Monday, March 12, 2012


Today I woke up earlier than I would have liked to, but for a better reason than usual. This day, my early rising was to get out onto the freeway in the opposite direction of work. My first day of a week of holidays.
I drove toward Toronto, but not all the way there.
As I drove, I was having these…… musings. I began to think that the element that most separates us from other animals, other primates, even -- is imagination.
In other words, I was struck by the idea that human beings [homo sapiens] have the ability to actually think of things that do not exist. And perhaps this is what most gives them not only the primacy of triumphing over other life forms, but also allows them an element of progress within their own species. I wondered…. do other animals dream? And if they do, would their dreams be limited to what IS [in existence?] and would this differ from the way in which humans "dream" in their subconscious thought, and "imagine" in their moments of consciousness?
I am not familiar with any scientific data on any of these questions -- my speculation was based entirely on personal musing.
I arrived at my destination before noon, and told my friend what I had been thinking. He instantly told me that their dog, Scruffy, [before a garage door killed her]... dreamed. Vivid dreams. He and his wife used to watch Scruffy twitching in her sleep…… chasing imaginary cats or hubcaps or whatnot.
I felt my theory collapsing.
But then I reconsidered. I would not dispute that other animals "dream" per se -- but I would love to know if there is a way of asserting that what they "imagine", while dreaming, is unrealistic.
A fully conscious [or sleeping] human being has the ability to contemplate things that are not in existence -- if this were not so, there would not be such a thing as fiction. Fiction, which is not only a result of the human imagination, but also the result of an ability to translate this imagined perception through the utilization of an acquired language, is a sure signpost to evolutionary supremacy.
This, to me, separates us most, from other animals.



Anonymous said...

Both our dogs dream and I have to admit that I am not ready to be so arrogant as to assume that other species do not have imagination. Some animals have learned to use tools and it seems to me that a certain amount of imagination is required to start doing something new therefore I'm not willing to say we've cornered the market on having an imagination.
Sorry Cip, I'm not with you on this one.

Beth said...

Heavy – but fascinating – thinking for a man on holidays!