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The emotional lives of animals

Animal Experience edited by Leon Niemoczynski and Stephanie Theodorou – “This “living” book about life explores the nature and meaning of the emotional lives of nonhuman animals, focusing on how those lives are communicated to other living creatures (such as human beings) via affective states. By examining the emotional lives of animals and how they are communicated, we hope to re-examine how human beings interact with, and relate to, other living creatures that are capable of experiencing emotional lives.  The property of emotion, in both human and nonhuman species, implies a level of internal conscious experience which supports and includes related cognitive activity. Insight into animal emotion can be useful for understanding the evolutionary development we share with animals in terms of the common “brain-mind.” This locus of cognitive activity in centralized nervous systems reveals to us that changes in affect accompany and enable communication and expression, facial and voice recognition of other individuals, and decision-making. These traits, in turn, suggest that most philosophically (and perhaps scientifically) traditional moral boundaries between humans and nonhuman animals may require serious rethinking. We therefore hope to address what impact a better understanding of the emotional lives of animals might have upon animal welfare and upon our deeply embedded beliefs concerning the nature of animal minds in general.  A dominant component of this book is the presentation of scientific data which suggests that emotional communicative practices are fundamental and crucial modes of animal living. We chose to specifically focus on those communicative practices that serve as representational “broadcasts” of self-awareness, that is, of internal emotional experience in its cognitive dimensions. As such, our stance is framed by a phenomenalist theory of nonhuman awareness in which affective states point to the existence of animal “identity” or subjectivity. We refer to this internal realm of self-awareness and its communication as “animal experience.” This at once distances this volume from others in the Living Books about Life series in that no other volume addresses the emotional lives of animals specifically (or emotional life as it is found in biological life generally), or the broadcasting of that life to other creatures. However, discussing animal experience and the emotions does place this volume neatly within the scope of the series given that understanding the broadcasting of emotional life may be a key for understanding what “life” (in part) means. If we are to explore the nature of life then asking whether there is some core emotional aspect of living is paramount. If such a core exists, we may be compelled to further reflect on our ethical responses to animals in natural, scientific, and domestic habitats. Our approach to the emotional lives of animals is scientifically and philosophically pluralistic. In our book we are presenting research from various scientific disciplines concerned with exploring the nature of nonhuman animal life (the biomedical sciences, pharmacological studies, neuroscience, zoology, etc.) but also from human and animal sciences with regard to human and animal interaction (animal science and farming production, animal psychology, animal welfare studies, and ecological niche modeling). Philosophical analysis which speaks directly to questions about the nature of animal minds and experience (including historical texts by Darwin, Schopenhauer, Descartes, Aquinas, etc.) have been placed at the end of the book. There we have included references to primary and secondary source materials, ranging from ancient through modern and contemporary periods in the history of Western thought. This placement of historical, modern, and contemporary philosophical texts vis-à-vis scientific research serves to frame possible ontological frameworks for interpreting the research found in the earlier sections of the book. For example, Darwin theorized animal emotion and expression in his The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals (1852) a long time ago. That particular entry may offer a theoretical direction for interpreting statistical data involving animal communication as a form of emotional expression (for example, “A Note on Acoustic Analysis of Dairy Calves Vocalizations at Day 1 After Separation”Italian Journal of Animal Science vol. 8, no. 33, 113-19, 2009). Even as early as the Presocratic Pythagoras, a strong defense of the ontological value of animal experience and its ontological implications could be noticed. Various permutations of this thesis are therefore subsequently taken up in critical examination – denied, debated, or reformulated in subsequent thinkers ranging from Hegel to Locke, Whitehead and, currently, Nussbaum and Cobb.”

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