Some Differences of Human & Animal Mind:

Posted by Magellanic Cloud on December 29, 2006

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There is fundamental difference between human and animal mind, due to which humans possess ‘knowledge’ whereas animals do not. Actually ‘knowledge’ is the ‘theoretical awareness’ of any thing or phenomenon. Only humans are theoretically aware about their surrounding environment as well as about their ownselves, so only humans possess ‘knowledge’. I have discussed this issue in brief, and in quite general way, in my essay on topic: The Knowledge Explosion in the Modern Times.

Instead of considering ‘human knowledge’ just as some kind of advancement in so called ‘animal intelligence’, which some modern philosophers do, if knowledge were defined as “theoretical awareness of any thing or phenomenon” then other animals, at once, would be ousted from the domain of knowledge. And if only humans possess knowledge and animals possess no knowledge at all, then surely there must be a fundamental difference between human and animal mind, which is responsible for the fact that only humans possess knowledge whereas other animals do not.

The above referred modern school of thought actually believes in some difference in the degree of intelligence, of humans and animals. According to this school of thought, only such a difference in the degree of level of intelligence could account for the difference in human and animal knowledge. Again, according to this school of thought, knowledge is just some advanced form of same animal intelligence. But I believe in the fundamental difference between ‘intelligence’ and ‘knowledge’ too. Other animals can be intelligent for they are able to learn what they have been taught, or they are able to associate related events or things etc. But animals possess no knowledge at all because they know nothing in the theoretical format. In other words, they possess no theoretical stuff at all. So ‘knowledge’ and ‘intelligence’ are two separate and distinguished entities, in my opinion. Generally animal childs are more intelligent than human childs. Actually ‘intelligence’ is just the ability of organism to take actions as per the demands of environmental situations. Obviously different animals respond to environmental situations within the framework of their maximum abilities. We consider an animal ‘intelligent’ when it can display or show its optimum or best possible response to the environmental situations quickly, or in timely manner. An animal would be considered to be ‘intelligent’ when it shows the ability of taking right actions in its struggle for addressing to its bodily needs. When it becomes able to independently search its food sources etc. When it becomes able to be given ‘training’ for such tasks which are possible to be undertaken by its species. In this context, many animal childs can acquire all their possible abilities of taking actions as per the demands of situations in their much early life as compared to any human child. A normal human child, on the other hand, remains unable to even sit at his/ her own for as long period of his/ her early life as five or six months. Animal childs become ‘independent’ and so ‘intelligent’ in their very early life as compared to any human child. In this way, we can say that generally animal childs are more intelligent than human childs. But despite the fact of being ‘less intelligent’, it is only human child who possesses the potential of acquiring ‘knowledge’. It is due to the fact that there is fundamental difference between human and animal mind. And this fundamental difference has nothing to do with the degree or level of intelligence, which humans and animals possess. The most intelligent animal would be having no knowledge at all whereas the duffer most (grown up) human would still be theoretically aware, may be even in incorrect or wrong way, of at least some aspects of his environment.

Here, some people can agrue that animals are conscious, and thus self-conscious, and thus aware of their environments and themselves. In response to this, I would accept that animals are ‘conscious’. But I shall not accept the derivation of this conclusion that animals are self-conscious too, just because they are conscious.

Actually animals are ‘conscious’ only in this sense that their instinctive faculties can interact with the environment via sense perception. And in my opinion, there is also a basic difference between animal perception and human perception. In animal perception, sensory data interacts only with the instinctive faculties of animals such as hunger, thirst, fear, pleasure, comfort/ discomfort etc. and animal actions are thus guided in this way. Human perception, on the other hand, happens to have additional features also. In human perception, sensory data would interact not only with instinctive faculties, but also would interact with some additional features which are (i) psychological feelings and; (ii) theoretical propositions. At the most which I can reasonably accept is that for determining the differences between animals and humans, any hard boundary line cannot be established between the instinctive faculties and these two additional features because practically this boundary would penetrate, up to some extent, to the area defined as ‘psychological feelings’ also. This boundary line however, in no way, reaches to the area of ‘theoretical propositions’. Animal perception therefore, may have just something to do with ‘psychological feelings’ but can have nothing to do with ‘theoretical propositions’.

‘Consciousness’ basically is a manifested form of ‘sensitiveness’ and ‘responsiveness’. Only instinctive faculties, and in some cases, instinctive faculties plus fractional part of psychological feelings can generate these forms of ‘sensitiveness’ and ‘responsiveness’.

‘Self-Consciousness’, on the other hand is much-advanced feature. It is a ‘concept’ basically. This type of concept has to do only with the theoretical type knowledge. So ‘self-consciousness’ is the property of only humans.

I firmly believe that ‘theoretical awareness’ is the unique property of humans. Secondly the school of thought which takes human knowledge as just some advancement in ordinary animal intelligence, also considers ‘concepts’ as product of intelligence. I consider it the generosity of that school of thought that they give as much honor to ‘intelligence’. As I believe that some animals can be more ‘intelligent’ than some humans and in any case whatsoever, I would like to pay more respect to humans, so I do not consider ‘concepts’ as product of ‘intelligence’. Instead, I believe concepts as the product of human ‘rationality and wisdom’. This ‘rationality and wisdom’ is comprised of only those aspects of intelligence that can interact with theoretical propositions. So these aspects of intelligence have to be the part of only human intelligence and cannot be the part of animal intelligence.

I also have discussed some other aspects of differences of human and animal mind in my artical on “Desires – As one of Most Basic Differences of Human and Animal Mind”.

For further detailed analysis of the differences of human and animal mind, please check my article titled “Human Knowledge and its Expression”.


20 Responses to “Some Differences of Human & Animal Mind:”

  1. asphaire said

    Thanks for posting this. I do agree.

    ..”I do not consider ‘concepts’ as product of ‘intelligence’. Instead, I believe concepts as the product of human ‘rationality and wisdom’. This ‘rationality and wisdom’ is comprised of only those aspects of intelligence that can interact with theoretical propositions. So these aspects of intelligence have to be the part of only human intelligence and cannot be the part of animal intelligence.”

    There are too many people who take the rational extreme and attribute everything human to animal instinct (including the intellect). I like the way you tried to differentiate one from the other.

    Happy New Year!

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  3. Patrick said

    Let’s not argue concepts in which we ourselves created such as intelligence, wisdom, and otherwise. What we might consider intelligence or self awareness is perhaps not limited to us specifically. I would assert that the animals in the class mammalia possess the potential to develop the cognitive abilities we have. Look at cetaceans (dolphins and whales and such) where there is evidence of language, dialects, culture, and oral tradition. If these animals had hands, I’m sure it would be a matter of time before they developed written language. The curious quality of mammals is that we seem the only ones to have the potential and apparatus to develop the advanced culture.

  4. khuram said

    @ Patrick,

    First of all thanks for your points. I can understand your points. Some animals really can resemble humans due to having some theoretical kind of stuff. My point is that we should try to find evolvement of human mind in terms of theoretical type faculties and not in terms of ordinary animal’s faculty of “animal intelligence”. Human mind is not just a development in ordinary animal intellience. Human mind is highly theoretical in nature. Some animals may have relatively far lesser theoretical abilities. We should see and analyze those “theoretical abilities” apart from ordinary animal intelligence.

    I have discussed the issues relating to human mind vs animal mind in some other articles as well. You can find all those articles on following link:


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  7. felix said

    It seems that people are intent on creating a barrier in their minds which seems to separate the two words ‘human’ and ‘animal’ and all the connotations that go with those words. They are, in fact, just words, and if we forget for a moment that we don’t have fins or a shell or eat insects(although some people do!) we can realise that we are of the same material as the rest of the animal kingdom. We are indeed intelligent, but perhaps not intelligent enough to appreciate that we are merely an animal which is lucky to have a sophisticated brain (though so do plenty of other animals, such a the forementioned dolphin)but the disabilities which come with our obstinate beleive that we are somehow special and have ‘consciousness’. If we are conscious then so are other animals.Concsciousness is an illusion.

    if you watch a cat, an animal which is thought by some to be a very wild and instinctive animal, you will find that it looks to have a strong selnse of self importance, and is probably sure in its own mind that it knows exactly what it is doing and has the free will to eat either tuna or sardines as it chooses.

    this is a state of mind which we pride ourselves in.

    this submission is formed only of words, so it is only an attempt at getting across what i currently believe about our supposed ‘consciousness’.


  8. khuram said


    Thanks for your points. Yes it is true ‘human’ is just another combination of ordinary ‘animal’ gene code. But humans do are different from other animals. We can draw a boundary line between humanity and animal kingdom. There are certain life functions which only humans can exhibit. If we have to understand ourselves, then we also have to know about our unique features. It is only we who are able to investigate for our unique features. Yes animals can express certain emotions and feelings. They also can act in accordence with “memorized” past information. But first of all there is “quantitative” difference between humans and animals as to the presence of emotions and feelings. You can say just quantitative differences do not constitute the ultimate difference. I say at least we have a boundary in quantitative terms in even these areas. You say animals are conscious just like us. Sorry because I have to show disagreement in one aspect. Animals are conscious. I accept. To a very lesser extent, they can be self-conscious too. I accept it also. But at least they cannot have “concept of self”. They don’t “define” themselves. They can only … in few cases … just “recognize” themselves. So this is the first “qualitative” difference.
    Secondly, animal mind is not capable (except for certain monkeys who can draw simple analogical conclusions) to draw analogical conclusions. Furthermore, animals don’t “desire” anything.

    I have explained above two points in my following article:

    I can accept that animals are capable of certain kind of “generalizations”. But except for certain monkeys, no other animal is capable of drawing “analogical” conclusions. We can say that despite having similar “physical” structure, animal mind is not capable to draw analogical conclusions. And offcourse, “deductive” conclusions are specific to only humans. Similarly animals can have “voices”. Different intensities of those voices can have specific meanings as well. But after all, animals cannot have “grammar”.

    And yes. animals are able to act as per “memorized” past information. But here I should highlight a delicate difference between humans and animals even in this capacity. Animals are able to draw past information from memory only when they physically perceive “related” thing or event. But humans are able to draw past information from memory even if they do not physically perceive “related” thing or event. For example humans are able to recall ways and paths of another city while standing in a different city. But animals can recall next turn of path only when they physically perceive that path … which they already had observed in past.

    I have thoroughly explained this point in my following article:

    Anyways, thanks for your valuable comments.


  9. homoud said

    my friend thanks for this informations ,but l have one question:
    Is a human an animal ?
    you have a good experiens=ce about that ,so can you give me a good answer.

    your dear :homoud

  10. khuram said

    Yes dear, biologically humans are made up of same kind of genetic material as other animals. Biologically humans are also animals. It is intellectuality, wisdom and mind (i.e. all abstract things) that make humans humans i.e. make them no animals but humans.

  11. Raheel said

    The real difference between animal and humans is having the ability to distinguish between right and wrong using their brain. For example you tell a animal to mind their own business they will not understand you and continue to interfere with your life because they dont understand between right and wrong. On the other hand if you tell a human being to mind your own business some will obey and understand its none of their business and we call them humans. Others who do not obey and continue we call them animals which apparently are very numerous in today’s society 😉

  12. aden said i realize this thread is over 5 years old, but i thought someone might still be interested in this video… it shows pretty strong evidence that some animals can draw ‘analogical conclusions’ and can have ‘theoretical awareness’..

  13. khuram said


    Yes you have provided a proof of animal analogical inference. Thanks. Actually my point was just that analogical inference is rare in other animals and it is a major advancement in humans and also a major difference. However in that video I could not see any proof of “theoretical awearness”.

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