Ben Brooker reviews 'The Inner Life of Animals: Love, grief and compassion – surprising observations of a hidden world' by Peter Wohlleben, translated by Jane Billinghurst

Ben Brooker reviews 'The Inner Life of Animals: Love, grief and compassion – surprising observations of a hidden world' by Peter Wohlleben, translated by Jane Billinghurst

The Inner Life of Animals: Love, grief and compassion – surprising observations of a hidden world

by Peter Wohlleben, translated by Jane Billinghurst

Bodley Head, $32.99 pb, 281 pp, 9781847924544

In a 1974 paper, American philosopher Thomas Nagel famously wondered what it was like to be a bat. He concluded that we could never know what it was like to be a member of a different species – that the inner lives of animals are ultimately inaccessible to us. In Consciousness Explained (1991), Daniel C. Dennett, while acknowledging the influence of Nagel’s thought experiment, offered a rebuttal: any ‘interesting or theoretically important’ aspects of a bat’s consciousness, he argued, would be open to third-person observation. We could know, in other words, what it was like to be a bat – or a horse or goldfish for that matter – by simply looking.

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Ben Brooker

Ben Brooker

Ben Brooker is a writer, editor, critic, playwright, essayist, and bookseller. His work has been featured by Overland, New Matilda, New Internationalist, Australian Book Review, RealTime, The Lifted Brow, Witness, and Daily Review. In 2016-17 he was an inaugural Sydney Review of Books Emerging Critics Fellow and in 2018-19 was writer-in-residence at the Mill.

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