Animals Don’t Kill Themselves

Animals do not commit suicide. This is generally accepted as true, although there are a handful of examples of it. I’m not trying to prove the exceptions. Only the rules.

They are not capable of abstract reason. This is a very vague concept. The truth is that we simply don’t know how to describe why we are smarter than them.

So why is it that the one species that can reason is the only species that takes their own lives? To me, it could be the case that reason itself is the cause of suicide. Bad reason or perhaps good reason is all that could lead us to take our own lives.

There are two reasons to kill yourself:
I would be better without life.
Or the world would be better without me.

If animals cannot change their minds, there is no way to change their reason. To rewrite their logic, or get to either of these conclusions. That’s not to say that they don’t suffer.

If. That may be the only reason. What if animals simply do not understand the concept of if? They have a full sensory experience, but simply cannot make deductions. No thought experiments.

So instead of thinking: if I do this, I will no longer suffer. The ‘if’ here introduces a premise. It creates an alternate world that may or may not be true, based on the viability of the premise.

Life just is. You just are. I just am. If I was to give up the word ‘if’, I must accept my current situation. There are no hypotheticals to explore, only what is. And what is, is. There is no way to explore the new possibility of suicide, because there is no way of exploring new trains of thought at all.

But we can train animals to behave certain ways. We can condition a dog to sit for a treat because he knows that if he sits he will get a treat. Typically though, you will still have to show the dog the treat.  The dog has to know that sitting means treat. Which implies some knowledge of causality.

This seems to undermine the premise, that a world without ‘if’ explains animals lack of reason. But in this example, the premise is clearly true. If you are holding a bone and telling your dog to sit, he assumes [probably correctly] that if he sits you will give them to him.

So training may only mean teaching causality. If you can show your dog that he will get a bone if he sits, he will likely start sitting more often.

If the concept of a premise is not an option, there is no way of imagining a world without you in it. Because all you have known is a world with you. How can you imagine a world without you? It’s like sitting for a bone without any training. So there is no reason to think that you will be given a bone.

If all you can accept are true premises, is it possible to kill yourself?

If I wasn’t alive, I would be better.
If I wasn’t alive, the world would be better.

Do they understand the concept of better at all? Do you need a premise to conclude better? You cannot compare futures without the concept of ‘if’. And if you can’t compare futures, you can’t compare the world with you to the world without you.

And if you can’t compare the world with and without you, you can’t conclude that it would be better without you. And if you can’t conclude that suicide is the right decision, it is not possible.

The takeaway here is that the main difference between man and animal is reason and suicide. And I think those both may boil down to a single word.

Sources:

  1. http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160705-many-animals-seem-to-kill-themselves-but-it-is-not-suicide
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199911/do-animals-think