Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադարան . ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ . Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադարան . ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ . Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադարան . ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ . Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադարան . ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ . Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադար

Eznik on Foresight

In addition to the various topics covered in Against the Sects, the 5th century theological work of Eznik of Kołb, we can add foresight.

1,600 years after his work was composed, we now find that Eznik’s insights are central to academic debates about whether episodic foresight (defined as preparation for future circumstances on the basis of imagining potential scenarios) is a uniquely human trait, or whether it is shared by other (non-human) animals.

A major challenge in determining whether animals possess episodic foresight is that we cannot ask them to tell us what they think, so we must carefully watch what they do. But still, this leaves open various interpretations about how they do the things they do. In his book The Gap, Thomas Suddendorf classifies the usual interpretations of animal behavior into two main types: those of the “Romantics” and those of the “Killjoys”.

Whereas the Romantics tend to interpret experimental data in ways that liken animals to humans (i.e., in this case, that animals can imagine and prepare for the future much like we do), the Killjoys tend to interpret animal behavior as arising largely out of “lower-level” processes, such as instincts and learning.

Eznik begins by observing many examples of future-oriented behaviors in the animal kingdom, all of which he describes as instinctual (akin, perhaps, to the Killjoys; note that the translations below are from Monica Blanchard and Robin Darling Young’s great English translation):

[250] Յորս են եւ ազդմունք ինչ բնականք՝ որովք հանդերձելոց իրիք իրաց ազդ լինիցի նոցա։

[250] In which there are also some natural instincts by which a sensation of some future events will occur to them.

Որպէս ձիոյն՝ ի սմբակէն վարելոյ.

As to the horse through his hoof, for proceeding.

եւ եզինն՝ ձմերանի ընդ ալուց կողմն նստելոյ, եւ մաւտ ի գարունն ընդ դրաց կողմնն դառնալոյ.

And to the ox, in the winter to sit on the inside, and at the onset of spring, to return alongside the entrance doors.

եւ ծիծառան՝ յառաջ քան զաշունն ի ջերին տեղիս ի ձմերոց երթալոյ.

And to the swallow, before autumn, to go to warm places for the winter.

եւ խորդոյն՝ ռիմանալոյք յառաջագոյն զձմերունս կարեւորս, եւ վաղ ի մարմանդ տեղիս փութալոյ.

And to the crane, to perceive hard winters beforehand and to hasten betimes to places of temperate climate.

եւ ճայից՝ վաղագոյն տարմատարմ շրջելոյ.

And to the jays, to turn round sooner in flocks.

եւ աղաւնեաց՝ համագունդ երամ երամ խաղալոյ.

And to doves, to frolic in several flocks banded together.

եւ ագռաւուց՝ ի ծմակաց վաղագոյն ի ջերին տեղիս գնալոյ.

And to ravens, to go more quickly from cool places to warm places.

եւ անգեղց՝ ի հեռաստանէ զգիշոյ անկանելոյ դիտաւորութեան.

And to vultures from afar to fall for a look at a dead body.

եւ այլոցն եւ ամենայն անասնոց եւ թռչնոց։

And to the others, and all animals and birds.

Որպէս եւ մրջեան՝ յամարանոյն պատրաստելոյ զկերակուր, եւ ընդ երկու զհատն կտրելոյ՝ զի մի բուսանիցի, եւ ի ջեր ժամանակս հանելոյ զկտիկն յորջէ անտի եւ ցամաքեցուցանելոյ.

As to the ant, to prepare food in summer, and cutting in two the grain in order that it will not germinate, and in cold times pulling out the grain from a hole for drying.

եւ մեղուաց՝ զդուրս մեղուանոցացն յառաջ քան զցուրտն ականամոմով խնլոյ.

And to the bees, stopping the doors of the beehive before the cold by bee-glue.

եւ արջոյ՝ յառաջագոյն քան զձմեռն ի բայոց մտանելոյ.

And to the bees, stopping the doors of the beehive before the cold by bee-glue.

եւ երէոյ՝ կանուխ ի լերանց ի դաշտ դիմելոյ.

And to the deer, to run beforehand from the mountains to the valley.

եւ եղջերուաց՝ գտակաւ զժամանակ խառնիցն իմանալոյ.

And to the stags, to know exactly the time of mating.

եւ իշավայրաց քինացելոց՝ զարու յաւանակս ի մատաղութեան կտրելոյ։

And to the wild-ass, from envy to mutilate their foals in their tender youth.

Եւ այս ամենայն ազդեցութիւնք բնականք են յանասունսն, եւ ոչ խորհրդականք, որ յարարչէն նոցա տնկեալ են ի նոսա՝ առ ի յաւժարելոյ յաւգտակարն եւ խորշելոյ ի վնասակարացն։

And all this instinctual knowledge is natural among animals, and not rational thoughts, which were put into them by their creator, so that they would incline toward the useful and avoid the harmful.”

Eznik continues that instinctual behaviors aimed at “inclining toward the useful and avoiding the harmful” are natural both among animals and humans, although animals do not do act with the future in mind like we humans do:

[251] Եւ ոչ միայն յանասունսն են բնական ազդեցութիւնք, այլ եւ ի մարդկան, որ խաւսունք եւ իմաստունք են։

[251] And not only among the senseless beasts do instincts exist, but they also exist among humans, who are [additionally] capable of talking and of thought…

Judging from the number of academic debates about this issue over the past two decades, this argument is almost certainly more controversial now than it was in Eznik’s time. However, a recent study suggests that Eznik might have been correct, after all, at least in comparison to our closest living relative–the great ape.

In this study, Redshaw and Suddendorf presented chimpanzees and 2-, 3- and 4- year-old humans with the following tube:

The experiment goes like this: The experimenter drops a grape down the chute (chimpanzees love grapes). There is a knob at the back of the tube that the experimenter uses to covertly determine which side the grape will fall down. Over many trials of (pseudo-)random alternation between the two sides, the experimenters observe how the children and the chimps behave. What would you do if you were standing in front of the tube and wanted to secure the grape? Easy, extend both hands.

Few 2-year olds, some 3-year olds and most 4-year olds work out this obvious solution that they need to cover the two exits to guarantee the reward. Not a single chimpanzee worked it out. They kept guessing at random. And if they are not able to reason effectively about two mutually exclusive possibilities directly before them, then it seems fair to say that there is something qualitatively different about episodic foresight in humans and chimps (and, by extension, perhaps other animals).


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