Do you think animals are capable of truly being our friends?

Oct 2017
381
America ??
I vaguely recall an Ancient Greek philosophical text which included a passage detailing how since animals lack a sense of morality & justice that they couldn’t truly be considered our friends, which the passage claimed are essential qualities of friendship & community. Paradoxically, the text later described how following that conclusion it was just/right to use, dominate or enslave animals. I’ll try to find it later to show what I’m talking about.

But as a biologist this questions hits me deeply. Even though I can only recall the text vaguely I find that point to be a very valid & interesting question. It reflects how even among many humans, perceived qualities of friendship & community varies, yet I haven’t failed to notice that morality, justice, care & helpfulness are all too often neglected & forgotten, or even not within thought at all. All too often people are friends for very superficial reasons, often just because they make each other feel good.

Now even though animal cognition & behaviour has always been a big, open & controversial field in itself, for all their mysteriously varied cognitions & perceptions, I can’t fail to notice how lacking animals are in morality, justice, fairness, & a sense of truly caring for & (at least attempting to) understanding another individual from the inside, that even for their closest & most social relationships they seem to bond almost exclusively for emotional rather than actual meaningful, including ethical & justice, reasons, which I can’t help agree are essential characteristics of true friendships, community, morality & justice. Of course many may think that the joys & affections animals have since time immemorial shown for humans more than attests to them being able to be our friends, but this is where I would emphasise that showing joy & affection alone for other individuals is far from enough to be considered a true friend, that true friends needs to truly care for their friends & have a firm sense of morality & justice in as many areas as possible, even the darkest & least obvious ones. Even people who despise each other can still be considered friends if they at least share these qualities and attitudes towards each other.

No doubt this is a very open question since morality & justice are not directly part of natural science, which means that no matter how logical & convincing, they still remain subjective, & is likely going to be very tied with the field of cognitive sophistication. What are your thoughts? Let the debate begin!
 
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Nov 2016
1,327
Germany
The thesis that there could be a genuine friendship between humans and animals is absurd. Every animal lacks the intellectual possibility to really know and understand a human being. It does not know his thoughts, even if he expresses them, it does not know his past deeds and it has no idea of moral and ethics, which are all prerequisites for the formation of genuine friendship.

In addition, the question arises whether someone who positively affirms the thesis of a human-animal friendship should not necessarily be a vegetarian, since it seems extremely illogical to make friends with animals and eat animals at the same time.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,022
Australia
Dogs certainly. They have evolved over tens of thousands of years to interact with humans and to be an intimate part of the clan. They can form deep attachments and are attuned to our feelings and physical mannerisms.
 
Nov 2016
1,327
Germany
They can form deep attachments and are attuned to our feelings and physical mannerisms.
Many house slaves have done the same. That´s called Stockholm syndrome.

Shouldn't one apply higher standards to true friendship, for example that it should be based on voluntariness and not on submission?
 
Jun 2017
628
maine
In addition, the question arises whether someone who positively affirms the thesis of a human-animal friendship should not necessarily be a vegetarian, since it seems extremely illogical to make friends with animals and eat animals at the same time.
But humans kill each other. War is often seen as 'good' and 'noble'. Isn't that illogical as well?

Most of us do not require our human friends to have the same values. We don't care all that much about their past deeds and histories. Do you require potential friends to fill in an application? Of course not.
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,200
Kansas
Many house slaves have done the same. That´s called Stockholm syndrome.

Shouldn't one apply higher standards to true friendship, for example that it should be based on voluntariness and not on submission?
So in post #4 you suggest animals do not have enough intellect

Then in this post you assign an advanced mental condition to them.............................................
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,489
T'Republic of Yorkshire
No. An animal can never truly be your friend. My cat is two-timing me.
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,397
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Well, in Italy there is a joke saying ...

"the best friend of a man is a dog, not a woman!".

Jokes a part, modern psychology has defined friendship as a kind of empathy and without superior thought it's empathy to keep together a pack of wolves. Genetics? No ... otherwise all wolves would stay together, but different packs of wolves compete one against the other [in this humans are wolves more than apes ...].

So yes, an animal can create a high level of empathy with a human being up to becoming its friend.
 
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