Life is an unsolved riddle only to the degree that you haven’t yet realized yourself to be the answer.
Animals, as we call them, range over the realm of instinct and emotion freely, and we can even witness them reaching into the realm of contemplation, easiest understood for us when watching the behaviour of other simians.
You will perhaps notice that octopi are capable of some degree of problem solving, but as an octopus explores a problem it doesn’t reflect on it in a larger context. It can figure out how to get out of its enclosure, but will give no thought to the risk of exposure to the open air. When it discovers the complication of open air, it either keeps its attention fixed on its goal, or reverses its course of action. Almost mechanical in a sense, and in rare cases of brain injury in humans you can see behavior that seems to have intelligence and purpose, but will lack any context. The person will seem to want something to drink and pick up a cup to put to their mouth, but they will not recall that the cup had nothing to drink in it, nor remember that it was empty for very long after that.
But some animal groups do exhibit social awareness. Indeed, they do. In this case, I was mostly referring to something along the lines of an octopus or shark. Sharks will vary their efforts to get at a caged diver, and will eventually stop striking the cage, but won’t show any understanding of what it means that a caged diver is in their environment. But let’s take crows, they do understand that they benefit from grouping together in flocks, shared sentry duty and easier mating opportunities, but they do more than that. Crows can as individuals recognize someone who threatened or hurt them, and then recruit other crows in making an aggressive response to whoever they identified. Seagulls do this also.
A single bee will have no real decision making ability when confronted with, for example, a pillaging bear, but their individual consciousness’s work together as a whole, sort of like our neurons do, and when enough of the hive recognize a threat, they will work together to respond to it.
Now we as human beings have all three of these stages in our own being.
So group instinct operating? Group instinct amounting to an “emotional” response. They can moderate their responses in ways that instinct itself doesn’t account for and have more complex reactions.
Isn’t empathy an instinct? Preprogrammed to reach out? It only has instinctive roots. Empathy, if you prefer the materialist view, is an emergent quality of a variety of levels of brain function. Fish tend to rely on chemical signals to “fool” them into an empathic behaviour, a sort of pre-empathy.
Some would say the contemplative or reflective level of awareness or “enlightenment” is the apex of evolution on this planet. Social animals often still show what would seem to be only a rudimentary capacity for reflecting on the context of any situation they are in or even that may be occurring around them. Our cat has a sense of our habitual behavior in a day and has learned to base his requests on that, but he can’t conceive of circumstances that would modify our habits.
Most pets do. Would a wild cat act the same way? Potentially a wild cat would also, but they would use it for meeting potential mates or cornering prey.
Pets seem to adapt to whatever lifestyle their human has, like they know exactly when their owner would be coming home from work and wait at the door. They have this capacity because of the “emotional” stage of consciousness. They get a “feel” for how things are supposed to happen, and they can add in some memory recall so they can track modifying cues. Like when the lady is wearing boots by herself, I can go out, but when the lady and man are both wearing boots, I cannot go out, in the case of our cat I mentioned earlier.
And so goodbye man boots. Yes, they do even try to modify the circumstances that seem to govern their condition, destroying something they mistakenly believe is a cause.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.