Sunday, October 13, 2013


I love jackdaws. They're smart (1), acrobatic (9) and funny (2). They look at you actively and it's obvious they have intelligence and personality (7). I like the way the stick together in pairs (2,3,6).
They operate in flocks but they're shy. That's why I have no good close-up pictures of them, they like to keep their distance. Sometimes they can be cute (4,5) and they don't seem to mind the rain (3). They talk a lot and I would want to know what they say. They know when you look at them and they don't like it.
I totally agree with Montaigne that they have a personality, and I think their intelligence is at least comparable to the intelligence of cats:
Montaigne tries to establish arguments in favour of the reason of animals. And he does so in order to counterbalance the arrogant human assumption of being, among living creatures, the only creature provided with a rational soul.
In this way, Montaigne lessens the distance of animal to man. He does so by allowing the animal a stance, a perspective of its own in the world. This is best captured in Montaigne’s famous saying: “When I play with my cat, how do I know that she is not passing time with me rather than I with her? We entertain ourselves with mutual monkey-tricks. If I have times when I want to begin or to say no, so does she.”
The jackdaws of my neighborhood are ever present but difficult to trace. When I cycle through my neighborhood they're everywhere, scavenging, flying, digging for earthworms in the lawns. But there is so much I don't know about them.
At dusk I see flocks of jackdaws flying southward. I see them congregating on the roofs of high-rise buildings. They seem to gather from all over the city, and then they fly off to some central spot. In winter this seems to be the Kralingen city park (Kralingse Bos). But where do they go in the other seasons? I once followed a flock on my bicycle and they seemed to gather on the roof of the Erasmus University. But is this always the case?
It seems that Descartes and Newton (?) very much disliked the idea of animal personality. And still today the Catholic Church formally maintains that animals do not have souls:
Unlike humans, who have spiritual souls, we know that animals have material souls that cease to exist when they die.
But in recent times this stance seems to change, although (as always) much too slowly and much too little:
Biblical texts state that animals have the breath of life and were given it by God. In this respect, man, created by the hand of God, is identical with all other living creatures. 
For example in Psalm 104 there is no distinction between man and animals when it reads, addressing God: " … Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth." 
The existence therefore,' the Holy Father reminds us, 'of all living creatures depends on the living spirit/breath of God that not only creates but also sustains and renews the face of the earth.'
All animals are 'fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit and merit respect' and they are 'as near to God as men are'. The animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren.

 I  have a lot of respect for my local jackdaws. They are independent and self supporting. They acknowledge our existence, but they watch us with skepticism. They are not afraid, but they don't trust us. They live in their own world. Often our worlds meet, but they never coalesce. For us humans it's an exercise in humility.

Confreres et compaignons” / “Fellow-brethren and compeers”: Montaigne’s attempt at rapprochement between man and animal, Markus Wild (HU, Berlin)
Do animals have souls? (No)
Do animals have souls? (Yes)

1 comment:

  1. Hello Petr,
    My daughter and I were discussing the concept of a material versus an eternal soul just yesterday. Neither of us believe in an easy answer. But, one thing is certain. My cat Dante definitely has a precious soul. Whether or not any soul continues ????? Good question!