For Katie and Rachel
A few weeks ago, I was at the outdoor market in my home town, helping my humans buy some cheese. At one point, I managed to steal some cheese – and ran off down the street being chased by three humans! Thankfully they didn’t catch me in time.
Unfortunately there’s no photo, because my humans were too busy trying to catch me.
Later, I told them that I hadn’t eaten the cheese. Outrageously, they didn’t believe me! I’ve been reading a human philosopher called Miranda Fricker, and I think this might be an example of what she calls ‘testimonial injustice’. Testimonial injustice is when someone isn’t believed because of the ‘kind’ of person they are. So I wasn’t believed because I’m a dog, and, much more seriously, especially at various points in history and in certain places today a black person might not be believed by the police because they’re black, or (as biblical texts have often been interpreted as saying) a woman’s testimony might carry less weight than a man’s.
Fricker talks about another kind of injustice we often don’t think enough about too: hermeneutic injustice. If a woman is sexually harassed but the culture doesn’t have the concept of sexual harassment, then that’s a kind of hermeneutic injustice: the woman can’t explain why she’s feeling so upset or is so damaged by being ‘flirted’ with at work, and everyone just thinks she’s overreacting or puts it down to women being ‘highly strung’ or emotional.
You can read more about Fricker’s ideas here.
That’s a really bad case, but I think different species, such as dogs and humans, must experience hermeneutic injustices quite a lot of the time. Humans lack concepts relating to dog behaviour, and vice versa, so sometimes we think the other person is behaving badly when they’re not. A dog might be behaving like a perfect dog – in fact, they might be behaving in the best possible dog way by stealing and eating some food – but because humans lack understanding of canine ethics and what it means to flourish as a dog, they think the dog is being a ‘bad’.
Speaking of which, I did eat the cheese, but that’s not really the point.
I like humans but they are strange. One of the strange things humans do is take pictures of me. The male human does funny things with these photos using things called 'filters'. Sometimes this makes everything look black and white, like this:
I do not mind this, because I think that black and white are the best colours.
But thinking about this I started wondering: what if a very clever puppy grew up in a house where everything was black and white, like in the human photos? This puppy is so clever that it learns all the facts about other colours (for example red, the colour of one of my coats). It comes to know about light, and about how dogs' eyes receive light and how dogs' brains process the information they get from the eyes.
One day this very clever puppy is allowed out of the house. It is a lucky puppy because the first thing it sees is me walking down the street in my nice red coat. Remember that the puppy knows all the facts about the colour red, but this is the first time the puppy has seen the colour. I asked myself, does the puppy learn something new?
I enjoyed thinking about this, although I was annoyed when I learned that a human philosopher had stolen my idea.
Mental walkies with Lola,