Friday, October 8, 2010

Animal Pain

I am not so much of an activist for animal rights. Not that I don't care but that can't be among the top things I care for when so many human beings enjoy less rights than many animals. But it breaks my heart to see a dog with three legs, or an old donkey with an injured back, even a bug with crushed wings struggling to fly, or any animal in pain, more than to see a human being in pain. Maybe because I know what physical pain is for humans but I wonder what it is like for animals. Humans can make a certain philosophy out of pain, but what do animals do? what's their defense mechanism. Who do they blame? How do they unleash their anger?


  1. A philosophy erected on the top of the hill of pain is a philosophy of escape and exhaustion — of justification. Animals are free of such need for they have an unlimited power to forget — the well of forgetfulness from which they drink can never dry up.

    It is cynical to the utmost when you pass by a butcher shop and see a sheep sleeping by the road while another is hanged skinless just above his head. A human in the same situation would faint or at least piss himself. (It hasn't been long since we stopped practicing this on humans — if ever we did. In lebanon we are still practicing it — oh the glory of the nation).

    But, a philosophy drawing solely from the well of suffering — such as the Christian philosophy — is not a beautiful thing.

    You've said somewhere on your blog that the muscle requires pain to grow. True enough. The purpose is growth, not pain. Pain is part of the process but not its goal. Consider how hard it is even to think and understand; pain infiltrates even our thought processes. But we do not stop thinking thereby; we do not suffocate our awareness (in fact, we cannot).

  2. I tend to agree that a philosophy of pain is one of escape and justification, but the problem is that the alternative, i.e. ultimate realism, doubles the pain. You find yourself in need to willingly deceive yourself not to only justify pain but more to bear it.
    About animals, I know that lambs faint when they see a fellow being slaughtered before its eyes though chickens stupidly and arrogantly walk to their fatal destiny. Forgetfulness might be an attribute of fish, but dogs and cats, remember the stick you once hit them with and shiver on its sight (Pavlov).
    Of course, the religious justification of pain as an end in itself does not appeal to me in the least. In the plague, Camus has a beautiful chapter, a debate between a priest and a Doctor about pain, specifically child pain: he says "when innocence has its eyes gouged out, a Christian must either lose his faith or accept the gouging out of his eyes".

  3. Man is willing to endure pain and suffering as long as he can retain his hope; as long as it is a suffering for a reward. Thereby, he might even derive pleasure from his suffering as long as it lays open before him the halls of some greater goal. Deprive man of that greater goal, that ultimate, and behind all his pain and suffering will echo a dreadful and terrorizing shout: "in vain." As a good merchant he sells his today to buy his tomorrow. That has been the great moralizing of Christianity, Marx's opium of the people. I don't know what you mean by "ultimate realism" as realism itself is already symbol and interpretation — is it disillusionment with the ideal, with God? But to lose hope of this goal and ultimate, to have no longer faith in that tomorrow, is to stand with a mute cry of terror in your today. "A suffering for nothing!" Such is the nihilism that followed God's death; such is the breath that is still infiltrating the threads of culture; such is the faint beat that is still heaving with every beat of man's heart. And such is the great convulsion that we must conquer if our lives ought to retain some meaning and happiness. My humble judgment at least.