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.
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 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 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.
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-seventh contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Ross Cameron.
Ants in Time
The A-Theory (short for ‘Ant Theory’) says that there is a special moment in time: NOW. Harry the ant has just found a delicious crumb of bread. According to the A-Theory, there is something special about present events (like Harry’s finding the crumb), as opposed to past ones (like the crumb’s having been dropped by the race of clumsy giants), or future ones (like the congratulations Harry will receive from the colony). The dropping of the crumb has been and gone, and the congratulations of the colony are as yet simply something to look forward to: what is now is merely the finding of the crumb. Ants believe in the specialness of the now: there is some sense in which the present happenings are more real than past ones which merely happened, and future ones which merely will happen.
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-sixth contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Eric Schwitzgebel from one of his publications.
The Antarean Antheads
On the surface of a planet around Antares lives a species of animals who look like woolly mammoths but who act much like human beings. I have gazed into my crystal ball and this is what I see: Tomorrow, they visit Earth. They watch our television shows, learn our language, and politely ask to tour our lands. It turns out that they are sanitary, friendly, excellent conversationalists, and well supplied with rare metals for trade, so they are welcomed across the globe. They are quirky in a few ways, however. For example, their cognitive activity takes them on average ten times longer to execute. This has no overall effect on their intelligence, but it does test the patience of conversation partners unaccustomed to the Antareans’ slow pace. They also find some tasks easy that we find difficult and vice versa. They are baffled and amused by our trouble with simple logic problems like the Wason Selection Task (Wason 1968) and tensor calculus, but they are impressed by our skill in integrating auditory and visual information.
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-fifth contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Megan Wallace.
Certain reflective ants spend their lives asking deep, meaningful questions such as: Do ants have free will? Do ants have souls? Does ‘good’ mean the greatest happiness for the greatest number of ants? Is it morally permissible to use other ants as a means to an end? Is there an ant such that no ant is more fantastic than it? And so on.