“Curiosity is the lust of the mind.”–Thomas Hobbes
The old Hobbes quote is one that pops up in my mind from time to time. This occurred this morning while observing “Orange” the cat who visits my doorstep nearly every day. He seemed more curious about my shoes than usual. Apparently, “Orange” didn’t smell his own scent on them today because after sniffing on the shoes for maybe a minute, he bumped his head on them and rubbed his body across the shoes to deposit his scent.
What “Orange” did is probably instinctive behavior. Territory marking is what cats do. I’ve been told that scent marking establishes boundaries that cats recognize. Scent is an important aspect in a cat’s repertoire of survival skills. Scent, along with the other senses like sight and touch, seems to imply that cats have minds.
Who hasn’t observed pets and other creatures and wondered what it might be like to have the mind of a cat, a dog, or whatever? This ability to wonder about possible mental activity of other creatures and our fellow humans is one way we distinguish our human minds apart from non-human minds.
I wonder if this conceit is fully accurate. We can use our empathic skills effectively when we fabricate strategies to optimize our interactions with one another. To strategize requires a lot of mental space. Some marine biologists have demonstrated that octopuses seem to have the ability to strategize. Ornithologists have shown that many bird species also have this skill. This seems to imply that octopuses and certain other animals have minds that can think.
It’s hard to prove the hypothesis that some species of animals can think because we do not comprehend their languages. “Orange” can express himself by meowing, purring, screeching, and rubbing against objects. I can approximate communication with a cat by trial and error or through long-term observation, but I cannot yet understand precisely what or if he is thinking. When I exchange eye to eye contact with a cat, I infer or project a lot of my own feelings into my beliefs about the cat. Does “Orange” love me or does he simply trust me? Can my mind accurately communicate with the cat’s mind?
The mind exists of and for itself. The mind can only approximate what another mind might think. The human mind can only hypothesize about the workings of the minds of other species. Likewise, we can only make educated guesses about what goes on in the minds of other people.
The mind is so subjective that the mind often thinks about the nature of itself. The mind, whether one of a cat or of a human being, is fascinating, in and of itself. The mind is so intriguing that the field of psychology was invented and continues to evolve. We have folks who are so curious about the mind that they work professionally with the mind.
While I ponder the possible mental activity that takes place in the mind of “Orange” the cat, I know that I can never fully understand the inner workings of the cat. The same is true about what goes on in the minds of my closest friends, nor can they fully understand what goes on in my mind. We communicate only a fraction of our minds thoughts to others. The most ironic thing about trying to understand the mind, is that it is difficult to fully understand what goes on in our own minds.
There I go again. My mind is constantly chattering away like a monkey. A lot of the noise is gibberish, and some of it is me trying to communicate with myself. Sometimes I actually pay attention to it.
The Blue Jay of Happiness contemplates a thought from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman. “I fear that the day I die, I am going to die without accomplishing what I have in my mind. Life is too short, and a lot of things can happen, and I am really keen to see it with my own eyes–and that is why I am in a hurry.”