Animals, Friendship, and Animal Friendships

I am watching "Nature: Animal Odd Couples," which documents the cross-species friendships among animals. It is available on Netflix, and is much better than many such documentaries. For one thing, it has the great Temple Grandin in it. Grandin is pretty rough, for instance, on those who would say that animals don't think because they don't think with abstract symbols. She herself thinks perceptually more than with symbols (as often do I): someone who makes this claim is essentially telling her that she doesn't think, something she finds a bit offensive!

In light of our previous post, I also found interesting the scientist in the documentary from Duke who seems to think that until we understand friendship from an evolutionary perspective, we haven't really understood it. (Interestingly, she says that it is only very recently that anyone was even allowed to talk about animal friendships in scientific papers!) I am not even bothering to rewind and catch her name, because the point here is not to criticize her personally, but to note her as an instance of a type. You can picture her, with a lover, saying "I value our relationship because intimate ties are important to me as a social animal with bonding instincts."

Note: I am not in the least denigrating studies on things like "The evolutionary roots of friendship in gibbons" and so on. By all means, study these things! Just don't mistake what emerges from them as in any sense a deeper understanding of friendship than possessed by Aristotle or Aquinas!


  1. In cultures which did not understand parturition sex was not fun.

    1. Good one, Ken! And you made me look up parturition.

  2. Seems relevant