This problem pervades our efforts to think about the other animals, for when we try to think about what it is like to be another animal, we bring our human standards with us, and then the other animals seem to us like lesser beings. A human being who lives a life governed only by desires and instincts, not by values, would certainly be a lesser being. But that doesn’t mean that the other animals are lesser beings. They are simply beings of a different kind. When we look at the other animals through the lens of our own standards, just as when we look at them through the lens of our own interests, we cannot get them properly in view.
We are all born, as Eliot says, in moral stupidity, unable to see others except through the lens of our own interests and standards. Kant suggested that it took four steps for us to emerge from this moral stupidity, but perhaps there is a fifth step we have yet to take. That is to try to look at the other animals and their lives unhindered by our own interests and specifically human standards, and to see them for what they really are. What is important about the other animals is what we have in common: that they, like us, are the kinds of beings to whom things can be important. Like us, they pursue the things that are important to them as if they were important absolutely, important in deadly earnest—for, like us, what else can they do?