Montaigne Revisited: Do I Play with My Dog, Or Does My Dog Play with Me?

Humans have long considered themselves the masters of creation. The Book of Genesis declares that humans are made in God’s image. The implication is that other forms of life do not reflect the image of God. Genesis declares further that all of the Creation, all other life, is to serve, or be at the disposal, of humans. The Pentateuch of the Old Testament goes even further, picking and choosing what forms of life are clean and what are not, which is an absurd idea, as what is clean or appealing or beautiful is in the eye of the beholder. (A bat or skunk might consider a human as disgusting as a human commensurately considers it.)

Also in Genesis, we find that after the act of creation, God considers His Work to be Good. This moral, qualitative declaration and judgment that the Creation is good implies that all things, animate and inanimate, alive as well as dead, past, present, and future, are good. Humans therefore have the moral obligation to treat all things, all of existence, as good, to cherish, to embrace, to love, to preserve. Is this not what all of the world’s philosophy teaches us? Do we not find such ideals reflected in Greek philosophy, Chinese philosophy, and Indian philosophy?

One of the great philosophers of all time, the French thinker Michel de Montaigne, was a combination Christian, Skeptic, Humanist in 16th-century France. He wrote wonderful essays in which he questioned human knowledge, questioned the human assumption that of all creatures the human is best, that of all sentient beings the human knows most. He asked pointedly, in one of his essays, The Apology for Raymond Sebond: “When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?”


Why do we assume that animals are lesser creatures, lower on the old Medieval chain of being, that we are higher, next to God and the Angels? That we control the Earth with our technology is not an excuse. One could as easily say that an employer is better than an employee, or that a master is higher up that a slave. Why should we assume that life is graded according from best to worst, master to slave, essential to nonessential?

Perhaps we humans do not really understand what the essence of life really is; perhaps we are still in the state of preservation of species, like any animal. Do we have all of the senses necessary to know the truth? Are we superior to other creatures in this regard? If our reason is dependent upon senses, and if our senses are faulty, what then?……..




About theamericanplutarch

Writer, thinker, historian.
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