It’s hard to believe it, but it’s true. What started out one year ago from yesterday as a podunk formicid-friendly online media project with an inaugural post on loving your house ants has grown into a podunk formicid-friendly online media project with 196 published articles. Whether you’re joining us now for the first time, or have traversed the long foraging trail of myrmecological justice since the very beginning, it’s time to consider what we’ve accomplished together.
The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the forty-second contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. David Faraci. We apologize for yet another Monday posting.
NOTE: An upcoming contributor, Carolina Flores, shared with us a fundraising drive by Philosophers Against Factory Farming in support of the Humane League. While ants are not (yet) farmed by humans for food, The Daily Ant stands in solidarity with factory farm animals. Contribute today!
If There’s a Number of Real Ants, is There a Real Number of Ants?
Many people believe in ants. Most of those people believe, more specifically, that ants exist independently of what goes on in our heads. Philosophers who believe this more specific thing might say that ants are mind-independent, and they might call themselves anty realists.
A guest post by Joanie King.
I am antsy over the new ant emoji (iOS 11.2). Yes, I am restless and agitated. This is no ant. I am all for cartoons: the previous ant emoji (iOS 11.1) was a cartoon, but it did not suffer from such a horrible morphological representation. It was simpler.
Ants are a major part of our world. Knowing who they are can help us know what roles they are playing. Knowing who they are starts with a basic understanding of morphology. What does an ant look like? Certainly not like the spider mimic-looking 11.2 version emoji – with its tarantula-like legs, lack of petiole, half-effort bent antennae, and huge wasp-like eyes (though, this would work if they were going for a Pseudomyrmex sp. look). The only thing that 11.2 has over 11.1 are the bent antennae; however, they appear to bend and slightly curve, rather than be elbowed (which entomologists call geniculate antennae). All ants have elbowed antennae. This is exemplified by the image below (which is from a blog post I wrote on Ask an Entomologist about ant mimics):
The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the forty-first contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Sukaina Hirji. We apologize for the Monday posting – a mistake on our end, not Dr. Hirji’s!
Aristotle famously asserts that ants are, by nature, political animals. Anthusiasts of this blog might find it surprising, however, that ants are not the only animals that Aristotle countenances as naturally political. In the History of Animals, Aristotle explains that political animals are “those that have as their function (ergon) some single thing that they all do together”; amongst the animals he thinks engage together in some common work or function are ants, but also bees, wasps, cranes and human beings (HA 1.1 487b33-488a14). Indeed, Aristotle insists that human beings are more (mallon) political, or political animals to a higher degree, than any of these other animals including the noble ant (Pol 1.2 1252a7-18). Does Aristotle have good reasons for relegating ants to this secondary status, as lesser political animals? Or is his privileging of human beings here just another familiar manifestation of the anti-invertebrate biases that run through the history of political thought?
The Daily Ant hosts an intermittent ant film series, Theatre Thursdays. This is the third installment. Enjoy!
On Tuesday, denizens of the Music Box Theatre in Wrigleyville, Chicago were treated to something truly special: A showing of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and a post-film discussion with Dr. Shauna Price, a postdoctoral researcher in the Moreau AntLab at the Field Museum of Natural History. We sent a reporter to the scene who captured some of the action live on our Twitter feed. Click the tweet to see the thread of commentary – with pictures!
Public myrmecology owes a debt of gratitude to Shauna price, as we note in our final tweet:
The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the fortieth contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Amber L. Griffioen.
Asshoppers and Grants: Playing at Being Human?
‘Parables, my dear Skepticus,’ replied the Grasshopper, ‘ought to come at the end, not at the beginning, of serious inquiry; that is, only at the point where arguments fail. But speaking of parables, you may be sure that the ants will fashion one out of my career. They will very likely represent my life as a moral tale, the point of which is the superiority of a prudent to an idle way of life. But it should really be the Grasshopper who is the hero of the tale; it is he, not the ant, who should have the hearer’s sympathy. The point of the parable should be not the ant’s triumph, but the Grasshopper’s tragedy. For one cannot help reflecting that if there were no winters to guard against, then the Grasshopper would not get his come-uppance nor the ant his shabby victory. The life of the Grasshopper would be vindicated and that of the ant absurd.’
In this passage from Bernard Suit’s immensely entertaining (and woefully under-read) philosophical dialogue, The Grasshopper1, the eponymous Grasshopper (true to the Aesopian fable from which he hails and which has already been discussed at least once on this blog) is dying from hunger. Unlike the industrious ants (who scoff at the grasshopper’s imprudence), he has failed to store up food for the winter, having instead played the summer away without a concern for his future wellbeing. Yet Suits’ Grasshopper is no whiner. In true Socratic form, he courageously accepts his fate and goes out philosophizing. In regard to his (theo)logical predicament, he claims resignedly: “I was put on earth just to play out my life and die, and it would be impious of me to go against my destiny. […] If I am improvident in summer, then I will die in winter. And if I am provident in summer, then I will cease to be the Grasshopper by definition. […] But since I am just the Grasshopper, no more and no less, dying and ceasing to be the Grasshopper are one and the same thing for me” (GH 9). Yet with his dying breath, the Grasshopper tells of his recurring dream that “everyone alive is really a Grasshopper […], engaged in playing elaborate games, while at the same time believing themselves to be going about their ordinary affairs”. Whatever occupation or activity one might consider, he fancies aloud, “it is in reality a game” (GH 9-10).
The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the thirty-ninth contribution in the series, submitted by Joshua Blanchard.
The Metaethical Implications of Myrmecology
Metaethics is the subfield of moral philosophy having to do with the metaphysics, epistemology, semantics, and psychology of the moral domain. Whereas familiar questions of normative moral philosophy include, “What are the basic moral principles?” and “Do the basic moral principles demand that I move to Canada?”, a representative question in metaethics would be, “Is morality objective?”
Metaethics is often confused with myrmecology, but for administrative purposes it is essential to keep the two apart. Myrmecology is the subfield of natural philosophy having to do with the smallest of animals – ants. In what follows, we will consider what myrmecology tells us about three debates in metaethics.
The Daily Ant maintains “Formicid Form”, a Sunday ant poetry series. When possible, our Verse Correspondant, Natalia Piland, provides a short commentary at the end of each poem. Enjoy!
Be Beautiful, Noble, Like the Antique Ant
By Jose Garcia Villa
Be beautiful, noble, like the antique ant,
Who bore the storms as he* bore the sun,
Wearing neither gown nor helmet,
Though he was archbishop and soldier:
Wore only his own flesh.
The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the thirty-eighth contribution in the series, submitted by Liam Kofi Bright.
The Value Free Ideal for Scieants
It’s not easy running a colony. Eggs need to be laid, food needs to be gathered, tunnels need to be dug – lots of work, by lots of ants, over lots of time. Of course as Antistotle taught us, the ant is by nature a political insect, so such living together is something we are generally well adapted to. But despite our generally being a eusocial bunch, we still occasionally have our disagreements, alas, and where we do we often form political factions based on our competing visions of the world. Should any ant ever be allowed to disobey the Queen’s slightest whim? Should we ruin that picnic? Does the zombie threat justify marshal law until our soldiers can get this threat under control? These are matters about which reasonable ants can disagree, and such sociopolitical debates among those who take rival views on these matters are a mainstay of colony life.