Philosophy of whales and dolphins

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Philosophy of whales and dolphins

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Following a topic about whale brain vs human brain that indicated that whales and dolphins have brain-cells that in humans are linked to conscious experience, reasoning and thinking, I hereby start a new topic dedicated to philosophy on behalf of whales and dolphins considering a potential urgency to achieve progress to understand their language.

An attempt to learn whale language has been initiated in April 2021 and it was noted that it requires philosophy, which may explain why a serious effort to understand whales and dolphins was never made until now.

Project CETI (Cetacean Translation Initiative) dates from 2017 from scientists who intended to dive into the subject, and apparently needed to start from scratch.

(2021) Groundbreaking effort launched to decode whale language
If humans were ever to decode the language of whales, or even determine if whales possessed something we might truly call language, we’d need to pair their clicks with the context, which would entail a challenging inter-specie philosophical endeavor.

‘They sound like Morse code’

The project CETI (Cetacean Translation Initiative) started with a marine biologist. In 2017, while a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute, Gruber, a diver, became fascinated with after reading a book about free divers who study them. One day while listening to whale codas on his laptop, another Radcliffe fellow, Shafi Goldwasser, happened by.

“‘Those are really interesting—they sound like Morse code,’” Gruber recalls Goldwasser saying.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/anim ... -of-whales

Philosopher John Lilly founded the Communication Research Institute in the late 1950's and published research suggesting that his attempts to talk to dolphins were working.

Image

"The feeling of weirdness came on us as the sounds of this small whale seemed more and more to be forming words in our own human language. We felt we were in the presence of Something, or Someone who was on the other side of the transparent barrier" ~ philosopher John C. Lilly

https://www.johnclilly.com/

The following website, founded in 2016, provides an overview of the latest whale and dolphin science which again indicates that major initiatives to understand them are fairly new.

Image

https://whalescientists.com/

(2021) What do we know about intelligence in whales and dolphins?
"Could whales be as smart, if not smarter, than humans?

Cetacean brains are surprisingly similar to our own. Orcas, for example, show cerebral folding that is more impressive than in humans. This helps them process more information at remarkable speeds. Moreover, this particular species presents the most complex insular cortex in the world. This part of the brain is involved in consciousness and self-awareness as well as processing emotions such as empathy and compassion.
"
https://whalescientists.com/intelligenc ... -dolphins/

In the following article on dolphin intelligence and the future of philosophy, it is suggested that the ultimate state of being for life forms is to become something like a whale.

(2021) Dolphin intelligence and the future of philosophy
We don’t see evidence of supercivilisations across the galaxy because the only ones that persist are the ones that give up the risky path of technology and instead pursue immersion in nature.

Ageing civilisations either self-destruct or shift to become something like a whale. The Russian astrophysicist Vladimir M Lipunov speculated that, across the Universe, the scientific mindset recurrently evolves, discovers all there is to know and, having exhausted its compelling curiosity, proceeds to wither away and become something like a whale.

By 1978, the philosophers Arkadiy Ursul and Yuri Shkolenko wrote of such conjectures – concerning the ‘possible rejection in the future of the “technological way” of development’ – and reflected that this would be tantamount to humanity’s ‘transformation into something like dolphins’.

https://aeon.co/essays/dolphin-intellig ... mic-future

Are whales deep thinkers?
Whale and dolphin brains contain specialized brain cells called spindle neurons. These are associated with advanced abilities such as recognising, remembering, reasoning, communicating, perceiving, adapting to change, problem-solving and understanding. So it seems they are deep thinkers! Not only that, but the part of their brain which processes emotions (limbic system) appears to be more complex than our own.
https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn ... -us-human/

--

Considering the potential that whales and dolphins have a physiological capacity that could allow them to be more intelligent than humans, it may be important that the human is able to recognize and understand their intelligence if they ever hope to discover, appropriately recognize and understand extraterrestrial life.

1) if whales have a language that is more complex than that of humans, how could humans possibly learn to understand it?
2) are there philosophers that dedicate to whales and dolphins today?
3) what purpose could advanced brain technology serve for a life as a whale or dolphin?
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Re: Philosophy of whales and dolphins

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psyreporter wrote: October 11th, 2021, 7:07 pmConsidering the potential that whales and dolphins have a physiological capacity that could allow them to be more intelligent than humans, it may be important that the human is able to recognize and understand their intelligence if they ever hope to discover, appropriately recognize and understand extraterrestrial life.

1) if whales have a language that is more complex than that of humans, how could humans possibly learn to understand it?
2) are there philosophers that dedicate to whales and dolphins today?
3) what purpose could advanced brain technology serve for a life as a whale or dolphin?
The complexity and brain size tends to be linked to echolocation abilities. The harsh behaviours observed in dolphin pods are more suggestive of stone age nomads than modern humans. Dolphins regularly engage in gang rape, kill the young of other species and treat other organisms as playthings.

I think it most unlikely that civilisations will reach a pinnacle of science and then retreat back to living wild for the sake of peace. Rather, those who are more interested in peace than progress will be exploited and controlled by the ambitious and the aggressive, as has happened throughout human history.
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Re: Philosophy of whales and dolphins

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Sy Borg wrote: October 11th, 2021, 8:17 pm The complexity and brain size tends to be linked to echolocation abilities. The harsh behaviours observed in dolphin pods are more suggestive of stone age nomads than modern humans. Dolphins regularly engage in gang rape, kill the young of other species and treat other organisms as playthings.

I think it most unlikely that civilisations will reach a pinnacle of science and then retreat back to living wild for the sake of peace. Rather, those who are more interested in peace than progress will be exploited and controlled by the ambitious and the aggressive, as has happened throughout human history.
Is your argument that barbarism and aggressors will always prevail over peaceful intelligence minded civilization?

In my opinion, looking back in time (history) cannot be a guiding principle for the future. Reason beyond value involves morality and while morality and philosophy are suppressed as of today in favour of a stubborn belief in the facts of science, the secure longer term prosperity and successful evolution may require humans to evolve into a 'moral being', capable of submerging in Nature, but not giving up on the drive to excel in progress on behalf of what can be considered 'good' (with long term survival being the most basic interest in light of 'good').

Can the human envision itself in 1 million years? If not, then morality may hold a key to envision a future that can be deemed aligned with what 'ought to be', so that progress can be made faster and more efficient. 'Running dumb' as barbarian aggressors with a short term profit motive because history has required such figures to enable humans to escape the darkness of their cave may not be what can enable humans to prosper on the longer term.
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Re: Philosophy of whales and dolphins

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psyreporter wrote: October 12th, 2021, 7:38 am
Sy Borg wrote: October 11th, 2021, 8:17 pm The complexity and brain size tends to be linked to echolocation abilities. The harsh behaviours observed in dolphin pods are more suggestive of stone age nomads than modern humans. Dolphins regularly engage in gang rape, kill the young of other species and treat other organisms as playthings.

I think it most unlikely that civilisations will reach a pinnacle of science and then retreat back to living wild for the sake of peace. Rather, those who are more interested in peace than progress will be exploited and controlled by the ambitious and the aggressive, as has happened throughout human history.
Is your argument that barbarism and aggressors will always prevail over peaceful intelligence minded civilization?

In my opinion, looking back in time (history) cannot be a guiding principle for the future. Reason beyond value involves morality and while morality and philosophy are suppressed as of today in favour of a stubborn belief in the facts of science, the secure longer term prosperity and successful evolution may require humans to evolve into a 'moral being', capable of submerging in Nature, but not giving up on the drive to excel in progress on behalf of what can be considered 'good' (with long term survival being the most basic interest in light of 'good').

Can the human envision itself in 1 million years? If not, then morality may hold a key to envision a future that can be deemed aligned with what 'ought to be', so that progress can be made faster and more efficient. 'Running dumb' as barbarian aggressors with a short term profit motive because history has required such figures to enable humans to escape the darkness of their cave may not be what can enable humans to prosper on the longer term.
I agree that history is not a guiding principle for the future, rather it forms its basis. The baby you once were was the basis of you, bit that baby is a vastly different entity to the one writing posts on a philosophy forum. Same situation. People mature, societies mature, and worlds and stars too mature from their tumultuous origins.

In context, cetaceans are remarkably intelligent animals and, like all species, they will have realms of experience that humans would find impossible to understand, just as we have realms of experience that other species will never understand.

I would love for humans to become more decent and more in touch with nature. I would love to see more wild nature recover, for struggling species to bounce back, for ecosystems to return to productive equilibrium.

However, it seems more likely that wild nature itself is looking ever more like an immature form from which technological humans/cyborgs are emerging, as if the biosphere was undergoing metamorphosis to its reproductive form - a form that can sent Earth algorithms to other worlds that create objects dreamed up by Earthlings using alien materials - like spores. Hopefully we survive reproduction better than some organisms do.

This vision of technology ever more eating the wild is not one that pleases me, but it's looking the most likely. The only other likely possibility is that we simply all die and our technology will become just one more curious layer depicting an extinction event, down in the Earth's crust. If anyone came across this layer, it would be surely known as the Plastic Era :)
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Re: Philosophy of whales and dolphins

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The following podcast by professor of creative writing Philip Hoare, biology professor Luke Rendell and philosophy professor Jonathan Birch may be of interest.

(2017) The Minds of Whales
What is it like to be a whale? How do they think and what do they feel? How are their social groups structured, and how do whale ‘cultures’ arise? And how has human thought and human culture been influenced by interaction with whales? In this dialogue, two internationally recognized whale experts — prize-winning author Philip Hoare and marine biologist Luke Rendell — discuss the inner lives of whales.
https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/theforum/the-minds-of-whales/ (London School of Economics)
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Re: Philosophy of whales and dolphins

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Sy Borg wrote: October 12th, 2021, 3:56 pmIn context, cetaceans are remarkably intelligent animals and, like all species, they will have realms of experience that humans would find impossible to understand, just as we have realms of experience that other species will never understand.
Yes, and perhaps even humans are incapable of communicating aspects related to experience, which explains the philosophical zombie theory by which it is indicated that it is impossible to know whether another human being is conscious.

However, in light of humanity's intent to discover extraterrestrial life and to secure longer term prosperity and survival in the face of 'the Universe' (which may be full of living creatures), it may be very important that the human does discover methods to allow understanding or perhaps mere 'plausible consideration' of meaningful experience in other life forms, with whales and dolphins, considering their brain technology that could potentially provide a greater capacity for 'reasoning, thinking and conscious experience' which from a human perspective may make it likely that a certain complex and advanced experience is likely to be present, have a very high likeliness of possessing of conscious experience on par with that of a human, similar to feral children also have conscious experience without being considered 'intelligent' in the face of humanity.

As it appears, the conclusion from research of feral children has been that socialization and culture are an important factor for 'humanity', the foundation for intelligence as seen from humanity's perspective (which would exclude potential advanced, deep and complex dreams and correlated thoughts that a feral child may have, which similarly may exist in whales and dolphins).

The Feral Child: Blurring the Boundary between the Human and the Animal

Each feral child’s case demonstrates the ambiguous boundaries between the human and non-human animal for the time and culture in which they were discovered. Each child was seen as having the potential for humanity while simultaneously being identified as not fully human. David Premack, an expert in psychology, explains that in human social behavior, there is a behavioral counterpart embedded in mental states (Premack 2007, 13865). This suggests that despite one being biologically human, the process of becoming human and therefore being identified as human, is taught through socialization and culture. Humans are tied in a tight social web (Premack 2007, 13865), which is reproduced through human culture. Feral children challenge what being human means because they are human and animal, and they lack socialization, which was, and arguably still is, important to the definition of humanity.

Source: Animals and Society: human animal studies

Perhaps whales have evolved a higher state of intelligence that the human does not know anything about. For example, wouldn't one wonder what an Orca would do with brain technology that presumably can process much more information faster than a human brain can, in a part that in a human brain is correlated with conscious experience, reasoning and thinking?
Sy Borg wrote: October 12th, 2021, 3:56 pmI would love for humans to become more decent and more in touch with nature. I would love to see more wild nature recover, for struggling species to bounce back, for ecosystems to return to productive equilibrium.
Philosophy may be the answer. What the human does not know, he cannot care for. A higher state of intelligence and potential for morality simply requires an effort.

The field animal ethics of philosophy and its effects on how humans in general (culturally) perceive and interact with animals shows the importance of philosophy to improve the well-being of animals in human-animal relations in general (even on global scale).

Animal minds have long been considered a "black box" by science. It wasn't given attention and thus people in general didn't know anything about it and cannot understand a problem with treating animals in a specific way (i.e. without respect).

(2019) Animal Ethics: an important emerging topic for society
Another reason for scientists to engage with the philosophy of animal ethics is that it might help them confront topics that have been traditionally off-limits: in particular, the notion of animal minds. While minds are difficult enough to talk about in humans, this difficulty is exacerbated when it comes to non-human animals.

... animal minds and consciousness have been consigned to a “black box”, an entity too complex or confusing to delve into, but whose inputs and outputs become the object of study.

https://cosmosmagazine.com/society/anim ... and-ethics

Animal ethics evolves on the basis of advancements in intelligence and moral consideration (reason). It could be an argument that humans should choose wisely when they have the capacity to do so. A greater capacity in intelligence and moral consideration for animals comes with new responsibilities, and as such, the human being naturally evolves culturally into a state of less violence towards, and improved care for the well-being animals.
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