I agree that some other species are close enough to humans in terms of personhood that we shouldn’t treat them like animals. Even impersonal animals that can feel pain shouldn’t be treated like animals in the pejorative sense (contrary to industrial agriculture). But there are still enormous differences between our species and all others. Koko doesn’t represent the gorilla species. She was domesticated and fed her knowledge by humans, not by gorillas.

If Koko had taught all gorillas to speak in sign language, and then all adult gorillas had passed on that ability to their young so that the whole species acquired language-based culture and perpetuated that advance across the generations, then we’d have a more relevant comparison, because we’re talking broadly about species, not individuals.

Your point about Schrodinger is a red herring and is based on confusion between “unnatural” and “supernatural.” Our species is unnatural in that we’re dependent on artificiality, which sets us in opposition to nature—not in a metaphysical sense, but sociologically and in terms of our historical development. If there were no such conflict due to the thrust of civilizational development, how could we be facing the problem of human-made climate change?

I speak of artificiality as a virtual miracle, which isn’t to say there are no natural laws to explain technological progress. The point, rather, is that these laws would be about an internal conflict within nature, rather like how black holes conflict with the ordered solar systems that swirl around them. In short, personhood (not just humanity) is evidently a highly creative force, but also a highly destructive one. We destroy the natural environment because we prefer an artificial one. Are you aware of the mountain of evidence I could supply to support that obvious statement?

Sure, morality or prosocial behaviour in a species is tied to intelligence, which in turn is an indicator of some degree of freedom from genetic programming. These things come in degrees. But don’t forget about Nietzsche’s criticism of slave morality: the herd can be peaceful as a means of being subjugated by the tyrannical beasts that are beyond good and evil. Slaves are at peace because they have no choice; their freedom has been eliminated as a result of their conformity.

To cope with their abuse, African slaves would succumb to Stockholm syndrome and become protective of their American masters. That’s also how even the impoverished underclass can be relatively happy, because we’re highly flexible and can adjust our expectations so we don’t torture ourselves with feelings of envy and remorse. This is known in psychology as the hedonic treadmill (see the links below). Nevertheless, poor people have less freedom or self-determination than the upper class members who are financially independent. And the more power you have, the less moral or kind and compassionate you are, as shown by Paul Piff’s Monopoly experiment, for example.

Of course, you’re talking about spiritual tranquility. I’d compare that inner peace to a voluntary surrender of freedom. The idea is to train to think of most actions as sinful or illusory, to limit the range of your enlightened options. That narrowing of scope is a lot like the rationalization that goes on in the underclass, which has to adjust its expectations to reach mental equilibrium and avoid cognitive dissonance.



Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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