Philosophy of whales and dolphins

whale and babyIndustrial companies have used the ocean as a dumping ground for toxic waste. Hazardous industrial chemicals have been accumulating in the ocean for 150 years, to such an extent that individual whales are not even able to be born healthy.

Industrial companies treat the ocean as a bottomless pit with the idea out of sight, out of mind

If it is not known what to protect, how can the human be motivated?

The field animal ethics of philosophy and its effects on how humans culturally interact with animals shows the importance of philosophy to improve the well-being of animals in human-animal relations.

(2019) Animal Ethics: an important emerging topic for society
Animal minds and consciousness have been consigned to a “black box” by science. Animal minds were not given attention and therefor people in general did not know anything about animal minds.
Source: Cosmos Magazine (PDF backup)

Similar to animal ethics and its effects on human-animal relations, philosophy of whales and dolphins can help spur cultural change in human-ocean relations.

Whale brain vs human brain

From a genetic and physiological perspective, the brain neurons of whales are very similar to that of a human and whales have a 6x larger brain than humans.

whale vs human brain

When it concerns the question: what makes an animal brain different from that of a human? (why is a human more intelligent), the answer of science has been “cortical neurons” (grey matter).

More specifically, higher intelligence has been associated with larger cortical grey matter in the prefrontal and posterior temporal cortex in adults (cortical neurons).

A study in 2019 showed that orcas (killer whales) have more cortical neurons than humans and a brain structure that enables them to process much more information faster than a human brain can. This was only discovered recently. Before a few years ago, it was not known that whales also have those neurons.

The orca has more gray matter and more cortical neurons than any mammal, including humans.

orca whale 190Humpback whales have humanlike brain cells (spindle cortical neurons)
Humpback whales and orcas have a type of brain cell seen only in humans, researchers reported.
Source: NBC News (PDF backup)

Whales boast the brain cells that ‘make us human’
Source: New Scientist (PDF backup)

Are whales deep thinkers?

Whale and dolphin brains contain specialized brain cells called spindle neurons. These are associated with advanced abilities such as recognising, remembering, reasoning, communicating, perceiving, adapting to change, problem-solving and understanding. So it seems they are deep thinkers! Not only that, but the part of their brain which processes emotions (limbic system) appears to be more complex than our own.

At question would be: what would an orca do with advanced ‘brain technology’? When an orca looks at a human with a more comprehensive ‘conscious experience’, what would that be like?

Can an orca with the right education and cultural upbringing be made to perform in science or philosophy?

Feral children may provide an example. When scientific tests are performed on a feral child to measure their intelligence the IQ score may be 1. With decades of education and high quality upbringing however, such human beings may be capable of becoming a professor.

The Feral Child: Blurring the Boundary between the Human and the Animal
The process of becoming human and therefore being identified as human, is taught through socialization and culture.
Source: Animals and Society: human animal studies (PDF backup)

Understanding whale language

An attempt to learn whale language has been initiated in April 2021 and it was noted that it requires philosophy, which may explain why there are few serious efforts to understand whales and dolphins.

Project CETI (Cetacean Translation Initiative) dates from 2017 from scientists who intended to dive into the subject, and apparently needed to start from scratch.

(2021) Groundbreaking effort launched to decode whale language
Source: National Geographic (PDF backup)

Philosopher John C. Lilly founded the Communication Research Institute in the late 1950’s and published research suggesting that his attempts to talk to dolphins were working.

dolphin philosophy

“The feeling of weirdness came on us as the sounds of this small whale seemed more and more to be forming words in our own human language. We felt we were in the presence of Something, or Someone who was on the other side of the transparent barrier”


Whale and dolphin intelligence

whale womanThe following website, founded in 2016, provides an overview of the latest whale and dolphin science.

(2021) What do we know about intelligence in whales and dolphins?
“Could whales be as smart, if not smarter, than humans?
Source: Whale Scientists (PDF backup)

In the following article on dolphin intelligence and the future of humanity, it is suggested that the ultimate state of being for life forms is to become something like a whale.

(2021) Dolphin intelligence and the future of humanity

We don’t see evidence of supercivilisations across the galaxy because the only ones that persist are the ones that give up the risky path of technology and instead pursue immersion in nature.

Ageing civilisations either self-destruct or shift to become something like a whale.

Source: Aeon (PDF backup)

Whale and dolphin mind

In the following podcast, the mind of whales is discussed.

(2017) The Minds of Whales
What is it like to be a whale? How do they think and what do they feel? Two internationally recognized whale experts — prize-winning author Philip Hoare and marine biologist Luke Rendell — discuss the inner lives of whales with philosophy professor Jonathan Birch.
Source: London School of Economics (MP3 backup)

What to learn from whale and dolphin intelligence?

Considering the potential that whales and dolphins have a physiological capacity that could allow them to be more intelligent than humans, it may be important that the human is able to recognize and understand their intelligence if they ever hope to discover, appropriately recognize and understand extraterrestrial life.

The philosophical zombie theory indicates that it is impossible to know whether another human being is conscious. This shows that it is very difficult or even impossible to communicate aspects related to meaningful experience.

In light of humanity’s intent to discover extraterrestrial life and to secure longer term prosperity and survival in the face of ‘the Universe’ (which may be full of living creatures), it is very important that the human discovers methods to allow understanding or mere ‘plausible consideration’ of meaningful experience in other life forms.

Philosophy of whale and dolphin intelligence is of great importance to secure the future of humanity.

Human-ocean relations

Industrial companies have used the ocean as a dumping ground for toxic waste. Hazardous industrial chemicals have been accumulating in the ocean for 150 years.

Recently, the CEO of a $180 billion USD oil company ordered to dump a tanker full of toxic waste into the ocean, which indicates that it happens more often than expected.

If it is not known what to protect, how can the human be motivated?

Philosophy of whales and dolphins can help spur cultural change in human-ocean relations.

Ocean ethics?

Animal ethics evolves on the basis of advancements in intelligence and moral consideration. It can be an argument that humans should choose wisely when they have the capacity to do so. A greater capacity in intelligence and moral consideration for animals comes with new responsibilities, and as such, the human being naturally evolves culturally into a state of less violence towards, and improved care for the well-being of animals.

Similarly, whale and dolphin philosophy can help spur cultural change to improve human-ocean relations.

Women structurally excluded from philosophy

Women have been structurally excluded from philosophy, which may help explain why advancements in morality and ethics on behalf of animals and Nature is lacking.

When women participated in philosophy, would the world be better? Would animals and the ocean be treated better? Would there be better understanding of why it is important to have respect for Nature?

View ♀️ women in philosophy case