The path through the urban park dipped, drainage here is poor,&a puddle of ice crossed the way. A raven had pecked holes in the ice and was sticking a piece of stale bread underneath. Another spongy bit was already frozen solid. I stopped and stood. The raven flew to a close branch & watched me. I stood there smiling at the raven.
I waited because I read a few months ago about a study that found ravens will move food caches when they are being observed by other birds. This is believed to violate an important principle of the consciousness that is said to separate humans and animals: the theory of mind. It seems as though the ravens believe that the other ravens watching them may steal their hidden food, so they deceive them by hiding the food, waiting for the other bird to leave and then moving it elsewhere. If so, they know the other watching creature may have a mind as avaracious as theirs. Consider that many of the corvids one might see simply sitting in trees, vocalising like superannuated lounge-singers, are waiting for another observing bird to head elsewhere. That bird is waiting them out. And you walk by smiling, wishing you could be like them with nothing really to do.
What does the raven think about me? How much awareness can I attribute to the raven? I grew up in a rural area with wild, tamed and domestic animals all about. There are flashes of observable concsiousness in these creatures now and then & strange things to note in their interactions. But the philosophy of all traditions seems to set up the animal as an unconscious being; it must be so. A phil. prof. of mine always used the dog as the starting point (like the first ch. of Hegel's Phenomenology), a pure stimulus-response mechanism. But anyone living with animals must know that this is quite simplistic.
The only philosopher I've read who confronts the problematic of anthropomorphism is the late Derrida. He takes issue with Lacan over stimulus-response theories & Levnias in the referenced volume and the notion of the face. He begins beautifully by talking about being naked in front of his cat and the twinge of embarrassment at its steady gaze.
But he does not take the step back to the recognition of the divine, to where the face in Levinas philosophically yearns. What do I see in the raven's eyes?
The steady eyes of the crow and the camera's candid eye
See as honestly as they know how, but they lie.
I'm not sure that _captures_ it.