13 July 2008

See Spot. See Spot run. See Spot's meds.

I expected the New York Times Magazine piece on veterinary pharmacology, "Pill-Popping Pets" to be an exercise in hand-wringing over feline neuroses and dogs on Prozac. And it is, to some extent. But it also takes an interesting detour into the implications of pets on antidepressants:
The debate about animal minds is at least as old as Aristotle, who posited that men alone possess reason. The 17th-century French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche wrote that animals “desire nothing, fear nothing, know nothing,” while Voltaire asked, “Answer me, mechanist, has Nature arranged all the springs of feeling in this animal to the end that he might not feel?” Darwin’s view was, Of course not. In “The Descent of Man” he wrote, “We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties ... of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.”
In other words, if Prozac has the same kind of effect on Spot that it does on Dick or Jane, then maybe Spot's brain is more like theirs than we might want to admit.

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