What is Animals Taking Over?

Crossposted from AnimalsTakingOver.com

When I began writing Animals Taking Over in 2013, my primary goal was simply to improve my own skills as a writer. After years of watching programs like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, reading The Onion, and listening to The No Agenda Show, it became clear to me that the mainstream media and The News is utter nonsense.

As is the case with so many monolithic industries, the News is a mass-produced, monetized commodity, often disseminated with the obvious goal of manipulating the audience rather than informing or educating. I see no real value in the production of such banal drivel other than to sedate the audience, to instill fear of The Other, or to make an appeal to the audience’s confirmation bias.

The Conan O’Brien Show, for example, has a long history of lampooning the News via its Local News Roundup segment. Pause for a moment here to view “Is it time for Dogs to have a Social Network of their Own?”

The writing underlying the News is weak, lazy, and predictable. In its embarrassing present state, the News more closely resembles MadLibs than true journalism. After analyzing only a handful of stories and deconstructing “the formula,” it becomes clear that anyone with half a brain and a touch of moxie can write in the style of News.

I began my project by reblogging amusing posts of animals that made their way to my tumblr dashboard, and at first I saw little need for commentary. But soon I found the exercise to be even more rewarding as I intentionally sought to incorporate humor as a vehicle to spark conversation about truth, fake news, and the relationship between humans and animals.

I conceived of a world where Humans and Non-Human Animals (NHAs) existed in a perpetual state of war that for political reasons was referred to only as “the continuing conflict.” This was a world counterfactual to our own, where humans dominated animals in every conceivable way, from the use of force to the dissemination of propaganda that served to reify the Conflict and homosapien hegemony.

I was Vegan when I started ATO, and the consumption of animal products has made its way back into my life since then. However, I still very much care about animals and find the ways humans exploit them to be abhorrent and morally repugnant. It’s an ongoing atrocity in which I fully admit to now finding myself complicit.

Considerable strides in Animal Welfare have been made over the years, but one need only consider the intrepid photography of Jo-Anne McArthur’s We Animals series to rediscover the horrific realities of modern NHA genocide and industrial scale exploitation, or the disturbing truths behind the work of investigative journalist Will Potter’s Green is the New Red to confirm that indeed there is a true interspecies war at play.

My view about the Animals has evolved over time from one closely aligned with thinkers such as Benthem, Francione, and Torres, to one more along the lines of Kymlicka and Donaldson. Even now as a non-vegan I find the idea of a utopic Zoopolis to be the most realistic and achievable, for it is a view that seeks to fully recognize Humans and Non-Human Animals for what they are–nothing more and nothing less. A truly modern Zoopolis is one that acknowledges the duties and responsibilities that Humans have for Non-Human Animals.

Enter the absurd. From the post-WWII French philosophers, writers, and artists (see Beckett, Camus, Sartre) we learned to deploy the absurd as a theater for examining and clarifying our own views about the world and ourselves. It is a space that forces us to define the necessary and sufficient conditions underwhich our values are founded.

When I speak of Animal Rights, it should be obvious that I am not implying Canines should be afforded the right to drive cars and operate heavy machinery, or that Felines should become fashion moguls, or that Goats secretly control the world’s monetary system. This is absurd.

Instead, I utilize the Absurd to implicitly argue that these species are just as entitled to live in peace and safety as our own and that the well-being of our planet depends on interspecies coexistence, rather than continuing conflict. In the long-term, homosapiens will face a reckoning for the unjust treatment perpetuated upon our planet and our fellow Earthlings.

Whether it be the loss of vital ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef through our over-consumption and environmental neglect, the annihilation of the Great Cats of Africa for sport, or the mass extinction of autonomous Bird Tribes as their migratory paths are disrupted, there is only one known species on this planet who will shoulder the blame: the human animal.

If we fail to expand our understanding of inclusion within the moral community, and continue our path of species-interest and planetary dominance, we will see our own destruction, as well as the elimination of the full majesty that is Nature.

It is my belief that our species, exalted for millennia as the rational animal, is unique in that we are the sole species that can be expected to fulfil duties not only to those we recognize as our own, but also to those who are clearly different from us. This applies to lines of race, religion, gender, sexuality, and yes, even species. I’m no Christian, but I do not jest when I assert that truly the Animals are the least of these among us Earthlings, and we will be judged for what we have done unto them (Matthew 25:40). For they are here with us, not for us.

The emerging science of Cognitive Ethology has taught us through observation and reproducible experimentation that Non-Human Animals are like us in every. way. that. matters. Yes, capability varies from species to species, but as a whole, the Animals form family units, they feel complex emotions such as fear and joy, they create art, they mourn the loss of loved ones, they go insane when isolated from their tribes, they recognize one another, they internalize trauma, they express devotion to beings beyond the borders of their own species.

As the Animal liberationist and intellectual Steven Best so eloquently expounded in his 2012 talk at the Sapienza University of Rome:

“They are sentient beings like we are. Because we are Animals too. And because everything we have, every moral capacity, every capacity to think, we got from the Animals through an evolutionary continuum. And of course we are different from animals: No, they can’t build space ships. No, they don’t do Algebra. No, they don’t write Romantic poetry like Shelley. Goddamnit can you swim like a whale? Can you fly like an eagle? Can you hear like a bat? Are you as beautiful as a cat? Do you smell as good as a cat? To single out Reason as the criteria for the moral universe and for who gets rights and who doesn’t, and who belongs in the community and who doesn’t…It’s absolutely absurd and arbitrary!”

I never expected anyone to take notice of Animals Taking Over, nor could I have predicted the prominent role that Fake News™ would play in our very real political moment of Donald Trump’s presidency. But this is where we find ourselves: Unable to believe that which is seen, unable to hope for truth in what we think is real, and ill-equipped to forge a path forward toward epistemic authenticity.

Where we go from here, I cannot guess. What I do know is that there are boots on the ground doing real work to end the continuing conflict between Humans and Non-Human Animals. The Nonhuman Rights Project is an example of a Real ™ group of Human activists, scholars, lawyers, and freedom fighters working to secure real protections for real NHAs.

The Nonhuman Rights Project is the only civil rights organization in the United States working through litigation, public policy advocacy, and education to secure legally recognized fundamental rights for nonhuman animals.

I urge you to look into the Nonhuman Rights Project and consider donating to support their important work to end our war with the Animals, and to create a lasting, more inclusive and expansive circle of belonging within the moral community (Francione, Warren).

Till we meet again, adieu.

Joshua E. Judd

05 March 2018

In Search of Meaning: Viktor Frankl and Logotherapy

Mans Search for Meaning
Man’s Search for Meaning

Last week I read Viktor Frankl’s 1946 autobiographical and philosophical work, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” At only 165 pages, it’s a relatively short book full of profoundly deep insights. Frankl’s objective is to answer the question “How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?” He achieves this first by recounting his experiences as a prisoner in four different camps during WWII, then by providing an overview of the psychotherapeutic approach he developed during that time, called logotherapy.

Part I, “Experiences in a Concentration Camp,” is expectantly rich with examples of the unimaginable cruelty humans are capable of inflicting upon one another. What I didn’t expect were the numerous beautiful accounts of the great dignity and courage humans are capable of living with, even under conditions of extreme duress and ever-present threats to their mortality. The book is masterfully balanced in exploring both the terror of the camp, and the stalwart strength of the prisoners. In one particularly poignant scene in which Frankl longs to be reunited with his wife, he exclaims, “Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.”

It’s this balance of exploration that gives way to one of the great insights found in the book. Numerous examples are provided throughout, reminding us that so often when examining the fallout of WWII, we focus primarily on the evils humans brought upon one another (and there were many). But in our haste to shed light on the darkness of the Holocaust, we sometimes fail to recognize the sea of flickering lights on the horizon, each a shining example of human survival, resistance, and resilience. In Frankl’s words, “After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”

Part II, “Logotherapy in a Nutshell,” is Frankl’s condensed treatise and explanation of his unique approach to treating psychological neurosis. As he explains, “Logotherapy regards its assignment as that of assisting the patient to find meaning in his life.” Drawing from his own lived experiences over the course of WWII to develop his thesis, Frankl’s approach in practice is as much applied Philosophy as it is psychotherapy, for “it does not restrict its activity to instinctual facts within the individual’s unconscious but also cares for existential realities, such as the potential meaning of his existence to be fulfilled as well as his will to meaning.”

Logotherapy turns the cliche notion of asking “What is the meaning of life?” on its head. It is our task, Frankl claims, to instead find meaning in answering for ourselves the questions that life asks of us. And where does one find meaning? According to Frankl’s thesis, there are three possibilities: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), or in courage during difficult times.

Viktor Frankl, 1949.
Viktor Frankl, 1949.

Frankl’s belief was that neurosis isn’t necessarily pathological, but in many cases is caused by “existential frustration,” which is a kind of distress stemming from an inability to actualize one’s will to meaning. In other words, when one’s effort to find meaning in work, love, or suffering is stymied, existential angst develops, often presenting in the form of neurosis.

One example Frankl gives to illuminate his point is that of “Sunday neurosis:” a type of “depression which afflicts people who become aware of the lack of content in their lives when the rush of the busy week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest.” It is this existential vacuum (a state of excessive cognitive boredom) where the existential frustration takes hold of an individual and side-tracks their will to meaning. Discontent emerges, and any effort at achieving meaningful existence is usurped by lesser forces: the will to power, the will to money, or the will to pleasure. But all is not lost, for Frankl reminds us that “one of the main features of human existence is the capacity to rise above such conditions, to grow beyond them.”

For one trapped in this severe state of internal self-desolation, there is but one remedy: what Frankl refers to as the “self-transcendence of human existence.” A process which is much more easily described than done, self-transcendence differs from self-actualization in that it is a side-effect of right action, rather than an attainable end in itself. In other words, self-transcendence, like happiness and success, is something that must ensue, rather than be pursued.

Self-transcendence can ensue as the result of a number of different actions. From changing one’s perspective in order to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to changing one’s self internally when it’s no longer an option to change a situation itself, and even to show one’s courage in suffering through the outward expression of angst in the form of tears, self-transcendence is Frankl’s solution to life’s inherent meaninglessness. It is the key to his “tragic optimism,” which proclaims through the words of Nietzsche that even in the worst conditions, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Click List

Lying Psychologizers

FTA 10 Easy Ways to Recognize Liars:

People lie all the time, but depending on how skilled they are, it can be difficult to determine when someone is lying to you. Do you know how to recognize the signs that someone is lying to you? Some of the signs are obvious while others are more subliminal, but there are ways to catch someone…

This article is a great example of how shallow interpretations of individual behavior have been used to solidify Psychology as a legitimate science in order to debase the integrity of rationally minded beings. It in no way takes into account the very real ways people differentiate between true and false claims on a philosophical level within their minds. It attempts to privilege certain natural, involuntary biological responses to potentially high-pressure social situations over other more socially rewarded behaviors. The article endorses this method as a means by which to ascertain truth without examining the legitimacy of any actual claims. This methodology is akin to the practice of “auditing” seen in the church of Scientology.

A far better way of differentiating liars from truth tellers is to employ the Socratic method. That is, ask questions in an objective manner such that one can accurately conclude whether the claims made by a peer carry any logical weight.

It is appealing to believe one can divine the truth simply by following a Buzzfeed-worthy list of fallacious advice, but the truth is often much more complicated. But then again, I failed to use a contraction in the previous sentence, so I’m most likely lying and should not be trusted.

See also:

Armed with a smattering, not of knowledge, but of undigested slogans, they rush, unsolicited, to diagnose the problems of their friends and acquaintances. Pretentiousness and presumptuousness are the psychologizer’s invariable characteristics: he not merely invades the privacy of his victims’ minds, he claims to understand their minds better than they do, to know more than they do about their own motives. With reckless irresponsibility, which an old-fashioned mystic oracle would hesitate to match, he ascribes to his victims any motivation that suits his purpose, ignoring their denials. Since he is dealing with the great “unknowable”—which used to be life after death or extrasensory perception, but is now man’s subconscious—all rules of evidence, logic and proof are suspended, and anything goes (which is what attracts him to his racket).

Subject of a Straw Man

When engaged in a dialogue, it’s important to avoid the use of logical fallacies. It can be easy to rely on a logical fallacy as a shortcut for arriving at a seemingly well-reasoned conclusion, especially if your opponent doesn’t realize what you’re trying to pull.

However, proper Philosophy—the practice of argumentation with style—does not permit such sophistry. Flagrant and intentional use of logical fallacies is a key indication of a disregard for normative discourse ethics, which are paramount to the success of any dialogue worth your participation.

Always remember that an argument is valid if and only if (iff) it is impossible for the premises to be true while the conclusion is false.

One common logical fallacy is the straw man. According to Wikipedia, the Fountainhead of Knowledge:

straw man, also known in the UK as an Aunt Sally, is a common type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and to refute it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

In other words, a straw man can be used to “win” arguments by arguing against something other than the actual position an opponent is progressing. You may be interested to read more about the structure of a straw man argument here.

Do yourself and those you hold in high rhetorical regard a favor: avoid the straw man. Work hard to craft robust and original arguments of your own that are true to both the positions of you and of your opponents. That way, when you win an argument it will be through sound logic and impeccable style, not through slight of hand or smoke and mirrors.

Discourse Communities

it’s your choice, what you believe.
it’s my choice, what i believe.
and
we don’t have a right to each other’s choices or beliefs.

decolonization iii, nayyirah waheed (via nayyirahwaheed)

fuckyeahlogical:

Except if we’re part of an epistemic community. In an epistemic community we might not share most of our beliefs, or even acknowledge the same methods, but we have a common goal, such as truth (it doesn’t have to be true, a substitute goal —such as rational assertability— will do) and we want to pursue it together. Since we both share this goal, I want to hear your critical opinion, especially when you think I might be going astray (since I don’t want to believe false things, or to acquire beliefs using unreliable methods). In order for this community to work we have to act upon certain duties. If I say a statement, and somebody doubts it, I (ordinarily) have a duty to answer her questions.

However, I’m not saying any two (or more) persons have to be part of an epistemic community. Two persons that are part of the same country or even the same village need not be part of the same epistemic community (liars, opresors, etc, do not share my epistemic goals, or even if they do, they do not want to pursue them with me, they only want to exploit me).

However, for the rest of cases, even if we don’t have a right to each other beliefs, whenever we are part of a community of inquirers we do have a duty.

(via fuckyeahlogical)

The idea of epistemic communities is interesting, but I think discourse communities are more useful. They’re similar concepts, but rather than sharing epistemic methodologies they share a set of discourse ethics.

This means that although we may come to different conclusions about any number of things, we share a common way of expressing our beliefs and in engaging others through that expression. We have shared values about what’s on the table for criticism, and what’s not, as well as how to best go about expressing that criticism. We agree to a shared communicative method, that when practiced, honors intellectual diversity as long as it’s authentically and respectfully expressed.

In other words, members of a discourse community attempt to progress sound logos via the expression of shared ethos. It is literally the practice of argumentation with style.

Members of an epistemic community share a methodology for discovering truth or creating knowledge. Members of a discourse community share a methodology for engaging in a dialogue that includes valuing the use of disparate epistemic methods.

Emergent Virtual Constructs

The term virtual construct is used here to denote a non-physical, digital, artificial form; the interaction with which is made possible through a human/machine interface. The term software is often used to refer to virtual constructs, but in many cases proves to be of limited use. Indeed, software can be classified as virtually constructed, but the term loses much of its significance when referring to emergent virtual constructs, whose properties are difficult to pinpoint, as they extend far beyond the boundaries of the software used to create, modify, and interact with them.

There are two types of virtual constructs: discrete and emergent.Read More »

Epistemic Value in the Tweet Economy (2013)

Update 15 August 2018: Twitter has devolved to a true garbage fire of a social network, and earlier this year I deleted my account. The toxic culture of Twitter has become a negative influence in the world and on the Internet overall, and it’s a place where I no longer have any desire to maintain a presence.

First published 16 November 2010, Epistemic Value in the Tweet Economy quite accurately predicted the ways in which activists and young revolutionaries the world over would utilize services such as Twitter to stand against social injustice and organize to oppose political corruption. Given recent events in the United States surrounding government surveillance of US citizens, I now find it appropriate to repost this piece with modest and timely revisions.

Since Twitter’s launch in July 2006, this simple service has emerged to provide a new vehicle for the transfer of communication to hundreds of millions of users.

With the finite, 140-character count each tweet is constrained to, Twitter users must thoughtfully consider the content of each tweet. 140 characters can be limiting, and often Twitter users must take time to shorten links using services such as bit.ly, include relevant hashtags, tag fellow Twitter users using @replies, and consider a number of other aspects of the culture(s) and etiquette which have sprung forth from the emergent virtual structure that is Twitter.Read More »