We’re Jealous of Animals

Here’s a story from Diogenes Laertius’ Life of Pyrrho that I discovered in Montaigne I:14.

Pyrrho was aboard a ship during a bad storm. Those around him were terrified, so he directed their attention to a pig, who was “quite unconcerned with the storm.” Pyrrho told them to imitate the pig. Montaigne says: “Dare we conclude that the benefit of reason (which we praise so highly and on account of which we esteem ourselves to be lords and masters of all creation) was placed in us for our torment. What use is knowledge if, for its sake, we lose the calm and repose which we would enjoy without it and if it makes our condition worse than that of Pyrrho’s pig?”

(Montaigne point is “ills can only enter us through our judgment… it would seem to be in our power either to despise them or to deflect them towards the good.”)

I’m reminded of Nietzsche’s cattle who are similarly happy because they have no sense of history.

“Consider the cattle, grazing as they pass you by. They do not know what is meant by yesterday or today, they leap about, eat, rest, digest, leap about again, and so from morn till night and from day to day, fettered to the moment and its pleasure or displeasure, and thus neither melancholy nor bored.”

2 Responses to “We’re Jealous of Animals”

  1. Mike Marinos

    There is a line in the Koran somewhere that mentions that animals are perfect Muslims; They permanently abide in the natural presence of Allah, unlike humans that must make an uncertain return.
    John Gray argues something similar in Silence of Animals “By nature volatile and discordant, the human animal looks to silence for relief from being itself while other creatures enjoy silence as their birthright.”

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the tips, Mike.

      I checked with some sources and I do not think the Koran says that. Do you have a specific reference?

      I will check out the John Gray books.