Final Paper, Kafka, Coetzee - Freshmen Writing Seminar...

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December 12, 2006 Freshmen Writing Seminar Final Paper Is the Ability to Reason, Reason Enough? One of the justifications for humans deserving more rights than animals lies in their ability to reason. This ability is believed by many to be innate in humans and only humans. However, there is also the idea that this ability is taught through a human education process, which could thus carryover to animals. Is it that humans are the only ones capable of any sort of rational thinking and reasoning, or are they just the only ones given the opportunity to form this thought? In her lecture in Coetzee’s novel, Elizabeth Costello makes a compelling argument for the learning of reason by animals. By using real examples of apes developing the ability to reason and humans using intuition, Costello also argues against reason. In drawing a parallel to Franz Kafka’s “A Report to an Academy” and factual historical tests of apes, Costello portrays the idea that animals are just as able to reason as humans are and that reason may not be the most efficient way of thinking. One of Costello’s main arguments against reason as a gage of being comes from the fact that there are many other ways of thinking. Costello explains that reason is the way in which our closeness to God is measured as creatures. Since this is the case, then obviously man sees himself as closest to God of all other living things. However, Costello makes the point that reason is only one train of thought. She makes this clear when she states, “For, seen from the outside, from a being who is alien to it, reason is simply a vast tautology.” (Coetzee 25) By saying this, Costello makes the point that reason is taught to us as humans as the only correct way of thinking. To strengthen her case, she brings in an example of a man named Srinivasa Ramanujan. This was a man
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who was brought to England and is “thought of as the greatest intuitive mathematician of our time… A self-taught man who thought in mathematics.” (Coetzee 24) In essence, this great thinker thought up many mathematical theories, but never proved any of them.
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