This question has been going through my mind of late.  Case in point:  I regularly listen to the news and am absolutely appalled to hear of animal abuse stories whereby innocent animals suffer and die at the hands of their supposed protectors.  I would feel such anger at the perpetrators, and consequently break out in tears.  However, if I should hear, for example, a horrific story of a family dying in a house fire, yes, I would feel sorrow over such a tragedy but it would not be of the same magnitude.  I've owned pets just about my entire life and they mean the world to me.  I have trouble walking into pet stores because I can't bear to see cats and dogs in cages being put up for sale.  Btw, I'm not a misanthropist and I do show a great deal of compassion and kindness to all (even amongst the theists).  Should this be a cause of concern?

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I think that is normal.  Especially for many pet owners.  I recently had my first child and now I have trouble watching any news stories dealing with the harm of a baby or toddler.  Prior to this, I had only felt that way about animal abuse stories.  It is an emotional reaction based on many factors, not the least of them being our experiences.
But animals aren't only baby substitutes, they're also "significant other" substitutes...

Loving animals is so easy, because they don't challenge us. They seem to "appreciate" us. And even when they harm us (I was bitten by my german shepherd across the face when I was 4) we still forgive them, because in the context of our legal system, they lack intent. Acceptance of self by the other party shouldn't be the foundation of love, because it depends if the other being (human or animal) has the choice to not be accepting.


Sorry to use an analogy I've already used today... loving a being because they "accept" us, with all our faults, and in the case of mail order brides from the third/second worlds is very similar to loving your pet. Mostly these mail order brides have this as their only hope to food/shelter stability, "to marry a rich white American man" . But I don't call that choice any more than the pet has no choice to stick around if he wants food/shelter. These examples of love based on acceptance without choice DO happen a lot in our society.


But to me, love and acceptance without choice does not have the same meaning as love between equals, where both participants are exercising choice without risk to life.


Give some thought in this matter to  "cat ladies". They love their cats more than their fellow humans, often because of life traumas. Do those dozens and hundreds of cats "love" these ladies, as the ladies think they love their cats?


I think your tears when seeing animals being mistreated comes more from feeling empathy for the powerless than love per se. Have you ever watched "Once Were Warriors" or "Rabbit Proof Fence", movies about "lesser" humans with less power being mistreaded by humans who could care less? I think in both cases, we have empathy for powerless.

[...] which is why our empathy for our fellow humans is sometimes lacking.[...]

Or that our empathy for animals is misrepresented as our own powertrip over another being, whereas you can't have that power over another human?

Philosophically speaking I'm leaning toward humans misrepresenting emotions. All what you expressed about it being 'our' decision making process when we're saving the animals confirms what I've always thought about love and empathy. When we are in control it gives us a fundamental pleasure, and I think as humans we misrepresent this pleasure we give ourselves as empathy towards the animal. As you expressed in quite clear words, our power over other humans is lesser, so it's not as easy for us to modify another human's course.


My "Or...?" statement was rhetorical, in that from your own argument, you reach the conclusion of: less empathetic to humans, whereas from your very own argument, the flip conclusion can be reached:  misrepresenting our powertrip as empathy when it comes to animals, in other words... too empathetic to pets. Two sides of the same argument, with reverse effect.

Pardon the strange analogy... but a similar psychological/philosophical conundrum happens when white society tries to "aid" aboriginals. The white people call it 'empathy' but in reality it takes sovereignty away from aboriginals. Similarly with religious people, helping others is a way of controlling others, desguised as church charity. Even I personally have been accused of this once... I was trying to help someone and they complained I was trying to control them, from my perspective I was helping but from their perspective I was controlling, who's perspective is most important, the receiver or the donor?


Only difference with animals is they aren't telling us we're controlling them. I'm in no way implying that we ought not to do animal rescue and feel good about it... only saying that in a general philosophical perspective, there are other concepts at work here. :)


Ironically, your words confirm it even more for me (I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be evil here, you know me enough for that :) when you talk of your feelings of 'powerlessness'. Powerlessness is a very strong negative feeling, and our human nature is compelled to overcome powerlessness, to make you work even harder, to be empowered. Empowerment is the fundamental drive in LGBT and feminists and unions and many human endeavours. So when one feels powerless, one must become empowered. Helping others empowers us.

Glad I found this question because I wanted to ask another one: Why do humans really love other species so much?

My hypothesis is it says more about us and our brains than on biology as a whole, but I still think it's mighty interesting.

There are exambles of symbiotic relationships between different species but they all seem to be involved with either food or cleanliness.

Yet we as humans can really love other animals. I'm an example myself. I keep fancy mice as pets, and am surprised how they're all completely different individuals, and love them to bits. But jee... it's just a mouse.... Hm?

It might just be our brains 'think' other animals are replacement for humans but I wonder: what exactly is the biological benefit for these emotions?

I can't wait to hear your answers!

"what exactly is the biological benefit for these emotions?"


Perhaps that we don't kill and eat those animals that are beneficial to us? Dogs, sheep, cats, goats, rabbits etc. can be useful for humans up until the time where we have eaten them. Perhaps the emotional attachment allows us to choose the best possible moment to kill (or not to kill) the animal.


I have a rabbit at home, although I think he's quite cute and cuddly I can't really say that I love him. I need to form an emotional bond with the animal before that happens. I don't stop to think much about whether or not this is normal, abnormal, good or bad, it just is. Emotional attachments are usually just that, attachments based upon emotion, all the rest is just guesswork I suppose.

Yes indeed emotional responses can be quite physically disabling, but you forget to mention that a majority of emotions which lead to physical emotional responses are actually 'intellectual' emotions. Some people puke when they see blood, but most don't. The response is biological but the instigation emotion is totally intellectual/societal/conditioned. Many allergies and asthma have also been evidenced to be physical responses to 'intellectual'/conditioned emotions. A lot of what neuroscience and evolutionary psychology are researching these days is attempting to blur the line between biological causation and learned causation. And unfortunately their blurring of the linguistics of these areas is detrimental to effective communications.


I think your analogy with our love and emotional bonds with inanimate objects is absolutely perfect! (including money and societal comforts :)

There's plenty of evidence to the contrary... one can affect emotions through thought processes, it is the entire basis for counselling people who suffer from various "emotional' problems, doing 'happy' things can actually make you 'happier'. Being depressed is not a 'feeling' it is an emotion, a state of mind, where the intellectual can affect the physical. But a debate on the semantics of the words is not really worth it...


My point is that the intellectual affects the physical.


Taking an opposite example than fear... Some women can even give themselves a physical orgasm without any physical stimulus, and some people have orgasms in their dreams, without physical stimulation. Thoughts affect biology, not reliably, not always, but they have that capacity. The emotion is not the orgasm, the emotion is the state of mind that the person places themselves in to achieve the orgasm, with intent.

well, ok, pubescent boys might not have been the best example! :)

In early humanity we kept certain animals to help in the hunt and later on they became status symbols. It's only the last few centuries that pets have come about. Pets "just for the fun of it" is a completely modern societal concept. I think you are on the dot with the replacement theory. We humans have a fundamental need for intimacy, and when humans can't fill that gap in our life, we replace it with animals. But animal intimacy is but a projection of our intimate feelings onto them. We can imagine they are 'thinking' anything we'd like them to be thinking. The biological part of your question is not grounded tho. Pets have have only been trinkets in recent years, they used to have an actual use, and when their function was utilitarian, the "relationship" was entirely different. So there's no "biological" issue at stake here, it's entirely sociological.


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