My sense of emotions here -- like the emotions of a fleeing gazelle -- is as if they were ultimately-conscious, nonphysical feedback mechanisms. This differentiates them from the nonconscious, physical feedback mechanisms of gravitropic roots. I'm assuming here that plants are not conscious -- even though they respond to cues in the environment.
A basic definition of an organism's "sense of life" is an emotional appraisal of existence and of the organism itself (within or inside of that appraised existence). On this view, the hard-wired, "survival" emotions of animals can be seen as a natural, rudimentary "sense of life."
For instance, there is little for a great white shark or a killer whale to fear. They have no natural predators. The great white shark or the killer whale will harbor a certain slant on things. Basically, it will swim around the ocean with a certain sense of entitlement and with little or no neurotic tendencies. Grizzly, Kodiak, and Polar bears will have a similar natural, rudimentary "sense of life."
Keep in mind that I'm attempting to sum up and to delineate all of the causes of all of the behaviors of all of the things in the known universe. For this project of mine, I am trying to find clear demarcations of types of causation for types of things.
I believe that sense of life is also why you can take a dog and make it a vicious killer or a wonderful pet depending on how its treated.You have a point about dogs becoming monsters while fighting them (to paraphrase a warning quote for humans to be careful which battles they fight, lest they, in the process, change), but it is not compelling to me. For instance, haven't you seen vicious, killer dogs wagging their tails and acting excitingly friendly (until the "kill" command is spoken by their master)? What's going on there?
I have an answer. For the dog (at least for the killer dogs that are also friendly), there isn't this learned viciousness that pervades its everyday behavior -- because the dog isn't conscious on that level of things. That dog never thinks -- nor has any reason to think (even implicitly or tacitly):
"Gee, this behavior is vicious and may affect my sense of life or my overall ability to enjoy myself. I wonder if I shouldn't tone it down a little and be more of a Lassie-type. Lassie seems like such a happy dog. I would like to copy Lassie's emotional appraisal of existence, rather than to incorporate all of this nasty viciousness into my being."
There was one story of a guy who used an attack dog (the family pet) to viciously attack and to kill his own wife. The police could not ascertain that this dog was used to commit the vicious and bloody and heinous crime -- because the dog was so playful and friendly ... until they found the "kill" command, that is. The moment the cops found the word and said it out loud, the dog attacked viciously.
One minute friendly, the next minute savage.
One explanation is that dogs are able to be psychotic or to have multiple personalities (or even tacitly multiple personalities) -- able to be warm and friendly and joyous ... and vicious and merciless and blood-thirsty. The better explanation is that dogs don't perform (even tacitly) the mental abstractions required in order to label their behavior as friendly or viciously merciless.
Each case -- of playing or killing -- is essentially meaningless to them. They can tap into natural inclinations to play. They can tap into natural inclinations to kill. And having killed someone or something doesn't psychologically damage a dog or a dog's sense of life (as it would do to a human who has killed).
In a sense, a dog is like an existentialist philosopher, not understanding the very fact that he has a "nature." Able to give gifts one day and to murder the next, depending on the inside influences of moods or the outside influences of rote-memorized commands or other stimuli to respond to.
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 2/19, 9:41pm)