One of these things is not like the other

Intuitively, anthropocentrism and dualism make perfect sense: we distinguish the human as the subject, the knower, and we then locate everything else, all non-humans, as objects of inquiry, observation, study, etc. Humans do this sorting, but rather than recognize the importance of the act of compiling things into the categories each time we make such categories, we simply get on with the act of categorizing. We are so used to sorting and labeling that we forget that sorting and labeling—distinguishing this from that—solely serves a human purpose. From our earliest lessons, we are taught to distinguish unlike things and place them in different locations—if not physically, at least cognitively. Think of the children’s song in the program Sesame Street: “one of these things is not like the other; one of these things just doesn’t belong.” The viewer has no physical access to the objects on the screen, but she can imagine them as separated until the child on the screen does the physical sorting herself. We train ourselves, from an early age, to make distinctions between physical objects, and between concepts: the corporeality of the things matters little. The process of distinguishing becomes the hallmark of learning and thus of thinking.


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