 boards while blindfolded
Carlsen makes move by verbally using algebraic terms, for example: Bc4 = Bishop to c4 square
And somehow he memorizes all those positions and still plays well and defeats them all

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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by binocular » Sun Mar 18, 2018 6:29 pm

DNS wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:38 pm
I think scientists sometimes put the bar too high for what it means to have self-awareness.
"Self-awareness" is a problematic term. Often, it seems to refer to the awareness of one's body. Often, it is also taken to mean to be aware of what others think (or say) that one is, and identifying with that.
The mirror test and others are good,
What other tests?
The mirror test, for example, shouldn't be applied to beings that appear to recognize identity primarily through their sense of smell or sound.
the intelligence of Magnus Carlsen (who while blindfolded can play against several fairly strong chess players in a simul exhibition and defeat them all).
It's not clear how one needs self-awareness for that.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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DNS
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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by DNS » Sun Mar 18, 2018 7:47 pm

The Magnus Carlsen example was just to show the wide range of intelligence even among humans.

Other tests include the sniff-test as quoted by Kim and then there is also the study of animal languages, their emotions, animal altruism, and neural correlates.

dharmacorps
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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by dharmacorps » Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:56 pm

That is a good point, intelligence can be of several kinds and varies within one species. I believe there is a Sutta with a story of a "simple" monk who had trouble meditating and was given instructions by the Buddha to be mindful of sweeping.
I think dogs and cats can appeal to people because they are capable of significant emotional depth and openness that people often have trouble expressing. There can be great kindness there which doesn't seem to require a advanced sense of self. I don't think all animals have that, but certainly some do-- I know that traditionally, elephants, deer, big cats, and other "royal" animals are considered somewhat "higher" animals in Buddhism.

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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by chownah » Mon Mar 19, 2018 1:59 am

DNS wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:38 pm
I think scientists sometimes put the bar too high for what it means to have self-awareness. The mirror test and others are good, but how about just the mere pursuit of self-survival? I know some of that is instinctual, but we humans have that too. If an animal is being attacked, he/she definitely seeks survival, an escape route and seeks to continue living. This can be out of self-awareness that they exist and want to continue to exist and that they are aware that they want to continue to exist (maybe, not 100% sure though).
Using this approach it seems that ALL animals are self aware.....seems like even bacteria would be too in that they have defences etc.......even plants have defence mechanisms so are they sentient too?
chownah

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one_awakening
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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by one_awakening » Mon Mar 19, 2018 2:16 am

DNS wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:38 pm
If an animal is being attacked, he/she definitely seeks survival, an escape route and seeks to continue living. This can be out of self-awareness that they exist and want to continue to exist and that they are aware that they want to continue to exist
Seeking survival is just an instinct, it doesn't require a sense of self.
“You only lose what you cling to”

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Re: Self in Animanls and Humans

Post by davidbrainerd » Mon Mar 19, 2018 9:16 am

one_awakening wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:09 am
Some animals do have a sense of self, but most don't. Why do human brains create the sense of self? Is it just something that comes with increased intelligence? Does intelligence reach a point where it is able to detect what it perceives as a self?
Define sense of self before proceeding. If by sense of self, you mean an indentification of the body as the self, all beings both human and animal have this until they become stream-enterers. Now, an animal may not be able to recognize its body in the mirror and so a dog may think its seeing another dog, but that's a limitation of its reasoning faculties and ability to understand what a mirror is. That is not proof that the dog does not identify the body as its self.

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