The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death, and Happiness by Mark RowlandsThis fascinating book charts the relationship between Mark Rowlands, a rootless philosopher, and Brenin, his well-traveled wolf. After acquiring Brenin as a cub, it quickly became apparent that Brenin was never to be left alone, as the consequences to Mark’s house and its contents were dire. As a result, Brenin and Mark went everywhere together—from classroom lecture to Ireland, England, and France. More than just an exotic pet, Brenin exerted an immense influence on Rowlands as both a person, and, strangely enough, as a philosopher, leading him to re-evaluate his attitude to love, happiness, nature and death. By turns funny (what do you do when your wolf eats your air-conditioning unit?) and poignant, this life-affirming book will make you reappraise what it means to be human.
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As villains, as anti-heroes, as mysterious benefactors or dark threats: their gracefulness and their violence, their silence and their howl have fascinated. There is a blend of fear and envy in this fascination, and it is the latter that is to the fore in both of these books — one fictional, one not — which portray wolves primarily as heroic, pure, noble creatures that make humans look bad. Mark Rowlands is a professor of philosophy who lived with a wolf called Brenin for more than a decade. Or, more accurately, Brenin lived with him — trained into a sort of obedience, dragged around the southern United States on drunken rugby weekends, suffering through six months of quarantine before being allowed entry into Ireland, spending a brief time in London, before ending his days in the South of France. Brenin was a well-travelled wolf. He has little in the way of human company. He spends a lot of time drinking.
Your complimentary articles. You can read four articles free per month. To have complete access to the thousands of philosophy articles on this site, please. Humans often wonder how other animals think or feel. I often wonder: do non-human animals wonder how humans feel? Ultimately, however, the book is a philosophical reflection on the human condition.
A few years ago, the philosopher Mark Rowlands began a book on animal rights by telling a story about a ferry crossing from Pembroke to Rosslare that he once made with his pet wolf, Brenin. Rowlands assured him that he didn't, and that in any case he couldn't hold Brenin.
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The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures. Even those of us who do not have pets or ride horses or live on farms tend to be fascinated by humans' relationship with animals. We are drawn in by the mystery of interspecies relationships because we are aware that they hark back to some place that existed before language. Such relationships are mysterious because they are silent, whatever the commands that we speak or too often yell, and this is the quality that also makes them intensely personally felt. In the absence of understanding what a bark or howl actually means, we complete the conversations we have with animals ourselves.
What distinguishes friendship between two people from friendship between a human and an animal? There are the drinking games, of course. And human friends also offer each other more complex reciprocal qualities humor, shared experience, perspective than humans and animals do patience, dependability, loyalty. But more than that, admiration seems to be a subtly important difference. This was a watershed moment in my life. But now I realized that I wanted to be less like me and more like Brenin. My realization was fundamentally an aesthetic one.