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What is the real difference between humans and all other creatures? Generally speaking, two differences: Lexis and praxis. Lexis is human speech, which is much more complex that any animal communications that we have as yet deciphered. Praxis is the more or less the linear, or sequential performance of learned motor tasks. The emphasis is on learned, here.

Spiders can construct intricate webs, but they do not learn to do this, but inherit an instinctive ability to do it. So that's not praxis. My little coonhound probably knows hundreds of words and phrases. These learned words are dubbed "commands" by people who cannot accept that animals can understand words. But I am sure this is BS. My coonhound (Heidi) absolutely comprehends locative prepositions. If we are passing a doorway and I ask 'in', she will generally go into the doorway. Not only that. If we are positioned between a car and a house, I can ask her 'in the car' or 'in the house' and she will make the corresponding choice — If she is in a cooperative mood! She understands that it is okay to defy me sometimes, especially if there is some reason to suspect that my request is a mistake. But she understands 'amplifiers', too. If i ask he to enter a strange new car, and she balks, she will generally comply if I then say 'in the car now'. (Linguists would usually deem 'now' as a temporal term, but in many situations it is really an 'amplifier' — my term, since in linguistics, every word seems to bear a 'technical linguistic' meaning, and different systems often use different terms! (Maybe there is a more commonly-used term for this, but I don't feel like rummaging around hunting it down.)

But Heidi does not talk (at least to me). I think PRAXIS, comprising the learned 'linear' or 'sequential' motor functions, derives from the capacity for speech. So, while I believe monkeys can comprehend many words they hear, they seem to be unable to speak. If they could learn the linear production of speech, I would bet they could soon evolve to learn the linear production of physical products, and would thus have praxis. You will notice that the shameless exploiters of human slaves were never able to get chimpanzees to fashion products.

As an interesting marginal note, it's been found that it is quite difficult to distinguish the portions of the brain's cortex that support lexis from those that support praxis. They are quite distinct, but the only way to know their exact location in a person's brain is to have the person be conscious, and to electrically stimulate likely candidate areas, and then to observe which area does what.

Elaine Meinel Supkis

How fascinating. Of course, animals respond to us as we struggle to communicate with them. Dogs, our longest companions by far, can read us the best. They can judge the intonation of our voices, the gestures and even hidden emotions, they read us like a book!

Horses can read us too. Sit on one wrong and the horse will have your ass! And they watch us closely. My horse loves to play tricks. He can watch me unlatch things and then using his lips, imitate my moves!

Many domestic animals are so smart (how about parrots!) that we have to spell things out if we want to hide what we are talking except they can even figure that out over time. If I spell out 'b-o-n-e-s' the dogs are estatic.

If a cat is bad and I say, 'Cats...' in a warning voice, the only cat that will skitter away will be the one who did something naughty.

The capacity of all animals to read our minds is most interesting to me, far more than playing those pick and peck scientific games they talk about with such awe.


People so often see me as a sort of hipster. I am not. I am a wolf. Always have been. I can do far more than read you.


The rules go back forever. A shamen never passively interprets dreams, or relies on intuition. She or he will reach out and poke some one or some thing. The person or thing will respond, and the shamen reads that. The potential of ever using the ability to reach out to cause any perceptible change is generally to be avoided at all costs. Yet it is central. You can read about this in Lao Tzu, or in the testimony of nearly all Amerinds. It is a universal craft.


"Humans Discuss Chimpanzees At Conference"

When chimpanzees discuss humans at a conference... that will be a story.

"I fight all the time"

Hmm... interesting. What might be the causal origin of that sort of behavior? Were you a middle or youngest child?

"If a cat is bad and I say, 'Cats...' in a warning voice, the only cat that will skitter away will be the one who did something naughty."

That's funny - we say "Cats!" too. But when we say it, all three leave the scene. (Maybe they're all guilty...)


"People so often see me as a sort of hipster. I am not. I am a wolf. Always have been. I can do far more than read you."

Like rip out my jugular with your gleaming white fangs? (And just how long have you had these fantasies, anyway?)

"I fight all the time"

I would find a post in which you reconcile your love of battle with your recommendation of peace, love, and groovy to be interesting reading, to say the least!

larry, dfh

For years I've said the same thing: you want to understand a person, ask a dog. Psychology is a social science for a reason, it violates the Heisenberg uncertainty Principle: one can know nothing more precise than the limits of resolution. In psychology, the experiment and the experimenter or the same: humans. We have humans evaluating human behavior and carving it up into peices, each peice being smaller than total human cognisance. Yet we cannot check our humanity at the door, we can only observe as humans. We cannot remove our human biases from the design of experiments to the tallying of data to the analysis thereof.
If the NCLB goes on for a few more years, we will be as smart as sheep. I would imagine that lifelong learning has an inverse relationship to later life TV watching. And don't forget the Pinoboes. They correpond to chimps like a long-lost peace-loving civilization does to humans.

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It's good to hear Chico's still around and coming out with a new cd soon. I've been a fan of the brother for a while now and was glad you mentioned his first hit, "Talk to Me".

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