Towards a Philosophical History of Dogs
Justin E. H. Smith
Now I have also been insisting for some time that there is no such animal as 'animals'. That is, when it is discovered, for example, that a chimpanzee in a zoo in Sweden is stockpiling stones to be thrown at a later hour, this does not prove, as the popular media would claim, that 'animals' are capable of conceptualizing and planning for the future. What a chimpanzee does says nothing at all about 'animals', but at most something about chimpanzees, and likely only about some chimpanzees, or indeed only one of them. Animals, I mean to say, need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Haraway, to her credit, recognizes this. Her take on the special case of dogs issues in the somewhat cryptic claim that “we have never been human” (a riff, I think, on Bruno Latour's We Have Never Been Modern). I understand this to mean that, for as long as there have been humans, the denotation of 'we' has never been understood to include all and only members of our species. It also includes dogs: we and they have co-evolved, and in a certain sense this puts our species closer to Canis lupus familiaris than to Pan troglodytes, not with respect to the tracing back of common ancestors, but with respect to recent history, the history of the past 15,000 years or so, the history that lingers in both of our memories, in which humans have been exercising intense selective pressure on dogs, and perhaps also dogs on humans. The result is that we have come out more like each other, behaviorally and expressively, than we are to either of our nearest cousins: the grey wolf in the case of dogs, and chimpanzees in the case of humans. The wolf is the dog's closest ancestor, but this implies no solidarity. Quite the contrary: the dogs are on our side.